A Meal with New Friends: Volunteers Continue Years-Long Dinner Service at Shelter

Greater Washington D.C.  |  September 27, 2022
Volunteers prepared a delicious vegetarian dinner for the residents. Photo/ Yongshi Huang

Written by: Huijing Cai, Yongshi Huang
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Maggie Morgan

When the pandemic first changed the world over two years ago, Tzu Chi Raleigh Service Center volunteers began working with the Durham Rescue Mission. Tzu Chi team members have continued to care for residents of the shelter, visiting every two months to serve food. 

On the afternoon of July 30, 2022, volunteers returned again, wearing uniforms and masks and ready to get working. This dinner service was a little different, as volunteers from Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA, joined the team in Raleigh.  

Volunteers were busy preparing the meal. Photo: Huijing Cai
The volunteers prepare the meal and wait for the residents. Photo/ Huijing Cai

On the day of the service, volunteers brought three nutritious vegetarian dishes: vegetarian fried noodles, spring rolls, and stir-fried veggies. After entering the dining hall, the team took their positions and stood behind the table waiting for residents to come to eat. After the prayer led by Mr. William, the volunteer coordinating assistant, everyone formed a long line to grab a healthy meal.

Residents had gotten to know Tzu Chi volunteers over the past few years, and have grown to feel comfortable with the familiar faces. Volunteers went from table to table and chatted with the residents as they dined. Thomas Kemp Moore, who had just moved into Durham Rescue Mission two days before, had previously studied Chinese. He greeted volunteers in their native tongue, saying, “The vegetarian fried noodles today were delicious. The care from Tzu Chi was very encouraging. I hope I can have the opportunity to go to school again in the future to enrich myself.”

Volunteers chat with the residents. Photo/ Yongshi Huang
A nutritious and balanced meal. Photo/ Yongshi Huang

While recording videos to capture the day, volunteer Huijing Cai listened to resident Travis Baker talk about his life and his vision for the future. Travis said, “My life was a broken one, but when I came here, I have a renewed hope for my life, and now I will try new things, I believe that my life will get better and better.”

The volunteers worked hard to serve every resident who showed up. It was the first time for volunteer Susan Fung to participate in the dinner service, and she was responsible for beverages alongside Fengru Liu. Because of her restaurant experience, Susan was very comfortable with the work and pace. 

Volunteers gather to share their testimonies after the event. Photo/ Yongshi Huang

After the pandemic, many people lost their jobs, life has become very hard for them. Although the meals that we distributed at Durham Rescue Mission are vegetarian meals, the residents ate happily. We were also very happy to have the opportunity to care for them.

Zhenghang Ji expressed his gratitude to the volunteers for putting on successful meal service. He gave special thanks to the out-of-state volunteers for traveling to dedicate their day to community service. Zhenghang said, “The joining of out-of-state volunteers not only gives the team more strength but also allows the Raleigh volunteers to learn what they can improve through experience sharing, it is really beneficial!”

Each volunteer’s face gave away how much fun they were having, and the friendly banter of the residents illustrated their comfort. Team members and residents alike greeted each other as they arrived at dinner, warming people’s hearts and feeding people’s souls with Tzu Chi’s great love.

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