Volunteers Encourage Vegetarianism at the San Dimas Community Health Fair

National Headquarters  | October 23, 2020
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Tzu Chi USA was invited to participate in the Community Health and Resource Fair in San Dimas, CA, to promote healthy, vegetarian lifestyle choices. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Written by Jennifer Chien & Tom Chen
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

On September 24th, 2020, Tzu Chi volunteers were invited to the Community Health and Resource Fair in San Dimas, California, to promote good health within the community, and provided free flu vaccines. With the recent introduction of the Very Veggie Movement, volunteers additionally took the opportunity to set up a health-themed game to raise awareness for the benefits of vegetarianism.

Encouraging Environmentally-Friendly Choices

Inside Tzu Chi’s booth at the Community Health and Resource Fair, there hung several portraits of well-known historical figures and celebrities who’ve been said to practice a vegan or vegetarian diet. A spinning prize wheel game was also placed in the booth, featuring seven questions regarding vegetarianism for guests to answer, as was a memory game where one could test one’s mind by matching patterns.

Tzu Chi USA’s roots run deep in the City of San Dimas, and will continue to organize for activities with the city in the future to maintain the relationship of a good neighbor, and achieve a harmonious relationship with the residents.

Dr. Shirley Chen, Director of the Medical Development Department at Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters
Dr. Shirley Chen, Director of the Medical Development Department at Tzu Chi USA, introduces the theme of the event. Photo by Jennifer Chien.
Small gifts and brochures from Tzu Chi are available at the event booth for the participants to take home. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

A volunteer named Michael Tseng, who was in charge of setting up at the health fair, explained that the booth was designed to reach out to the residents about vegetarian meals in an interesting way. All the questions presented were backed by scientific facts and the answers were all about vegetarianism. The game empowers residents with factual knowledge regarding the importance of these mindful alternatives, and hopes to encourage the incorporation of vegetarian meals in one’s daily life. Cloth masks, Jing Si Aphorism bookmarks, and Tzu Chi publications were additionally available for the participants, so they could also learn more about Tzu Chi.

At the beginning of the event, several residents had lined up to wait for their turn to play the game. During the three hour event, almost everyone who passed by the table had stopped to see the portraits or try their luck with the spinning prize wheel. The fun and entertaining event benefited more than 50 residents, and a total of 73 masks were given to participants.

Rudy Rangel (middle), a local resident, learns about Tzu Chi’s mission from volunteer Michael Tseng (left). Photo by Jennifer Chien.
Debra Alarcon (second right) and her daughter, Tammy Alarcon (second left), have a pleasant time at Tzu Chi’s health fair booth. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Rudy Rangel, a retired teacher, came to the Health Fair for resources and information. He was the first person to participate in the spinning wheel and memory games. “I know your organization,” he said happily. “A month ago, my wife and I went to your campus in San Dimas to pick up free medical masks. The masks you provide are very practical and your kindness to others is great.” Taking note of the theme of Tzu Chi’s booth, he also shared his experience with trying vegetarian foods, saying that he’d once tried a veggie burger and found it to be unexpectedly delicious. Although he likes to eat meat, he also does try to incorporate vegetarian meals into his diet for nutrition and health purposes.

Debra Alarcon and her daughter, Tammy Alarcon, came to get a flu shot. While at the booth, they also took a tour and learned a few new things. “I love Tzu Chi,” said Tammy, and Debra told volunteers that they’d known the organization for some time, as volunteers had helped their community in the past.

Volunteer Margaret Ho (left) shows a resident named Erendira Jaques (right) the memory card game. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Erendira Jaquez, who is about to turn 65, came to the fair for information about Medicare, but also stopped at Tzu Chi’s booth to participate in the memory game. Before she left our booth, she said with a smile, “I really like this activity, your memory game is interesting. Although I answered it wrong, the volunteers gave me great details about vegetarianism and I learned a lot of new information.”

Yolanda Royba, a local resident, said that she, too, knew Tzu Chi. One of Tzu Chi’s eco-blankets was given to her during an emergency room visit due to a health condition. She explained how the activities at the health fair can be very helpful for seniors — it was a pleasant day for a walk, and volunteers had offered a way to get one’s brain going. The vegetarian food choices are good for one’s health as well. She also told volunteers that as most Mexican meals are already paired with beans, fruits, and vegetables, it might be easier for her to switch to eating more vegetarian meals in the future.

A local, Yolanda Royba (left), concentrates on playing the memory game. Photo by Jennifer Chien.
Dr. Han Huang (first left), the Vice CEO of Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters, introduces Tzu Chi's mission to Anne Nguyen (second right), a city staff member, and her colleague. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Anne Nguyen, a staff member for the City of San Dimas and her colleagues, also took advantage of their lunch break to obtain some health information. She said that although the pandemic has not ended, these types of health fairs held outdoors can be helpful to the public, and that she’s happy to see Tzu Chi participating.

Robert Chacon and his wife, Adellienee Chacon, were interviewed together, and said, “This event is very well-organized and it’s helpful for the health of local residents. We like Tzu Chi’s activities very much. The exhibition booth is very encouraging and volunteers are promoting the concept of vegetarianism, plus explaining the benefits of eating vegetarian meals. I think a vegetarian diet is helpful to our body, especially for cancer patients and patients with autoimmune diseases.”

Robert Chacon and his wife, Adellienee Chacon, look at the portraits of celebrities in the tent to identify who is vegetarian. Photo by Jennifer Chien.
Annette Martin shares that her husband has been maintaining a vegan diet for more than 20 years. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Annette Martin said that her husband has been a vegan for more than 20 years. Although she still eats meat, she has also tried many vegetarian meals due to her husband’s encouragement. She has considered that in the future, she may slowly shift toward eating vegetarian meals only.

COVID-19 and the Flu: A Looming Double Threat

When the temperatures get cooler in autumn, it also means flu season is around the corner. As the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also highly recommends the public to get a flu vaccine to reduce the possible strain on the health system that may need to treat both flu patients and patients with the new coronavirus.

Dominique Borba, Recreation Supervisor for the City of San Dimas, explains the theme of the event. Photo by Tom Chen.
The health fair provides free flu shots for locals. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Dominique Borba, the Recreation Supervisor for the City of San Dimas introduced the health fair for the community as a means of providing residents with resources and important health information. At the event, locals had noted that many community organizations can provide services and provide free flu vaccination on-site. In fact, the City of San Dimas invited 15 community organizations to participate in the health fair, and administered 150 doses of the flu vaccine.

The ultimate goal of the health fair was to support the residents with the resources they need to stay healthy, and face the double threat of the oncoming flu season alongside the active pandemic. Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to strive to serve those most in need with the utmost love and support.

Life’s most valuable gift is a healthy body; more valuable yet is following the right direction.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Volunteers conclude their mission of raising awareness for individual health choices during the City of San Dimas Health Fair. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

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