Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
For several days on the second floor of Tzu Chi’s New York regional office, volunteers arrived in shifts to prepare 600 special gifts before May 8th. These gifts were for the dedicated nurses who work at three hospitals in the New York metropolitan area in celebration of International Nurses Day on May 12th, 2020.
Volunteers in fours lovingly and carefully packed filters for cloth masks, multi-grain powder bags, and ‘thank you’ cards for the nurses to demonstrate just how deeply their work is appreciated — and especially so during this profoundly complex time. The gifts also adorned an elegant ribbon as decoration, offering a touch of softness amid these trials.
The most practical items of all contained in the gift are the cloth masks crafted by the venerable Dharma Masters at the Jing Si Abode in Taiwan. The cloth itself shares the deep blue that has long been associated with Tzu Chi, and serves as a reminder that volunteers forever endeavor to be there for those in need. Its design takes comfort into account, and the inside pocket is included for inserting a filter for extra protection. A volunteer named Susan Su led the team for this project. Having retired from a 30+ year career in nursing, Susan can truly grasp the challenges faced by the nursing staff, and wished to bring a little bit of cheer to support them through this unprecedented time.
May 12, 2020, marks the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale — who is known as the founder of modern nursing — and is also the International Nurses Day. Yet, on this day, the COVID-19 pandemic still persists. Just New York City alone has 203K confirmed cases. A large amount of the hospitalizations were within New York and Long Island, and thus, what nurses across the state have shouldered throughout the crisis is nothing short of extraordinary.
New York-Presbyterian Queens is the main hospital serving Flushing. It is also one of the hospitals with the highest number of COVID-19 patients, and is not far from the Tzu Chi New York office. Volunteers made contact with the hospital’s administration office hoping they could deliver these 200 gifts to the nurses.
The hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer, Alan M. Levin, personally came down to accept the gifts, and Susan Su gratefully opened one to show him the mask. “My relative used to make clothes by hand,” he expressed graciously, “I totally understand the difficulties involved. Your mask has really nice, even stitches.”
Throughout the pandemic, Tzu Chi’s PPE donations to hospitals across the nation has fostered several partnerships, and Flushing Hospital is one of these valued partners. On May 12, Susan Su and Dr. Lien Yang, a dentist and a member of Tzu Chi Medical Association (TIMA) in New York, delivered 200 gifts to Flushing Hospital. As soon as they arrived, nurses ran down to receive the gifts and expressed their sincere thanks. With a gift in everyone’s hand, they looked into the camera and shouted, “Thank you, Tzu Chi. Happy Nurses Day!”
Volunteers also went to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn to deliver 200 gifts on May 11.
Dr. Wei-Jian Chang contracted the coronavirus in April while taking care of his father. After a two-week stay at the hospital, he recovered and was released at the end of April. He planned to get back to work with a telemedicine method in mid-May. When he heard volunteers were coming, he went to the hospital to personally thank the volunteers, and readily lent his support to his colleagues working on the front lines as well.
As the number of confirmed cases each day steadily decreases in New York, it is our sincerest hope that the numbers continue to decline, and that these mindful gifts from Tzu Chi volunteers can encourage and support our valued frontline nurses who have and continue to face this crisis with love and perseverance.