Tzu Chi commits to supporting those from Ukraine seeking refuge in Romania and Moldova for the next two years with the help of international humanitarian NGO, IsraAID.
WARSAW, POLAND, May 17, 2022 – The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and IsraAID, an Israel-based humanitarian non-governmental organization came to an agreement that led to a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, signed on May 17, 2022. The memorandum promises assistance from Tzu Chi over the next two years to support the long-term needs of individuals who’ve fled to Romania or Moldova from Ukraine as a result of ongoing warfare with Russia.
It comes at a time when UNHCR data estimates that as of May 16, 2022, nearly 6.23 million people have fled from Ukraine and into neighboring countries since February, when conflict began. More than half are reportedly seeking refuge in Poland, with Romania hosting nearly 925,000 individuals, and Moldova hosting what is now more than 464,000.
To make the MOU official, representatives from Tzu Chi and IsraAID met virtually over Zoom. Those present included Po Wen Yen, Chief Executive Officer of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation in Taiwan; Debra Boudreaux, Chief Executive Officer of Tzu Chi USA; Yotam Polizer, the Global Chief Executive Officer of IsraAID; Tamar Kosky Lazarus, Chief Development and Communications Officer of IsraAID; and Sarah Chu of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation. Both Mr. Yen and Mr. Polizer signed the MOU on behalf of their respective organizations.
To date, Tzu Chi has hosted 62 distributions across four cities in Poland in support of displaced Ukrainians individuals and families. Items have included emergency cash cards, gift cards to local supermarket Biedronka, DA.AI Technology eco-blankets, sleeping bags, food, personal care items, and more. It is estimated that this aid will reach approximately 45,000 individuals by June. To expand efforts in countries where Tzu Chi volunteers are not currently based, Tzu Chi has selected to partner with IsraAID, which began supporting those displaced in Moldova and Romania as early as February 25, 2022.
The MOU outlines Tzu Chi’s support in providing individuals and families with basic necessities, medical supplies, as well as psychosocial support through the help and facilitation of IsraAID in Romania and Moldova. Special attention, however, will be paid to women and children, including the creation of safe spaces for children, educational services, the establishment of remote learning centers, and assistance in integrating into their new communities. Mr. Yen of Tzu Chi highlights the importance of serving those who are particularly vulnerable in the long-term:
According to Mr. Polizer, Tzu Chi’s support will help sustain long-term recovery. Many of those who have been displaced face long-term obstacles that include (but are not limited to) psychological trauma, gaps in education and learning, linguistic barriers, securing sufficient income, and much more. To address these issues, Mr. Polizer of IsraAID emphasizes the importance of working together with fellow NGOs:
Mr. Yen, of Tzu Chi, shared this sentiment with an analogy at the meeting’s closing: “one strength may be small, but together, we can move mountains.” Mr. Polizer, too, touched on his nearly decade-long desire to collaborate with Tzu Chi ever since meeting a group of volunteers in the Philippines, post-Typhoon Haiyan in 2013:
Finally, he added the importance of working together now in 2022:
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is a global non-profit humanitarian organization founded in 1966 by a Buddhist nun named Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan. Its missions of medicine, charity, education, and humanistic culture have brought relief to 127 countries and counting. In 1989, Tzu Chi USA was established and now has 65 offices across the US. The heart of Tzu Chi is embedded in its name: in Chinese, “tzu” means compassion and “chi,” relief.