A volunteer respectfully distributes farming tools to flood survivors in a Tzu Chi distribution held on March 18, 2023, in Manhiça District, Maputo Province, southern Mozambique.
Charles Jose Carlos
Heavy rainfall from February 7 to 15 caused severe devastation in Maputo Province, southern Mozambique. Tzu Chi volunteers quickly arrived at the scene and responded by providing care and hot food to those affected.
Starting on February 24, aid distributions were launched for affected volunteers in 31 communities, providing food and other necessities. By February 28, a total of 3,802 households had received aid. Another round of distributions began on March 7, benefiting 17,430 affected households in 38 communities. The distributed items included food, necessities, seeds, and farming tools. The seeds were for beans, peanuts, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and pumpkins; the farming tools were a hoe and a machete to facilitate flood victims’ return to farming.
Maria Tivane is an 85-year-old woman who has lost most of her hearing. She lives with seven other women in a small house made of wood and zinc sheets. They all struggle to make ends meet by doing odd jobs or working on farms.
Their already difficult situation was compounded when the floods swept away all of their important documents, clothes, and food. Fortunately, Tzu Chi’s aid arrived just in time. Tivane was deeply grateful for the assistance and even kissed Tzu Chi volunteers to express her gratitude. Her intense joy spread to those around her.
Volunteers noticed during a distribution in Boane District that an 82-year-old woman named Elisa Ndima remained in the same spot after receiving her aid. It turned out that she was feeling unwell. Volunteers swiftly took her to a nearby clinic for examination. Ndima had experienced weakness in her left leg and suffered repeated falls for a few days. The doctor could not confirm whether she had a stroke, but the symptoms strongly suggested it. He prescribed medication for her and advised her to rest for a few days and to refrain from farm work to prevent further complications.
After the visit to the clinic, the volunteers accompanied Ndima back home. Ndima relied on farming for her livelihood, but the flood had destroyed everything. “Tzu Chi’s food package is like timely rain,” she said with gratitude. “It can provide me with sustenance for a while without having to farm and allow my body to rest.” She hoped to use the seeds provided by Tzu Chi to plant crops when her health improved and to use the income to repair her leaky house. The volunteers offered her massages to help her relax, and even cooked her dinner using some of the food from Tzu Chi.
As of April 5, Tzu Chi’s aid had reached 21,232 families affected by the floods, comprising a total of 106,200 individuals. Volunteers encouraged the recipients to share their harvest with their neighbors or provide seeds to help them cultivate their land, spreading the seeds of love.
Serbian volunteer Tamara Illic Petrov (right) distributes winter clothes to refugees at a refugee camp in Obrenovac, Serbia.
Tzu Chi volunteers visited refugee camps in Serbia from February 9 to 11 to distribute winter clothes and donate blankets, with the aim of providing warmth to refugees who were en route to other European countries. This was the eighth year Tzu Chi had organized similar distributions in Serbia.
The team consisted of five volunteers from Germany, Italy, England, and Ukraine, as well as 12 local volunteers. The temperature was quite low during their trip, hovering around 0°C (32°F). Despite the sun, there were patches of ice still on the ground. Serbian volunteer Žarko Aksentijević noted that, “[In spite of the cold weather,] some refugees don’t have warm clothes or shoes, and some are even wearing short sleeves. The winter clothes and blankets we are providing will be very helpful in supporting them during this harsh winter period.”
Tzu Chi has worked with Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (CRM) since 2016 to provide assistance to refugees in the country. Serbia is a transit country for many refugees and migrants fleeing conflicts and seeking better economic opportunities in Europe. Jelena Šurlan, from the CRM, said to the team of visiting volunteers, “You are our dear friends. Your support for us has lasted for eight or nine years now. Today you are once again providing them [refugees] with blankets and clothes. Thank you very much for your continuous support.”
Volunteer Aksentijević has participated in Tzu Chi distributions in Serbia for about six years. He first joined as a college student and now, despite having a job, still takes time off to participate in the distributions. “I feel a great sense of satisfaction after each distribution because I know that I’m helping those who truly need our assistance,” he said. “I love doing this work; seeing the happiness on the faces of the refugees when they see us is an incredible feeling.”
Tzu Chi volunteers prepared 4,000 winter garments and 2,200 blankets for this round of distributions. They distributed and donated some of those items at five refugee camps located closer to the capital city of Belgrade. The remaining aid was handed over to the CRM for distribution to two other refugee camps.
Tzu Chi Texas conducts an aid distribution on February 4 for people affected by a tornado that ripped through communities southeast of Houston on January 24.
The United States
A tornado tore through communities southeast of Houston on January 24, inflicting extensive damage on the cities of Deer Park and Pasadena. Subsequently, on January 28 and 29, Tzu Chi Texas volunteers visited the Joint Disaster Assistance Recovery Center hosted by Pasadena and Deer Park to register victims. A Tzu Chi relief distribution was scheduled for February 4.
On the day of the distribution, many survivors gathered at the entrance of the venue, the Pasadena Campus of the non-profit organization BakerRipley, even before the event was set to begin. Tzu Chi volunteers followed their planned procedures, verifying the victims’ information and asking everyone to take a seat. Volunteer Julienne Chi (林華音) shared the story of Tzu Chi’s bamboo coin banks with those present. Forty-three coin banks were taken home that day by aid beneficiaries and other organizations’ volunteers to save money for charity purposes.
A consolation letter from Dharma Master Cheng Yen was read aloud on-site, conveying the message that the victims were not alone and that Tzu Chi volunteers had united the love and strength of many people to assist them. Volunteers led the survivors to sing the Tzu Chi song “One Family” and sign the lyrics to further spread warmth and love.
Rashwanda, a survivor, lived in the Beamer Place Apartments, which suffered severe damage from the tornado. As a result, all residents were forced to evacuate. After spending two days in a hotel, Rashwanda had to leave due to the high cost of accommodation and began living in her car. She expressed her deep gratitude to Tzu Chi for lending a helping hand during her toughest times. She appreciated the message volunteers shared with them about practicing kindness every day and how small amounts of money, when combined, can achieve significant outcomes.
Hawkins, another survivor, still had lingering fears from the terrifying experience of the tornado passing through. Nevertheless, she remained grateful to God for watching over her family, enabling them to safely survive the disaster. “With the support of everyone, I have faith that we can swiftly recover from this natural disaster and rise up once again,” she said with confidence.
Cash cards and blankets were distributed on the day of the event. Forty-two households with 123 people received a combined amount of 24,100 U.S. dollars and 62 blankets made from recycled plastic bottles.