Tzu Chi Delights Ukiah Nursing Home For Lunar New Year

Northwest  |  March 30, 2024
The Tzu Chi U Kaiya volunteer team invited 20 local students and 12 community parents and volunteers to visit the local nursing center and spend the weekend with the elderly.
20 youth and 12 adult volunteers after a circle of sharing Photographer: Albert Zhang

Written by Val Tseng
Translated by Christina Chang
Edited by Andrew Larracuente

February 18th brought a pouring rain, yet that did not stop families from joining Tzu Chi Northwest’s first nursing home visit since the pandemic. Students and parents huddled under their umbrellas as they hurried towards the lobby of Mountain View Assisted Living and Memory Care. For many, it was their first time volunteering with Tzu Chi or at a nursing home. Spending time with these elders was a meaningful occasion that connected the young and old. A common Chinese tradition is to visit extended family after the lunar new year, but for immigrant families separated by oceans, it is not possible. The Venerable Cheng Yen often urges Tzu Chi volunteers to treat others as our own family.

Friends Doing Good Together

Two teens, Xinwen and Tanya, organized and emceed the whole performance program that showcased both Asian and Western cultures. The nursing home residents, some in wheelchairs, were ready in the big dining hall, curiously anticipating the lunar new year theme visit. Overcoming a bit of shyness, Xinwen greeted them with “Hello everyone, we are from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation.” Her inspiration to lead was that “going to the senior center is an amazing opportunity that allows people to experience the joy of making others happy, and it is also a great chance to practice your performance and public speaking skills.”

Young students Zhang Xinwen (left) and Zhou Yuan (right) opened the show with a violin and piano string duo.
Xinwen (left) and Tanya (right) Photographer: Albert Zhang

Residents’ Faces Light Up

The well-curated program found undivided attention and warmed the hearts of the elders alongside other volunteers present. Initially, the staff cautioned that some seniors might get impatient as some had dementia or Alzheimer’s, but the engagement was high enough to even run over time. Live music magically united hearts and brought people together! Even staff walking by would stop to enjoy the performances too.

About twenty elders and staff of the nursing center listened attentively to the students' performances.
Elderly people with limited mobility sat in wheelchairs and watched performances by young students. The scene was heartwarming.

20 attentive residents and staff enjoying the performances. Photographer:Albert Zhang

Performances From the East and West Showcase Cultures

From classical piano to Chinese yoyo demo to guzheng, a traditional Chinese musical instrument, 12 performances delighted everyone as 14 students poured themselves into their performances. It is a rare treat in the US to find youths who play guzheng well, and Jinyang is Ukiah’s gem. Dressed in a traditional red and white long Chinese dress, she took us back to ancient China, where maidens were often invited by royalty to perform guzheng. Eric played the hulusi, a traditional Chinese gourd flute. Lotus’ adorable Hokey Pokey dance sparked fond memories of childhood days.

The performances culminated with a 1-on-1 balloon exercise, evoking happiness for both students and elders. “I don’t have a partner,” called out one excited resident, and a student immediately paired with her. 50s and 60s popular oldies music played in the background, infusing a festive atmosphere.

The cute little girl danced and sang (Hokey Pokey Dance) for the elderly.
Young students happily play balloon sports with the elderly.

Lotus, Hokey Pokey dance (left), 1-on-1 balloon exercise (right) Photographer: Albert Zhang

Closing With Red Envelope and Good Wishes for the New Dragon Year

Tzu Chi prepared red envelopes with donated Ghirardelli chocolate inside, and each student gave one to an elder. With two hands and a half bow, dressed in a lovely Chinese red gown just for the occasion, Annie followed along. Her mom, Celine, and other parents fondly took photos. The staff present also received one. The performance closed with the audience energetically clapping to all performers’ half bows. Everyone was thanked for the opportunity to spend time together!

The children gave chocolate red envelopes prepared in advance to the elders present, and the atmosphere was warm and warm.

Annie (left) and Eric (right) giving red envelopes Photographer: Albert Zhang

Invitation to Come Back

At the end, Lana, the nursing home’s activity coordinator, asked Tzu Chi volunteer Valerie Seng if Tzu Chi could come back again. This was the first time they had a performance at their site, and it left a deep impression. On a yellow sticker, she wrote “Easter Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day” as the days she hoped Tzu Chi would return. Valerie still recalled their first encounter when she proposed the lunar theme performance and was taken aback when Lana asked how much Tzu Chi would charge. Valerie replied that there is no fee and introduced Tzu Chi as a volunteer organization.

Nursing center staff member Lana (right) immediately invited Tzu Chi volunteers to continue visiting after the event.
Lindsay, classical singing (left) and Lana, staff (right) Photographer: Albert Zhang

During the volunteer circle of sharing, Lindsay, a high schooler, shared how she was happy to sing and would gladly do it again. One parent commented that visiting lonely elders is a good deed and meaningful. “When we visit elders, in the future when we are old, others will also visit us,” she added. It was a joy-filled 1.5 hours that we all forgot about the pouring rain outside. Again, with umbrellas in hand, families hurried back to their cars and called it a day until next time.

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