Volunteers pack goods at the Tzu Chi Thailand office in Bangkok to be distributed to taxi drivers. The pandemic had hit this group of people especially hard. Pinticha Jansuksri
International tourism is a major economic contributor in Thailand, but this once-flourishing sector was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Taxi drivers were among those most impacted. Though the country had reopened to international tourists and things were improving, some taxi drivers still needed help to get by. To help them, aid distributions were held at the Tzu Chi Thailand office in Bangkok on June 14, 16, 21, and 24. This wasn’t the first time Tzu Chi Thailand had distributed aid to taxi drivers during the pandemic.
The events were a joint effort between Tzu Chi and the Council of Public Motorist Thai Association. Suwan On-Sang is from the association. He said that as soon as he learned about the distributions, he decided to set aside time to volunteer every day at the events. When he saw how Tzu Chi volunteers at the venue were doing their best to help taxi drivers, he was motivated even more to contribute what he could.
Jakkraphan Thipdee has been a taxi driver for more than ten years. He said he had a really tough time making ends meet during the pandemic. Though the number of tourists had been increasing, the number of taxies on the road had increased too. Thipdee wasn’t out of the woods yet, financially speaking, more so because he had to support his parents and children, who lived in the countryside. He said the necessities provided by Tzu Chi would greatly help to reduce his and his wife’s living costs.
During the four days, 37 taxi drivers brought the coin banks they had received from the foundation to the venue to donate the money inside. Taxi driver Somboon Tamniam said that he had seen how Tzu Chi was putting the donations they received to good use, so he wanted to do his bit to help too. He said that his passengers often asked him about the foundation when they saw the Tzu Chi coin bank in his car. When that happened, he was always happy to share with them what he knew about Tzu Chi. Afterwards, many passengers would drop money into the bank.
Tzu Chi Thailand’s distribution for taxi drivers in June was held in a drive-through fashion. Datchanee Suratep
A total of 1,319 taxi drivers received rice, other food, and daily essentials from Tzu Chi during the four days.
On June 29, a small group of volunteers visited a taxi driver named Sittichai Kanpai. He had been diagnosed with kidney disease nine months earlier, which was followed by a month of hospitalization. After he was discharged, he had to recuperate at home and learn how to do dialysis himself. He now undergoes four dialysis sessions at home every day, each session lasting for about an hour, which has greatly taken away from the time he can drive a taxi. After learning about his situation, Tzu Chi decided to provide him with emergency financial aid. Aside from the financial aid, volunteers also brought him multigrain powder on this day.
Everyone can experience difficult times in life. When that happens, a helping hand can go a long way towards making things easier. Tzu Chi volunteers act on that belief, hoping to bring relief to whoever needs it.
Dr. Tri Agus Haryono performs cataract surgery at a Tzu Chi free clinic held on July 29 and 30, 2022, in Medan, North Sumatra. Gunawan Halim
Tzu Chi Medan held a free medical clinic on July 29 and 30, 2022, in cooperation with the Indonesian Air Force and the Sinar Mas Group. The event served people living in Medan, the capital of the province of North Sumatra, and nearby areas. It was the 132nd large-scale free clinic held by Tzu Chi in Indonesia. Besides cataract surgery, other ophthalmological services and treatment in general medicine and dentistry were also offered.
People who signed up for the cataract surgery needed to undergo evaluation first. The evaluation was held on July 23 at Soewondo Air Force Base. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all patients and accompanying family members coming to the evaluation were required to take a rapid COVID antigen test. The same went for the medical team and support volunteers. Such COVID tests were also compulsory for everyone participating in the free clinic itself.
Seventy-five people received surgery for cataracts over the two days of the free clinic. Three people were operated on for pterygium, a benign fleshy overgrowth on the surface of the eye.
Colonel Pnb. Reka Budiarsa, of Soewondo Air Force Base, came to both the screening event and the free clinic. “This activity is a great help to impoverished people,” said the colonel.
Rohli Br. Tohang, 68, was one of the persons who benefited from the free medical services. Her legs are atrophied, making her unable to walk. She said her condition is a result of not receiving proper treatment after falling from a tree when she was two years old. She lives in a nursing home now—having been a resident there for 40 years. “The nursing home provides me with free food and board and even allowances,” she said. “We even have a doctor visiting us every Saturday to check on our health.” Despite such good care, the facility was unable to help her receive surgery when she developed cataracts. Her blurred vision made it even harder for her to get around.
She was very happy with the result of the surgery at the free clinic. “The free cataract operation provided by Tzu Chi means so much to me,” she said. “I give you my most heartfelt thanks. I can see a lot better now. Thank heaven. I hope the others had their eye problems solved too.”
Dr. Tri Agus Haryono was the physician who operated on the 68-year-old woman. He started participating in Tzu Chi free clinics in 2007. “The impression Tzu Chi free clinics give me is that they are organized by very good teams,” he commented. “Everything is very efficient. The medical professionals and support volunteers work great together, so things go smoothly every time.” The physician observed that there are many cataract patients in Indonesia, and Tzu Chi’s free medical services can help bring light to them. He hoped the foundation would continue holding such meaningful events.
A volunteer hugs an aid recipient at a distribution held in Seattle, the United States, for fire victims on July 2, 2022. Zheng Xin-qian
The United States
On June 12, 2022, a massive fire broke out at the Madison Apartments, a subsidized apartment building in the city center of Seattle, Washington. According to fire officials, the accident was “caused by an open flame that tipped over onto a mattress and ignited it.” The fire burned nearly 40 apartment units beyond recognition and affected dozens of others. The American Red Cross contacted Tzu Chi Seattle in the aftermath, asking if they could help, as most residents were of low-income status. After assessing the situation, volunteers held two distributions in early July at the Garfield Community Center, providing cash cards, blankets, and jackets.
Shane Goodsky was one of the fire victims who came to the distribution held on July 2. He said that the fire alarm did not go off on that fateful night. He didn’t even realize a fire had erupted until he heard the cries of his neighbors. Fortunately, firefighters soon arrived and helped them out of the burning building. In his hurry to escape, he only had time to take his identification papers and things his mother had left him. Despite having lost almost everything, he didn’t complain. Instead, he couldn’t stop thanking the Red Cross and Tzu Chi for their assistance. He had already found a new place to live with the help of the Red Cross, and was moving into it the following week. He observed that Tzu Chi’s financial aid was a big help to him, a blessing.
Twenty-one Tzu Chi volunteers helped staff the distribution. Volunteer Michael Ng said that in spite of the hard luck that had befallen the fire victims, they were not knocked down or despondent. Instead, they all seemed to take what had come their way with a positive attitude. He really admired their spirit and courage.
Six volunteers returned to the community center on July 10 to hold another distribution for five households. Gary was a fire survivor that had received Tzu Chi’s aid on July 2. He returned to the venue on July 10 to express his gratitude to the volunteers. He cheerfully pointed to the clothes and shoes he was wearing and said he had bought them with the cash card from Tzu Chi. He also said that the coin bank he had received at the distribution on July 2 was already half full. He expected to fill it soon. “I’ll be so happy when I can return it and get another one,” he said.
The distributions on the two days helped about 40 households. The cash cards given out were worth a total of US$23,100.