Her dyed, long hair looked outstanding even when it was tied up. She wore a bright yellow volunteer vest, as she sat at the desk and listened to the survivors’ stories. Through her eyes, you could see that she was deeply focus, like all the other volunteers.
Zhang Wen-Xin is a young girl. Upon first glance, you would think she is the type who would party with friends on a weekend night. Instead, she chose a different kind of party, one that is completely different from the norm.
This unusual party began on November 12th. It was a rainy Saturday.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, Zhang Wen-Xin got up. She and her mother took the 6 o’clock bus from Oakland to the Disaster Relief Center at Chico. There they would work as volunteers for a whole day, helping survivors register and handing out cash cards. When Zhang Wen-Xin first started as a volunteer, she was inexperienced and new to the scene. At the start of the day she sat next to an experienced volunteer to observe how to interact with survivors and to learn how to show them appropriate care.
Soon enough, Zhang Wen-Xin learned how to do the job on her own. She handed out cash cards, provided emotional support, and distributed Tzu Chi bamboo banks to be taken home. She explained to aid recipients that the funds in the cash cards were donated by people from all over the world.
“Before coming here, [survivors] didn’t expect too much from the cash cards,” she said. “I explained to them, every volunteer who came here heard the news and came here to help without hesitation. Same as the cash cards. People heard the Camp Fire news and donated.”
But Zhang Wen-Xin’s story with Tzu Chi started long before that rainy Saturday at the Disaster Relief Center.
“I was helped by Tzu Chi before, so today I’m very happy to join Tzu Chi to help more people,” Zhang Wen-Xin explained. Ten years ago, she received the Tzu Chi Foundation Germinate scholarship to assist with higher education fees. “That scholarship supported me through my college education.”
Ten years later, when a young bud grew into a tree, Zhang Wen-Xin became a strong individual. Standing in Northern California at the site of the Camp Fire, where the green forest was burned into ashes, she told the story of how the bamboo banks brought financial support from around the world to survivors.
The seeds of compassion have been sown, and new buds will sprout. Eventually all small trees and big trees will grow stronger with time.