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Tzu Chi’s Long-Term Camp Fire Recovery In Review

Northwest  |  January 3, 2020

January 6th

Tzu Chi has been committed to the recovery of Camp Fire survivors since the very beginning, vowing to walk this path of love hand-in-hand as one. Tzu Chi first became involved with Camp Fire emergency relief on November 8th, 2018, through the distribution of warm blankets and cash cards at shelters and the Disaster Relief Center (DRC). Recognizing the needs of those impacted, Tzu Chi volunteers gathered to discuss their long-term recovery plan on January 6, 2019, at Tzu Chi’s regional office in San Jose, CA. 

Photo by May Lin

February 8th

Three months after the Camp Fire, Tzu Chi volunteers joined the Interfaith Camp Fire Memorial Service event to convey their sincere hopes and positive aspirations for the rebirth of Butte County. The event was held in Paradise Performing Arts Center, one of the few places in the town of Paradise that had not been destroyed by the Camp Fire.

Photo by Yuh-Fen Lin
Photo by Yuh-Fen Lin

February - March

Tzu Chi volunteers continued to travel through the burn-scarred regions of California to speak with Camp Fire survivors to better understand their needs at the time, and ascertain how best to aid them. It’s always a truly special experience when Tzu Chi volunteers reunite with community members.

Photo by Judy Liao
Photo by Judy Liao

Since our first visit to Magalia Community Church, Tzu Chi volunteers have built strong, lasting bonds among the community. The church has now become a regular space for Tzu Chi’s disaster case managers to meet with clients. A collaborative effort from the community makes possibilities of moving onward through disaster recovery achievable, and when more people unite, wonders can ensue. 

Tzu Chi volunteers from the Bay Area attended community and cross-agency meetings in order to gain a better awareness of the situation and continue playing a pivotal role in the long-term recovery.

March 9th

While stationed at the Disaster Relief Center (DRC), many locals approached Tzu Chi volunteers, hoping that they, too, could lend their hands in aid to assist their neighbors in this difficult time. In order to serve and work together on this shared mission, a volunteer orientation was held on March 9, 2019, in Chico, enabling them to better serve their community. 

Photo by Nancy Ku

May 15th

Tzu Chi volunteers from different areas in Northern California — including San Jose, Oakland, and Sacramento  — took turns to help out at the distribution center at Magalia Community Church. A considerable amount of items had been donated to the center and required manpower to organize them.

Photo by Frank Hsu
Photo by Frank Hsu

May 18th-19th

Tzu Chi hosted Buddha Bathing Ceremonies in both Chico and Concow. Camp Fire survivors and community members gathered for the event to pray for a prosperous and blessed future in Butte County.

“The Buddhist ritual was new to the [Camp Fire] survivors, as many of them are from different religions, but everyone prayed with their hands held in front of their chest and with wide-open hearts.”

July 1st

In order to better serve the community, Tzu Chi set up a service center in Chico. Although it is a temporary office, the 182 sq. ft room is still home to Tzu Chi case managers and volunteers who work at the front lines of our Camp Fire long-term recovery mission.

Photo by Huan Xun Chan
Photo by Huan Xun Chan

June-September

From June through September, Tzu Chi disaster case managers and volunteers traveled to Redding for community support and home visits once per month. Having lost their homes to the blaze, displaced families had no other choice but to relocate and try to begin anew. Unlike those who stayed in Butte County, survivors who relocated elsewhere do not have access to such recovery resources.

While case managers assisted the survivors by connecting them with the resources available to them, volunteers conducted different types of activities to lift the hearts of survivors and help them through the healing process. The activities included flower arrangement exercises, drawing, group sharing, and singing.

The disaster case managers assisted approximately 10 families who now live in Redding, Anderson, and Red Bluff.

Although cases are currently closed for disaster case management, the volunteers from San Jose reunited with survivors in Redding again on December 7th. 

“We are very happy to take the long trip again to visit our friends and lift them up during this emotional downtime,” Tzu Chi volunteer Sherry Shih said. “Their smiles, cheer, and relief, really move me.”

The volunteers brought the families holiday gifts and took the opportunity to speak with them again. “We can’t do too much, but did bring them the holiday spirit that is giving and sharing joyfully,” Shih said.

Photo by Sherry Shih
Photo by Ryan Wu
Photo by Ryan Wu

July 20th-21st

As part of our long-term aid mission, Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) staff and volunteers arrived in Butte County to host their first medical outreach event in Magalia and Concow. A total of 106 individuals were served in two days.

Tzu Chi is the first group to host medical outreach in the area, which included dental services and acupuncture treatment. Knowing the damaging effects one faces after experiencing a disaster, psychotherapists also joined the team to provide their expertise.

September 12th

The second Tzu Chi volunteer orientation for new local volunteers in Chico was held for members of Camp Fire long-term recovery projects, so that everyone on the team could move forward with the same missions.

“Walking into the arena of the [Tzu Chi] Foundation, knowing what Buddhism is about, [I think] this is perfect. But, again, it wasn’t perfect for me, it was how the spirit just chose this blessed opportunity,” expressed Baba Kauna Mujamal, a disaster case manager.

September 22nd-23rd

Tzu Chi members from Chico visited San Jose to share heartfelt stories and experiences, and the strength of others they had witnessed at the charity concert. 

Camp Fire survivor Skip Culton is now a project specialist for the Camp Fire long-term recovery project at Tzu Chi. 

“I’m struggling even to find the words because I’m a survivor of this thing that happened,” he explained. “I’m still trying to navigate my way through that, while simultaneously finding strength and courage really to keep one foot in front of the other with this great journey we have in front of us to help survivors.”

Disaster case manager Baba Kauna Mujamal joined Tzu Chi in August. “I can say that, most of all, that I’m blessed to be in the presence [of these clients], I don’t walk away without tears from them because they are just so emotionally wrecked. It’s literally trying to figure out next week, the next day, the next hour. There’s the pleasure of having the personal discipline to be able to hold space for people in such challenges,” shared Mujamal.

November 8th

On Camp Fire Memorial Day, Tzu Chi members joined thousands of Camp Fire survivors and community members to commemorate the resilience exhibited in persevering through the aftermath of the disaster.

November 2nd & 23rd

After the first anniversary of the Camp Fire, many survivors still live in temporary housing and struggle through the freezing weather. Tzu Chi members then decided to hold a winter distribution for Concow and Magalia residents.

Eco-blankets, sleeping bags, and jackets were distributed to hundreds of families.

Considering the special needs of Concow residents who have limited access to resources, Tzu Chi distributed solar chargers, solar portable lamps, and a $50 gift voucher for shopping at a local hardware store.

“The attitude from Tzu Chi volunteers makes me feel comfortable,” said one Camp Fire survivor. “They don’t make me feel like a beggar.” 

On November 2nd, 87 households in Concow benefitted from the aid. 

On November 23rd, 431 households benefited from the aid in Magalia.

Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group

Throughout the year, Tzu Chi representatives have attended bi-weekly general meetings with the Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group (Camp Fire LTRG). Also in 2019, Tzu Chi joined Camp Fire LTRG to work together with government agencies and entities within Butte County.

Photo credit: Camp Fire LTRG

Disaster Case Management

As of 12/20/2019, our long-term recovery disaster case management has served a total of 140 households.

Continuous Community Support

In addition to disaster case management and other Tzu Chi events, Tzu Chi has been supporting the community in various other ways, including tabling and providing resource information at community events and donating laundry pods and dryer sheets to Magalia Community Church.

Photo by Bobbie Rae Jones
Photo by Bobbie Rae Jones

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