Written by Rachel Lin
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
By November of 2020, California had exceeded 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, becoming the second state after Texas to reach the grim milestone. Many companies, stores, and restaurants are still unable to operate normally, and public schools continue to implement remote learning arrangements to help safeguard the health of communities and our most vulnerable neighbors.
For the past five years, Tzu Chi volunteers have visited Rosemary Elementary School in the Campbell Union School District every Monday morning to raise awareness for environmentally friendly practices like recycling. The love for these classes from the students, parents, and teachers, has also established a deep and lasting friendship with the school district. Soon after school started in September, a Tzu Chi volunteer named Grace Chiou heard that there were five elementary schools in the school district with nearly 100 low-income families needing help with essential supplies during the pandemic. Volunteers immediately mobilized to acquire the essential supplies on September 22nd. Volunteers brought the supplies to Tzu Chi volunteer Sonia Liu’s home to carefully pack them as a team. The supplies prepared for the families included laundry detergent, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, masks, and Jing Si Instant Rice.
Distributions That Give Hope
At 1:30 PM on September 25th, Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at Rosemary Elementary School to prepare for the distribution, and by 2:30 PM, parents had begun appearing at the school to pick up the much-needed care packages. Yesenia Chavaz, a parent, said in an interview that this was the first time she had received a bamboo bank from Tzu Chi. She said that she especially liked the concept of gathering good thoughts to form a cycle of love, and how accumulating small amounts together can make a huge difference. She told volunteers that upon returning home, she would try to save her change, and accumulate her love within the bamboo bank for other people in need.
After the distribution at Rosemary Elementary School was completed, volunteers held a second distribution at Sherman Oaks Elementary School so the lovingly prepared care packages could help more struggling families.
At 11 AM on Friday, October 2nd, volunteers went to the third distribution site: Lynhaven Elementary School. Parents began to pick up the care packages at noon. Ms. Noelia Smith, a Community Liaison and Tzu Chi’s contact at Lynhaven Elementary School, was moved upon hearing the story behind Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank. She said that every cent accumulated can become a big help to others when pooled together with love. She also felt that this experience would serve as a meaningful lesson for the children, and would let them know that there’s a group of volunteers at Tzu Chi who will be there for them.
The Convenience of Jing Si Instant Rice
On October 28th, Tzu Chi volunteers collaborated with the school district’s food distribution at a local church, and prepared care packages for low-income households from Castlemont Elementary School and Monroe Middle School. A drive-through method of distribution was implemented as a means of upholding important social distancing measures.
A Tzu Chi volunteer named Kate Chen helped with Spanish translation on-site. With the aid of her translations, every family who drove by to pick up the care package could feel the love and care from Tzu Chi volunteers. In the post-event interview, she said that although she could not participate in every distribution, she learned that there are many families in need of help through their conversations over the phone. For example, she knew of a college student who has no computer at home or internet access. Every time he does his homework, he has to go out to a shop to pay for the computer usage and internet access. Kate sincerely hopes that Tzu Chi’s assistance will alleviate some of the pressure from his shoulders amid these persisting hurdles.
Ms. Mariza Ramans, a Community Liaison from the school district, said that the supplies included in the care package were very practical, especially during the pandemic. In the face of myriad challenges brought forth by the current crisis, families who became unemployed appreciated the convenience of the Jing Si Instant Rice. Not only will it help families put nutritious food on the table, but do so without hassle as the preparation only requires water. After multiple timely distribution activities, Tzu Chi volunteers had built friendships with nearly 100 low-income families in the Campbell Union School District.