Tzu Chi’s Earthquake Relief Preparations for Haiti Commence

National Headquarters  | August 31, 2021
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Volunteers from Tzu Chi’s U.S. Headquarters in California gather on August 25th to assemble medical kits. Photo/Shuli Lo

Written by Jennifer Chien, Shuli Lo
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

On August 14th, 2021, a deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Haiti, roughly 78 miles or 125 km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Mobilizing swiftly, teams of local Tzu Chi Haiti volunteers in Les Cayes began their assessment to ascertain survivors’ needs and what aid may be most effectively delivered. With local assessment underway, volunteers from Tzu Chi’s U.S. Headquarters in California began assembling medical kits on August 20th.

Disaster Response in Haiti

Tzu Chi’s relief in Haiti began over one decade ago, after another earthquake tragically struck the country in 2010. Volunteers have regularly reached out in loving aid ever since, through additional disaster response, educational missions, hunger relief, and more. Therefore, as soon as volunteers learned of the earthquake, joint virtual conferences were assembled among Tzu Chi’s volunteers in the United States, Taiwan, and Haiti, to build a plan for delivering their support.

Debra Boudreaux, Deputy Director of Tzu Chi USA (left), coordinates the earthquake relief mission. Photo/Shuli Lo
Tzu Chi volunteers in California prepare medical kits for earthquake survivors in Haiti. Photo/Shuli Lo

Debra Boudreaux is the Deputy Director of Tzu Chi USA and a volunteer as well. Deputy Director Boudreaux is also coordinating Tzu Chi USA’s earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, and explained how Tzu Chi USA has organized 16 groups, such as supply, medical, transport, and volunteer training, to be dispatched in September to Les Cayes and Jérémie. These teams will work together with local volunteers and partner with the community for disaster relief.

Amid shortages of medical supplies and with injuries sustained from debris and rubble, Dr. William Keh, the Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Medical Foundation (TCMF), explained that what is most needed for residents besides food supplies is medical help.

Racing Against Time

Shirley Chen and her volunteer team scout for materials required for disaster relief. Photo/Sylvia Wihardjo
Michael Tseng, a volunteer, helps transport supplies. Photo/Jennifer Chien

DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) Shirley Chen, the Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Medical Expansion Dept., is in charge of preparing Tzu Chi’s family medical relief kits. The family medical kits hold 11 items, including hand sanitizer, anti-inflammatory medicines, ready-to-use sterilized iodine cotton pads, cotton swabs, bandages, scissors, face masks, gloves, and more.

For every supply category, there has to be a one-time purchase of 7,000 pieces of said item, with total items for all categories reaching close to 100,000 pieces. Such being the case, the majority of these items are purchased in megastores, and on the spot, by our volunteers. We have been racing against time so as to facilitate the fast and smooth delivery of these urgent materials to the hands of survivors.

Dr. Shirley Chen, Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Medical Expansion Dept.

Working alongside Dr. Shirley Chen is another Tzu Chi volunteer named Sylvia Wihardjo. Together, they are responsible for taking stock of and fully integrating all supplies. To purchase a large quantity of specific items for every category, they went scouting separately and then decided on an order. On August 20th, volunteer Michael Tseng joined in as well. They went shopping in different marketplaces and hurried back to unload all the supplies at Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters in California, so other volunteers could come to secure items for assembly.

Nourishing Love

Four teams of Tzu Chi volunteers in California joined their efforts to prepare the family medical care packages. They began at home on August 20th, each sealed pouch containing ten face masks, three pairs of gloves, and one large garbage bag. Before assembly, volunteers must sanitize hands and table surfaces, and wear face masks and gloves in the assembling process.

Jackson Chen, the CEO of Tzu Chi USA, explained that these four groups of volunteers were made up of close to 100 people. After the initial organization at home, they continued preparations on August 25th at the regional headquarters while practicing appropriate social distancing procedures.

Jackson Chen, the CEO of Tzu Chi USA, leads volunteers in packing the medical kits. Photo/Shuli Lo
Nearly 100 volunteers mindfully prepare medical kits on August 25th. Photo/Shuli Lo

A card made with compassion is also inserted in [the medical kit], and it is hoped that a survivor not only receives the material assistance but also is blessed with spiritual comfort.

Jackson Chen, CEO of Tzu Chi USA

A Team Driven by Compassion

Upon learning of Tzu Chi’s efforts to provide relief, residents in neighboring communities have also joined hands to assemble medical kits. Linda Milliken, Elynour Quan, and Alta Skinner, are all from San Dimas, and are among those inspired to help.

Linda Milliken is an Executive at the Los Angeles County Probation Department, and had been hoping to find a way to send her love to Haiti. She was made aware of our relief activities via updates on Tzu Chi USA’s social platforms. Linda expressed that she was impressed Tzu Chi would be able to contribute such a large amount of resources in such a short period.

Linda Milliken, an Executive at the L.A. County Probation Department, joins Tzu Chi’s relief efforts. Photo/Jennifer Chien
Elynour Quan is grateful for the opportunity to serve. Photo/Shuli Lo

Elynour Quan recently moved back to California from Arizona, hoping to be closer to her loved ones after the passing of her husband. As she raises her 11-year-old son, she’s been receiving a lot of care and encouragement from others. Her own faith also dictates that a person should not turn down an opportunity to help, and is committed to giving back to people in the community.

Alta Skinner is a San Dimas community leader, having held important positions in several organizations. For the past twenty years, she has been actively participating in Tzu Chi activities. She’s grateful that there are groups like Tzu Chi right in her own community providing residents with opportunities to make meaningful contributions.

“Very appreciative of Tzu Chi’s immediate response, taking concrete measures in helping people in Haiti. As an old saying goes, you can’t afford to only think of yourself, and we need to have a definite worldview. Today, we help others, and the goodwill may come back one day to benefit ourselves,” she said.

Community leader Alta Skinner praises Tzu Chi’s relief efforts in Haiti. Photo/Shuli Lo
During a brief break from preparations, volunteers exercise to alleviate fatigue. Photo/Shuli Lo

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