Translated by Teresa Chang
A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Taitung, Taiwan, on September 18, causing some land to crack, bridges to tilt, and even caused damage to sturdy buildings. Many people were badly shaken.
Our staffers and volunteers quickly mobilized to assess damage in Hualien and Taitung. They visited affected schools to determine if they needed help with reconstruction or repairs. Hundreds of homes were damaged too. Thankfully, most people emerged unscathed. When our volunteers visited affected families, some people said they could fix the damage on their own; others admitted it was beyond them to handle the repairs by themselves. Among such families were people who were sick or disabled, or seniors with no one to depend on. Special note was taken of those people who might need our additional care and help in the future.
The government, the TSMC Charity Foundation, and Tzu Chi joined efforts to provide quake relief. Volunteers from across Taiwan, including those with backgrounds in construction, assembled in Hualien and Taitung. Then they fanned out to different areas in the counties to estimate the required manpower and building materials needed to make the repairs, which were launched immediately afterwards.
Our volunteers knew they had to help, so they overcame whatever difficulties that were in their way to go to the disaster area to serve. Some took time off their regular jobs to volunteer. There were also business owners who closed their stores for a few days so that they could volunteer. The love behind such selfless giving is truly beautiful.
Not only did our volunteers step forward to help, but they also applied a lot of care to their work. There was, for example, a household whose wall tiles were damaged during the quake. Because the tiles were old, it was difficult to find the same kind to match the undamaged ones. However, the volunteers in charge managed to find replacement tiles that were very similar in color and design to the original ones. It was important to them that the finished walls looked good and wouldn’t, due to the discrepancy between the old and new tiles, remind the family of the frightful earthquake. I am truly grateful to them for their care and thoughtfulness.
I am also grateful to our hospitals in Taiwan for raising money for our quake relief work, and to our volunteers on the island who did the same. Overseas volunteers prayed for and gave their best wishes to Taiwan when they learned of the quake, and many children donated their pocket money to help. People outside of Taiwan know that we frequently give to the less fortunate around the world, so when Taiwan was hit by the quake this time, they did what they could to give back. This just goes to show that when we give, we sow blessings for ourselves too.
Many other natural disasters have recently been reported in other parts of the world as well. They included Hurricane Ian in the United States, flooding in Thailand, and an earthquake in Mexico. When volunteers in those countries told me after the disasters that they were ready to set to work surveying the damage and providing relief, I told them—like I always tell our volunteers every time a disaster strikes—that they had to be sure it was safe for them to visit a disaster area before they made their trips. While I’m happy our volunteers have nurtured such compassion in their hearts that they are always quick to jump into action to help in the aftermath of a disaster, I’m also worried about their safety. It’s impossible not to worry when I think of them wading through water or riding on boats to visit flooded zones, or traveling along roads that have been damaged in a quake.
Man-made disasters have also caused much suffering in the world. I’m confident that if Tzu Chi volunteers are present, people who suffer will quickly receive help. But what about those areas where there are no Tzu Chi volunteers? It’s a helpless feeling to see people in need of help with no one to bring relief to them. When that happens, I ask if our volunteers in nearby countries can reach out to help. Our world needs as many people as possible willing to give with Great Love, an unselfish love that embraces all humanity. It is my most sincere hope that we can inspire ever more people to put their love into action.
It’s a blessing to give, and wisdom to give unconditionally. Every act of kindness we perform increases the value of our lives. Let us strive to let the places where we live be full of real-life bodhisattvas. If we can do that, then every family can enjoy happiness, and our society can prosper in peace and harmony.
After the 9/18 earthquake in Taiwan, Tzu Chi volunteers and staffers extended care and presented gift bags or emergency cash to families affected by the tremor. Chen Yi-qian