Hello, How May I Help You?

By Yan Fu-jiang and Liao Zhe-min
Compiled and translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photo by Hsiao Yiu-hwa

At the request of the New Taipei City government, Tzu Chi volunteers answered phone calls from people under home quarantine due to COVID-19 to help address their needs.

The Omicron variant began to spread rapidly in Taiwan in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, hitting the island like a tsunami. Confirmed cases began to surge abruptly in the spring of 2022, with New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, being one of the areas recording the most infections. Since most people that tested positive were asymptomatic or suffered from mild symptoms, the majority quarantined at home. Those who had close contact with confirmed cases were at first required to quarantine too. As a result, the number of housebound people spiked. Because they couldn’t go out, they needed assistance with all kinds of matters, from purchasing necessities to disposing of garbage, psychological counseling, pet care, and other emergency needs. At the request of the New Taipei City government, in late April Tzu Chi volunteers joined the effort to answer calls from people under quarantine who needed help.

In addition to listening patiently on the phone and providing necessary assistance, volunteers sometimes needed to calm angry callers who had had a hard time getting through. It was a job that required wisdom and skill. A sense of humor came in very handy too. Volunteer Lu Fu-yao (呂福堯), for example, once received a call from a man who had been phoning for two days before he finally got through. After listening to his heated complaint, Lu said: “What a coincidence! I’ve been waiting for your phone call for two days too! Finally, I get to talk to you!” A short pause later, the caller burst out laughing. Lu’s humorous and witty response had pacified the caller and dissipated the tension.

“Some people complained about not having yet received their quarantine care package [courtesy of the government], and since they didn’t have enough food at home, they panicked. Some were worried about their work.” Lu listened patiently to every caller and noted their needs. He also reminded them to drink plenty of warm water and take good care of themselves physically and mentally so that they could recover quickly and return to work or school as soon as possible.

In response to the various challenges posed by the pandemic, Tzu Chi has been doing its best to help. Volunteers are happy to contribute their time and energy to help society through this challenging time. The light at the end of the tunnel looks brighter when all sectors in society work together.

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