Written by Yue Ma
Translated by Karen Chen
Edited by Diana Chang and Dilber Shatursun
Two hours beyond the hustle and bustle of Chicago lies a town called Rantoul. To Tzu Chi volunteers who visited in October 2020, streets there painted a portrait that was reflective of the pandemic: homes, run down and withered, on both sides of the road.
An increasing number of Americans have either lost their jobs or been forced to work less hours since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Undocumented immigrants, many who’ve arrived in search of a better life, have been dealt perhaps more painful blows as they do not qualify for traditional forms of aid. Regardless, returning to their previous countries is still not an option. To help, Tzu Chi Midwest sought to team up with a local pastor to bring some relief.
Nelson Cuevas, the Director of Cultivators and pastor of the Stone Creek Church invited church volunteers to support the community. He explained that the current situation had gradually become worse: “we provide food to the community, predominantly Latinos and migrants. We also have a daycare for their children, social services, interpretation services for them… But since COVID-19, the number of people unemployed [rose], we have more people coming because they need food.”
On the day of the distribution, Nelson was bringing a cart full of food to the parking lot of Cultivators’ Mission Center. Already, he could see a line of vehicles waiting to receive goods. Both church volunteers and Tzu Chi volunteers went to each vehicle that arrived to hand over their care packages. They informed the passengers of the contents, which included instant rice, instant noodle, vegetables, fruits, and masks. It also included magazines, including Tzu Chi’s Spanish and English Journals inspired by the spirit of the Jing Si Abode and the mission of Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen.
One woman, who is a mother, repeatedly expressed her gratitude. “[Receiving the food makes me] feel better and I feel safe about the information; yes, and about the mask, I feel safe. Thank you,” she said. She left with a bright smile and gave the volunteers the encouragement to continue following Master Cheng Yen’s teaching that “love is the strength of great goodness.”