Tzu Chi Volunteers Nourish Hope for Low-Income Families in Virginia

Greater Washington D.C.  |  September 15, 2020
Dr. Nguyen requested assistance from Tzu Chi to provide food for low-income families after he discovered many of his pediatric patients' families were severely impacted by the pandemic. Photo by Wendy Tsai.

Report by Wendy Tsai
Written by
Pheel Wang
Translated by
Penny Liu
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

In June, when a Tzu Chi volunteer in Virginia named Wang Li Ping was notified that a pediatric clinic — Seven Corners in Falls Church — urgently needed face masks, volunteers immediately delivered PPE, such as masks and protective gowns, to the clinic. Volunteers were pleased to be introduced to the Vietnamese-American physician, Dr. LamSon Nguyen.

With a bright smile and sunny disposition, Dr. Nguyen easily gets along with his patients and assuages their worries. But when Wang Li Ping went to deliver PPE for the second time, she found Dr. Nguyen looking concerned, himself: “Dr. Nguyen told me that this clinic serves mostly low-income patients who really needed help,” said Wang Li Ping. “He was very anxious.  So we started planning for food distributions.”

Dr. Nguyen discovered that he is completely in sync with Tzu Chi's principles. Photo by Zhang Chun Mei.
Dr. Nguyen and a volunteer plan for the distribution. Photo by Wendy Tsai.

Amidst the adverse impacts the pandemic has produced for the economy, many families have fallen into hard times, and low-income families with unstable sources of income face even greater challenges. Dr. Nguyen discovered many of his pediatric patients were having health issues due to a lack of proper nutrition, directly caused by their families’ economic hardship during the pandemic. After discussing the matter with parents and gaining a better understanding of their individual circumstances, Dr. Nguyen couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to do anything for them. Yet, he had limited resources on his own. After meeting with Tzu Chi volunteers in June, however, and finding out that Tzu Chi would be willing to provide assistance, his spirits immediately lifted.

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Image 1: Low-income families arrive at the distribution on July 11th, 2020. Photo by Tan Jian Wu.  Image 2: Volunteers present food to those in need. Photo by Wendy Tsai.  Image 3: Two of Dr. Nguyen’s colleagues help translate for Hispanic families. Photo by Wendy Tsai. 

On July 11, 2020, Tzu Chi volunteers carried the groceries to Seven Corners, and set up the blue Tzu Chi tents in the parking lot. Dr. Nguyen also brought a large case of powdered infant formula for the distribution. Prior to the distribution, he contacted his patients’ families and encouraged them to register for the distribution. He also invited his Spanish-speaking colleagues, Dr. Carolia Saldarriaga Perez, and Dr. Sebastian Ochoa Gonzalez, to participate in the distribution.

On that day, the parking lot was buzzing with energy. Volunteers from diverse ethnic backgrounds wore Tzu Chi’s signature volunteer vests and assisted with translation, logistics, distribution, directing traffic, and more. Families received Jing Si instant noodles and rice, produce items, and dry goods. Families with babies and toddlers received powder milk as well. Some volunteers even taught children a bit of Sign Language while they waited. Doctors Perez and Gonzalez, too, were deeply touched by Tzu Chi’s principles, and immediately began to speak to families about the spirit of our bamboo bank, and about Tzu Chi’s philosophy of great love for all sentient beings, hoping these seeds of compassion can spread within the community.

A mother pushing a stroller receives powdered infant formula from Dr. Nguyen. Photo by Wendy Tsai.
Volunteers teach children Sign Language while waiting. Photo by Wendy Tsai.

To those in attendance, this food distribution appeared to be a snapshot of the global pandemic’s impact. There were stories of hardships, and of joyful giving. When Tan Jian Wu picked up a camera to record tidbits of such heartwarming stories, he also observed a doctor’s compassion and empathy:

The interactions between Dr. Nguyen and his patients were so great. Everyone could see that from the short conversations he had with them. How was the kid? Who found a job? Who was still working? You can see he truly cares about his patients. This is really similar to Tzu Chi’s principles.

Dr. Sebastian Gonzalez writes down the story of the bamboo bank in Spanish. Photo by Wendy Tsai.
Volunteers promote the spirit of great love during the distribution. Photo by Wendy Tsai.

A total of 23 volunteers served 54 families on that day. After the distribution, Dr. Nguyen wrote a ‘thank you’ letter for the volunteers, and also inquired whether Tzu Chi might be able to organize similar food distributions every two months, for he has discovered that Tzu Chi’s distributions not only provide nourishment for one’s belly, but nourish one’s hope for the future as well.

I believe Tzu Chi’s food distribution can bring a great impact for this community.

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Image 1: Volunteers serve beneficiaries joyfully despite the summertime heat. Photo by Wendy Tsai. Image 2: Volunteers speak to families about the concepts behind the bamboo bank. Photo by Wendy Tsai.

Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to support and empower the communities we serve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can assist us as we aid struggling families all across the nation. We’re calling for 500k donors to help us raise $5 million in charitable donations for our pandemic relief efforts. Every dollar counts, and in these challenging times, your selfless gift of $10 can help us deliver hope to those who can’t afford to feed their families, or provide essential PPE to individuals on the frontlines. If we can inspire 500,000 people to participate, we can reach $5,000,000 in relief!

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