Our relief mission in Canoa, Ecuador has culminated in the rebuilding of the Church of San Andres. We celebrated the completion of the project on July 13, 2019.

The Heart of Canoa Beats Again

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Rebuilding with Faith in Canoa, Ecuador

On April 16, 2016, a horrific 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the coast of Ecuador. The disaster leveled the infrastructure, reduced homes and schools to rubble, claimed the lives of hundreds, and injured thousands more. Scenes of immense pain and widespread damage could be seen across Manabi province, especially in small coastal communities all but reduced to rubble, the small beach town of Canoa among them.  

The heart of their community – a cherished house of worship – was destroyed as a result of the quake. Over the last four years, our relief has culminated in the rebuilding of this spiritual home in Canoa. We celebrated the completion of the project on July 13, 2019.

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2019

JULY 15

Medical Outreach continues in Manta, Ecuador

San Mateo residents arrive early at Tzu Chi TIMA’s medical outreach clinic and eagerly wait outside the entrance. - Photo by Che-Jen Chu
Tzu Chi volunteers manage the large crowds by designating specific wait areas for the elderly and families with children to ensure provision efficiency.- Photo by Tina Tuan
Dr. Ming-Hwang Liaw practices acupuncture on 15 patients at a time as a result of the large crowds of eager local residents. - Photo by Che-Jen Chu
Local mother of three lacking health care and aid recipient Maria Lopez Luca receives life-changing medical aid from TIMA volunteers. - Photo by Che-Jen Chu
Dr. Mike Liaw performs scalp acupuncture on local fisherman and aid recipient Tranqulino Bello to alleviate his chronic pain. - Photo by MT
Local fisherman and aid recipient Tranqulino pictured post-treatment, feeling renewed and revived. Photo by MT
San Mateo residents and aid recipient Joselin pictured with her son as he receives medical care from Dr. Tung Cheung. Photo by MT
San Mateo resident and aid recipient Alberto Franco is treated for his diabetes. - Photo by Wendy Tsai
Nislaidy Nataly, San Mateo resident and aid recipient, waits to receive acupuncture treatment for her back pain while a Tzu Chi volunteer hold her newborn baby. Photo by MT
Seasoned local disadvantaged residents and aid recipient Mercedes Andrea generously contributes to Tzu Chi and expresses deep sentiments of gratitude. Photo by Che-Jen Chu

JULY 14

With the church officially open to the public, the next stage of our humanitarian mission in Ecuador is now underway. 

Good turnout this morning in Canoa for the TIMA Medical Outreach. Specialized medical assistance is not easily accessible for the Canoans, they usually have to travel really far and even then it is prohibiting.
Disadvantaged Canoa residents attend TIMA medical outreach to receive specialized medical assistance that is not easily accessible within the community, including dental, general, acupuncture and chiropractic practices. Photo by MT
Tzu Chi USA CEO Han Huang begins outreach with an introductory speech about compassion and the dedication shown by volunteers who have been with the Tzu Chi since the beginning of Canoa outreach. Photo by MT
Local resident and reporter Rubén Vera expands on the inefficiency of the local health care system while receiving TIMA medical aid for chronic joint pain. Photo by MT
Local resident of 15 years and aid recipient Orlando Vera Rodríguez expresses appreciation for Tzu Chi aid that surpasses diversity and sustains exceptional quality of care. Photo by MT
Local Tzu Chi volunteer Anita has been with Tzu Chi since the beginning of Tzu Chi’s outreach in Canoa. Today, her grandmother - pictured - visits for medical aid. Photo by MT
Left photo - TIMA volunteers offering medical assistance to a patient from Canoa. This is the first time that a Medical Outreach is conducted in the new buildings, that will then serve as cultural and educational centers for the people of Canoa. Right photo - “ I am here for dental check up, my financial situation doesn’t allow me to seek medical attention in general. I am grateful for Tzu Chi creating this opportunity for us, and for this big family that gifted us this beautiful compex (of buildings). - Dolores Farias, Canoa resident
Melanie is one of many San Gregorio University dentistry students from Portoviejo who collaborated with Tzu Chi TIMA to administer aid services to the Canoa community. Photo by MT
Dolores Farias is being attended to by San Gregorio University dentistry students.
TIMA volunteers set up impromptu haircut salon to administer all-encompassing support to Canoa residents. Photo MT
Vivian Jou, Tzu Ching graduate, traveled from Pennsylvania to assist at the outreach in Canoa with her family. Photo by MT
Local emergency nurse practitioner volunteers Christian Roldan Rivas and Lorena Rosados Saltos express feelings of fulfillment throughout the day. Photo by MT
Local resident and medical volunteer Yenny Carrillo expresses gratitude for Tzu Chi TIMA’s provision of aid and love that fulfills a vital need within the Canoa community. Photo by MT
Local resident and community leader Consuelo “Consuelita” Rivadeneira, pictured with her family second from the left, has been a Tzu Chi volunteer since the beginning of the outreach in Ecuador. Consuelo recruits additional volunteers for every medical outreach. Photo by MT
Brigitte Garcia, licensed nurse and Tzu Chi volunteer for 3 years, assists Dr. Jose Sanchez. “This is my first time volunteering with TIMA and would like to continue to volunteer. It is a privilege” - Dr. Jose Sanchez

Grand Opening Ceremony

We invite you to witness how the light of interfaith collaboration and humanity truly shines through to uplift those who are struggling. The mission to return La Parroquia San Andrés to the people of Canoa was brought to fruition through the power great love, and the extraordinary efforts put forth by everyone involved.

Watch the LIVE broadcast of the Grand Opening ceremony of La Parroquia San Andrés on July 13th, 2019. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness brotherhood, unity, and love amongst communities of different faiths.

Tzu Chi CEO Han Huang officiates opening of the ceremony with a ribbon cutting. Photo by Grace Chen
Tzu Chi USA’s CEO Han Huang and Tzu Chi USA volunteer Martin Kuo unveil the Tzu Chi plaque at La Parroquia San Andrés. Photo by Tina Tuan
People are starting to arrive as the local Mariachi band is playing traditional Canoan songs, including a song that they composed especially for Tzu Chi. Photo by Mina Teslaru
The Church of San Andres is soon filled to the brim with people that travelled from near and far to join this celebration. Photo by Mina Teslaru
As Tzu Chi volunteers performed “One Family / - Una Familia” - everyone sang along in Spanish and joined in the choreography. Photo by Wendy Tsai
Engineer Julián Zamora and family (Julian proposed to his girlfriend - pictured - during the ceremony, to everyone’s surprise) Photo by Mina Teslaru
As Tzu Chi volunteers performed “One Family / - Una Familia” - everyone sang along in Spanish and joined in the choreography. Photo by Peter Chu
Engineer Rossana Cevallos and Tzu Chi CEO Han Huang watch a short documentary about the rebuilding La Parroquia San Andrés Church. Photo by Wendy Tsai
Canoa church engineer Julian Zamora and fiance leaving the church at the end of the ceremony as everyone cheers and applauds. The Zamora wedding will be the first wedding to be held at the newly rebuilt La Parroquia San Andrés Church. Photo by Mina Teslaru
Tzu Chi Canoa kitchen volunteers showed their gratitude through a special dance routine that they prepared for the Grand Opening and made an offering of vegetables from a handmade basket to honor the Buddhist Vegetarian Lifestyle. Photo by Wendy Tsai
Tzu Chi Members & Local volunteers exchanged gifts that they prepared for each other. Photo by Wendy Tsai
It was a day full of love, gratitude and joy. The attendees danced, sang and laughed as the compassionate spirit of Tzu Chi filled the room. Gratitude and hope could be seen on all faces.
As Tzu Chi volunteers performed “One Family / - Una Familia” - everyone sang along in Spanish and joined in the choreography. Photo by Mina Teslaru
The compassionate spirit of Tzu Chi fills the community as the ceremony comes to a close.

Preparations for Grand Opening

On July 10th, 2019, a team of Tzu Chi volunteers returned to Canoa to begin preparations for our forthcoming medical outreach mission – and celebration. This was also the first time the volunteers had witnessed the newly completed project for themselves. Hand-in-hand with Canoa’s nuns and the locals we’d forged lasting bonds with, it had been an emotional day, indeed, but also a tremendously joyous one.

Local and global volunteers were up at the break of dawn to rehearse one more time and put the final touches on a very anticipated day of celebration.

TIMA volunteers practice dance routine one last time before the Grand Opening. Photo by Mina Teslaru
Volunteers preparing Tzu Chi gifts for the Grand Opening Ceremony attendees. Photo by Mina Teslaru
Lead by Tzu Chi Volunteers, local volunteers practice dance routine before the Grand Opening Ceremony. Photo by Mina Teslaru
Hermanas de San Andres are happy to show the Tzu Chi volunteers around their new quarters. Photo by Mina Teslaru
Sister Irmelia Zorga Gutierez pictured, demonstrating the restored happiness and hope cultivated within the community following the church’s completion. Photo by MT
TIMA volunteer administers medical services to promote mental wellness for the Sisters of La 7. Parroquia de San Andres prior to the ceremony. Photo by MT
Sister Mercedes’s parents, Eugenia Angela Jumbo Sarango and Marcos Jose Ajila Lapo, traveled from Nangaritza, Ecuador to join the celebratory event. Photo by MT
No details are missed in the preparation of the Grand Opening Ceremony celebration. Photo by MT

We’re so excited to look back and reflect on the success we’ve seen leading up to tomorrow’s grand re-opening of La Parroquia San Andrés, a beloved church in Canoa destroyed by the 2016 Ecuador Earthquake.

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“It’s way beyond our expectation… You know all these workers here, I see they are proud to be part of it.”

Martin Kuo, Tzu Chi volunteer

Tzu Chi volunteers had arrived in Ecuador on July 9th. Their first stop was in the coastal city of Manta, where volunteers mapped out all the logistics for the medical outreach. Manta Mayor, Agustín Intriago tells us that “working together means hope.” See more in our latest video:

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“Our territory needs a lot of help. The budget is limited and our people need assistance. We’re very happy there are hearts so kind to come back again to knock on our door.”

Agustín Intriago, Mayor of Manta, Ecuador

JUNE

A month before the opening ceremony, work continues to progress, one goal firmly held in their minds: to restore normalcy after a catastrophe had shattered all of their lives, and thus rekindling the light of love within their community.

The people of this pious community have endured the worst, with their homes and even their place of worship destroyed during the earthquake. The progress on this project is making their hearts soar. And, the construction crew is grateful to be a part of it, “I want to thank Master Cheng Yen for hiring the people of Canoa so we can have an income for our families.” – Guido Alcivar
The construction team had been working steadily on the grounds of the complex for months, completing other buildings. But when the rebuilding of the actual church began, there was a sense of excitement in the air. Soon, a roof will cover this sacred space where the whole community will once more be able to assemble and pray together.
he fact that the church is designed to withstand an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude means a lot to everyone here, allaying their fears about what could happen in the future. “Our work here is well done. I haven’t seen a structure as strong as this, and in a church no less.” – Modesto Castro, Master Welder
Dozens of construction workers have been putting their whole heart into making this church and every building on the grounds as strong and resilient as the people of Ecuador. “Our work has to be precise with exact measurements and a zero margin of error.” – Johnny Cirino, Assistant Ironsmith
The classrooms on the campus will be dedicated to providing Bible studies and can hold 25-30 children. As one takes a bird’s eye view of the church and grounds, it’s clear to see how this reconstruction can be seen as a beacon of light that reaffirms the faith of everyone in this community
The church has once again become a source of inspiration, beauty, joy and faith for the residents of Canoa. And, this is just the start of the deepening connection between Tzu Chi and the people of Ecuador. “After the construction is done, Tzu Chi is going to be here.” – Boris García, Contractor & Tzu Chi Volunteer

MAY

Canoa’s church is nearly completed! Take a video tour through La Parroquia San Andrés in Canoa, and witness the fruits of love, unity, and dedication in action.

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“People are excited. It’s the most spectacular thing to happen in Canoa right now”

Johnny Cirino, Assistant Ironsmith

United by the spirit of universal love and courage, local volunteers organized an interfaith Buddha Bathing Ceremony entirely on their own in Canoa.

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“What drives my motivation is Master Cheng Yen's example to work with love in order to serve others”

Tzu Chi Volunteer

While the completion of La Parroquia San Andrés in Canoa may mark the end of one chapter for Tzu Chi’s long-term relief mission, the next chapter has yet to be written. Indeed, an additional complex on the church campus has been devoted to carrying out Tzu Chi’s future outreach events in the area.

2018

OCTOBER

Where there had only been a foundation lain mere months before, by the end of October, the living quarters for priests and nuns were completed.

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"I’m happy because the nuns will finally have a place where they can help other people. It’s not only a physical reconstruction but a spiritual one that is essential for a better town."

Lorenzo Voltolini, Archbishop of Portoviejo

Now, with work on the dormitories finished, the construction of the church itself could officially begin.

APRIL

Returning to Ecuador nearly one year after the floods, and the earthquake the year before that, Tzu Chi volunteers joined hands with the people of Canoa to actively engage in local acts of charity. While our construction teams are working diligently to rebuild Canoa’s church, acts of compassion were inspired as more seeds of love were sewn at the local level.

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Today has been beautiful, their presence here says a lot. They continue to bring us hope.

Sister Yolanda about Tzu Chi

JUNE

To ensure the church and its adjoining buildings are as strong as the people of Ecuador, special building techniques were put into place which are not commonly used in the country. Due to the nature of our rebuilding project, The residencies for the nuns were the first structures to be built.

At the start of construction, it was discovered that the soil composition couldn’t hold the structures. Therefore, not only did the engineers decide to improve the soil, but also to use special columns of reinforcing rods. “We’ll have a rock solid structure” – Galo Basurto, Technical Engineer
From the start until now, when it’s reaching completion, the project has been a labor of love for all the Tzu Chi volunteers involved, and for the contractor and engineers who’ve brought their most diligent expertise.
It's always special when one of the nuns comes on the construction site of the church for a visit, their joyful energy radiating love to everyone they encounter. They and Master Cheng Yen know in their hearts why this project is so important: “This is a home for all, a family.” – Sister Mercedes, Franciscan Sisters of Canoa
“The project is a religious complex. It involves a church which is the most significant part.” – Julian Zamora, Head Engineer & Tzu Chi Volunteer. Surrounding the church, are residences for the priests and nuns, and spaces that will serve the community – classrooms and even a playground for the children.
The residences for the nuns were the first to be completed, and a lot of care went into their design, along with attention to their needs. The nuns take turns cooking for each other and hoped for a comfortable kitchen. They now have one, which makes them very happy.
The suffering that ensued after the earthquake touched everyone in this town, the Franciscan Sisters of Canoa included. Yet they never faltered in their devotion and resolve to serve their community with love. Today, it’s a joy to know that they have a permanent home once again – one that’s built to last, just like their faith.

2017

MAY

Even months after the earthquake, the nuns from Canoa still felt the pain of their loss keenly, as the church where the community they served could congregate was the very heart of their life.  Having taken the first steps to rebuild the cherished spiritual home, however, had allowed a wonderful sense of happiness to return once more.

“[Tzu Chi] could have just said: ‘We are going to build houses, we will help people, and then we will organize other things.’ But no, you saw that the most important thing to us, that would help us the most, was to lift up the material temple to God. Suddenly, we felt a great wave of spiritual relief.” - Sister Yolanda
The church had always been a place that brought the community together, promising hope through hardship. In its rebuilding, hope was shining its light again.
“The rebuilding of our church, yes, it is a material house, but it is also a symbol … it is rebuilding the church that is within each of us, the temple that is each of us, united.” - Sister Mercedes

APRIL

Recovery after a disaster is a long road to travel, and one that demands great effort. Many in Ecuador still took shelter in hostels after the earthquake, but held firmly onto the hope that through their hard work their homes would be restored. Locals also knew that they would not be traveling this road alone – their Tzu Chi family was there for them.

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“Thankfully, Tzu Chi arrived, and although they are from a different religion, they're helping us a lot.”

Yoselin Sanches - Volunteer

MARCH

The Groundbreaking ceremony for Canoa’s church was held on March 10th, 2017. It was a moment of great joy and excitement for the town, but also one of deep, heartfelt reverence.  

Shovels in hand, Tzu Chi volunteers, who had travelled here from different regions in the United States, marked the start of a new chapter in the aid to Ecuador that began after the earthquake of 2016, and continues until today.
Canoa residents performed a dance with lyrics they’d written, “At the most beautiful beach, long live Tzu Chi.” Juan Carlos Quintero, President of the Junta Canoa echoed their sentiments, “We are infinitely grateful for all the beautiful things Tzu Chi brings to the humble people of Canoa. No one would have felt so acknowledged if it wasn’t for your support.”
The Archbishop of Manabi blessed the site of the church. "After learning that some Catholic nuns were in need of help, compassion arose in a Buddhist nun. We are touched to see that the female spiritual cultivators from the East to the West can come together. Only through helping people and caring for one another can we spread joy around the world." – Monsignor Lorenzo Voltolini, Archbishop of Manabi

JANUARY

On January 18, several volunteers traveled to Canoa to present Tzu Chi’s long-term relief plans for the town – a plan which began with the rebuilding of the local Catholic church and a home for the nuns, as well as the construction of a classroom for the children of the community.

The residents of Canoa were happy to be reunited with Tzu Chi volunteers. Cherished memories – of how they had worked together to clear the church of rubble so that mass could resume during the difficult weeks after the earthquake – were still vivid in their hearts.
Everyone gathered at the town’s civic center for the presentation and ceremony, eager to learn about the reconstruction plan. A 3-D animation of the church design was presented, which allowed the town’s residents to truly envision the precious rebirth of their spiritual home.
The town’s residents were truly touched learning how this church rebuilding project was so close to Master Cheng Yen’s heart. During the closing ceremony, everyone joined together in prayer, and Tzu Chi volunteers in turn were touched, realizing that many people still remembered the lyrics to “One Family.”
  • 2016

2016

July

This documentary follows our disaster relief mission that began just days after this tragic catastrophe. Witness the solidarity and positive energy that was unleashed as people, homeless and unemployed, were given a chance to contribute to their own salvation, helping restore hope in the future.

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May

On May 6th, 2016, Tzu Chi’s Cash-For-Relief program in Ecuador launched simultaneously in both Manta and Portoviejo, then continued to Canoa, Pedernales and Jama over the next few weeks. The goal was to provide much-needed job opportunities and to clean up the cities in the shortest possible time. 

Participants in the Cash-For-Relief program received $15 a day for their labor. In each city, residents were eager to join, offering their aid in the clean-up while earning money to feed their family. As the rubble disappeared from the streets due to their solidarity and work, everyone felt hope returning. 

Thanks to the program, the economy also got a jump start in coastal areas where jobs had depended on tourism, and were suddenly gone after the earthquake. Over the course of the program in five cities, Tzu Chi provided over $500,000 USD in aid, creating approximately 34,000 temporary jobs.

Participants in the Cash-For-Relief program received $15 a day for their labor. In each city, residents were eager to join, offering their aid in the clean-up while earning money to feed their family. As the rubble disappeared from the streets due to their solidarity and work, everyone felt hope returning.

Thanks to the program, the economy also got a jump start in coastal areas where jobs had depended on tourism, and were suddenly gone after the earthquake. Over the course of the program in five cities, Tzu Chi provided over $500,000 USD in aid, creating approximately 34,000 temporary jobs.

"If we are united, we will move forward. I'm from here, my heart is from Portoviejo, and I say thank you." - Alides, Cash-For-Relief Worker
Determined to help their city, and to help one another, the line to join in the Cash-For-Relief program grew longer, and people began to assemble earlier and earlier with each passing day. There was much to do, but the people of Ecuador had vowed to shoulder that weight together as one with the help of their Tzu Chi family.
Hard-hit cities needed a monumental cleanup effort to be put forth if progress could be made, and having lost their only source of income in the earthquake, many residents were eager to take part in our Cash-For-Relief program.
The program helps impacted cities recover by clearing away the debris while also enabling families to support themselves in the aftermath.
The program - and the precious unity that was born from it - left a tremendous impact on their spirit. Through it, those impacted knew they could move forward. And now they were able to obtain some of the resources to do so with the money they'd earned.
Street-by-street and day-by-day, thousands of people joined together to clear the rubble from the streets, while ensuring they could afford to buy food and supplies for their families. “The city has fallen but its people are fighters.” - Hugo Villareal, Cash-For-Relief Worker

During the Cash-For-Relief program in Manta, Portoviejo, Canoa, Pedernales and Jama, touching connections between the local people and Tzu Chi volunteers were formed as everyone toiled together, shoulder to shoulder with one goal in mind: Restoring a normal way of life as quickly as possible. In Canoa, one connection in particular stood out in the heart of Master Cheng Yen – that with three Catholic nuns whose church was destroyed. Over 50 years ago, Master Cheng Yen had met three Catholic nuns in Hualien, Taiwan. Their mission of charity reinforced her own aspiration to provide aid to those in need, and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was established soon after. Helping the Franciscan Sisters of Canoa, by rebuilding the church that was the spiritual home of this community, became a goal close to Master’s heart.

During the Cash-For-Relief program in Manta, Portoviejo, Canoa, Pedernales and Jama, touching connections between the local people and Tzu Chi volunteers were formed as everyone toiled together, shoulder to shoulder with one goal in mind: Restoring a normal way of life as quickly as possible. In Canoa, one connection in particular stood out in the heart of Master Cheng Yen – that with three Catholic nuns whose church was destroyed.

Over 50 years ago, Master Cheng Yen had met three Catholic nuns in Hualien, Taiwan. Their mission of charity reinforced her own aspiration to provide aid to those in need, and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was established soon after. Helping the Franciscan Sisters of Canoa, by rebuilding the church that was the spiritual home of this community, became a goal close to Master’s heart.

April

Tzu Chi mobilized an assessment team of nine volunteers from the USA and Chile, who then traveled to Ecuador to begin their disaster relief assessment mission.

Tzu Chi's assessment team called upon a group of specialists to join them, and together, they determined that due to substantial damages the building had sustained, the church could no longer safely stand.
In a town where 80% of residents worked in businesses related to tourism, the disaster hit the small town of Canoa brutally hard. Nearly all of Canoa's residents were left suddenly unemployed and at a complete loss.
As buildings crumbled, people scrambled to escape, emerging into the streets as the earthquake took residents completely by surprise, vulnerable, and in shock - their homes, jobs, and some of their loved ones gone forever.
Tzu Chi volunteers soon realized that many of the resources for disaster recovery had gone toward the larger cities.
Although it remained standing, the structure of Canoa’s church was heavily compromised, and thus, was set to be demolished.
Most buildings in the town of Canoa collapsed during the earthquake, and it was easy for residents to despair. One food vendor took this to heart, and changed the signage on his cart to uplift the spirit of the people and motivate them.

It came as an utter shock – one moment, Catholic nuns in Canoa were preparing for mass, and the next, part of their beloved church had been claimed by the earthquake. The house of worship was the center of their lives, and a place where people could seek guidance and support in times of hardship. But now, in what was perhaps their greatest time of need for the people of Canoa, it was terribly damaged. 

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“With the earthquake, many hopes have gone down [...] but at least now we know, that the solidarity of the people is something real.”

Sister Maria Luiz

With no home to return to, the dedicated Sisters who’d devoted their lives to serving so many, needed a hand as well. Thanks to ten women who were part of Tzu Chi’s Cash-For-Relief program, however, much of the church was cleaned in just one day. 

A moment of reverent prayer was later shared among the women, so that they might be spared from disasters in the future.

With no home to return to, the dedicated Sisters who’d devoted their lives to serving so many, needed a hand as well. Thanks to ten women who were part of Tzu Chi’s Cash-For-Relief program, however, much of the church was cleaned in just one day. 

A moment of reverent prayer was later shared among the women, so that they might be spared from disasters in the future.

Consider becoming a donor today and help Tzu Chi continue to offer support to communities in need.
Together, we’re unstoppable in our power to ease suffering and change the world for the better.

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