To Help and To Heal:

Tzu Chi’s Global #GIVINGTUESDAY Journey

To Help and to Heal: Tzu Chi’s Global GivingTuesday Journey

Written by Adriana DiBenedetto 

Tzu Chi USA’s 2021 charity concert celebrates the power of compassion in action through art and music. Photo/Tzu Chi Media Production Center

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Pure and sincere love is the force behind world harmony and humanity’s hope.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

Across the globe, on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. each year, something remarkable occurs. On this day, people, diverse community foundations and nonprofits, schools, religious institutions, and beyond, join in solidarity to reimagine a world built upon shared humanity and generosity — to meet needs and provide healing.

Founded in 2012, GivingTuesday was given shape by a simple yet powerful question: “What if there was a day to give back following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two major days of consumption?”

When approaching the time of year where holidays abound, many contemplate their year-end gift-giving routines. Thanks to GivingTuesday, your gift can aid someone’s recovery after disasters strike, help someone receive essential medical, vision, or dental care, uplift students through compassionate educational programs, and strengthen communities. 

Your #LoveSaves

At its core, GivingTuesday presents an opportunity for people to jointly use their individual powers of generosity to connect to and support the causes that mean the most to them, and make a truly massive impact together. What’s more, all forms of kindness are encouraged on this day, from giving to charities to lending one’s time or talents to a loving cause. And, because generous individuals and groups may sponsor NGOs for GivingTuesday, donations made to participating charities are often matched up to a specified amount, so you can double the love you give. Perhaps especially so in times of stress and uncertainty, GivingTuesday represents a profound sense of hope.

In fact, Tzu Chi has participated in GivingTuesday since 2016. At the time, the Foundation’s #LoveSaves campaign had just launched, celebrating the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s 50th anniversary, while upholding the Tzu Chi spirit of service with faith, perseverance, and courage.

Indeed, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation grew to what it is today from the conviction that love saves. And inspired by Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, we know that there’s no end to the good we can do together with compassion as our guide.

Yet, the story behind Tzu Chi’s founding emerged from a heartbreaking tragedy.

Many years ago, a woman suffering from labor complications had been carried to a hospital for miles, only to be turned away when she lacked the funds to cover the hospital’s security deposit. Upon learning this woman’s story, Dharma Master Cheng Yen was moved to act. Over the course of one year, she and her dharma family saved US 2¢ daily from their grocery fund to raise the amount needed for someone, like that woman, to receive the treatment they need and deserve. Since then, Tzu Chi went on to raise enough money to build a hospital in Hualien, Taiwan, and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s footprint of charity and humanitarianism now spans the globe.

Tzu Chi’s path reveals how profoundly each loving thought counts, and that truly, love can change lives. To that end, GivingTuesday seemed a perfect pair for Tzu Chi’s global relief efforts.

Each year during the giving movement, Tzu Chi takes time to showcase poignant stories that uplift the global community, while celebrating the good work of other nonprofit organizations around the world, and raising funds that will help Tzu Chi continue to fulfill its compassionate missions.

Although they came home to mud and soot, the spirit of Louisiana flood survivors was unbroken. Tzu Chi USA’s Louisiana flood relief mission provides $836,200 in aid to 1,673 families, benefiting 5,553 people. After Tzu Chi’s disaster relief distributions, a sentiment expressed by many aid recipients was that, although they had lost much materially, they felt the meaning of love. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

In 2016, Tzu Chi’s aid spanned the USA, providing relief after the devastating Louisiana flood, and several tragic wildfires in California. Volunteers delivered their care and comfort after Hurricane Matthew, and carried out hot meal services in Haiti

Tzu Chi’s 2016 #GivingTuesday campaign encourages people to create their own bamboo banks. Photo/Tzu Chi Media Production Center

After a deadly earthquake in Ecuador, Tzu Chi’s relief reached five of the hardest-hit cities and created over 34,121 temporary jobs through a Cash-For-Relief program. Volunteers provided flood relief in France, built an eco-friendly DA.AI village in Honduras, and Tzu Chi launched its Ethical Eating Day movement, promoting the collective wellness of communities and the planet.

In Ecuador, following a massive earthquake, Tzu Chi’s Cash-for-Relief program launched as part of the aid effort. By the time the program reached Pedernales, 1,200 people were waiting to join. From single moms to entire families, everyone was proud to work in joyful solidarity, inspired by the change they could see in their town. When the program ended in Manta, residents and Tzu Chi volunteers shared tears of gratitude and love. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

#GivingReliefDay

At the end of October 2017, Tzu Chi launched its #GivingReliefDay campaign for GivingTuesday, looking back on the year’s humanitarian efforts while exploring the ways “Tzu Chi Relief” is unique. Because each step in Tzu Chi’s disaster relief process is deeply entwined with love, care, and respect, volunteers reach far into the communities they assist to help ensure no one is forgotten. Tzu Chi’s direct cash card aid likewise gives survivors the freedom to decide for themselves what they most urgently need. 

And, Tzu Chi offers more than just financial assistance. Sometimes what’s needed just as crucially after a disaster is for someone to be there, listening with an open heart… 

In 2017, Tzu Chi held a free clinic in Cambodia. Meanwhile, floods emerged in Zimbabwe and Ecuador, and volunteers launched swift relief. Also in 2017, communities joined hands at a groundbreaking ceremony in Canoa, Ecuador, for the rebuilding of a Catholic church that had been destroyed in an earthquake the previous year.

Tzu Chi mobilized aid after heavy rains caused terrible disasters across Taiwan, held a free eye clinic in the Philippines, and carried out wildfire relief in Canada. Flood relief was held in Myanmar, and water tanks with filters were provided to drought-impacted areas in Vietnam

Volunteers mobilized flood relief in China, extended their love after Hurricane Irma, and again after voracious wildfires erupted in California. Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Venezuela, also received Tzu Chi’s aid. 

On the morning of September 20, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, and Tzu Chi soon mounted relief, holding a five-day distribution event. 

In Sierra Leone, days of torrential rain brought about floods and catastrophic mudslides, and Tzu Chi volunteers prepared thousands of hot meals across multiple locations. In Indonesia, Tzu Chi built a bridge for children who had to wade through a river to get to school, and provided relief after a massive earthquake rocked Mexico

Following volunteers’ Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas, the mayors of two towns expressed their appreciation with proclamations: September 2017 was named “Tzu Chi Month” in Dickinson, and October 6, 2017, became “Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Day” in Port Arthur.

Tzu Chi’s #GivingReliefDay campaign gives thanks to the benevolent efforts of others and shares how Tzu Chi’s care is unique. Donations made to Tzu Chi on this day were matched up to $250,000 with the love of generous sponsors. Photo/Tzu Chi Media Production Center

#HopeHeals

In 2018, after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake shook Taiwan, collapsing buildings, and perilously trapping survivors, Tzu Chi hastened to deliver hot meals, drinks, and set up beds, with Master Cheng Yen visiting the site in person. 

In April, Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii tragically erupted, and Tzu Chi volunteers delivered their care without delay. After the Fuego volcano erupted in Guatemala, Tzu Chi reached out to help. Hot meals, medical attention, and cash cards were delivered amidst widespread flooding in southern Taiwan, and free clinics were held in Mexico to further care for survivors of the earthquakes in 2017. 

Volunteers provided hot meals, medical attention, and relief funds after Indonesia experienced two powerful earthquakes in one day, followed by a tsunami that swept away homes. Going further, Tzu Chi and the military signed a memorandum to build houses for earthquake survivors in Palu, Indonesia.

After providing its initial relief following the earthquake that struck Central Mexico, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) returns to provide support for survivors’ most pressing medical needs in September of 2018. Photo/Yue Ma

After a passenger train derailed in Taiwan, Tzu Chi mobilized immediately to visit those injured at the hospital, provided monetary aid, hot meals, and comforted families who had lost loved ones. In October, the houses Tzu Chi helped build for earthquake survivors in the Philippines were completed, and medical volunteers held a three-day clinic in Ormoc City, where Tzu Chi also helped build homes after a typhoon impacted the city in 2013. 

In November, when wildfires raged again across California, devastating entire towns, Tzu Chi volunteers quickly delivered thermal blankets and cash cards. Volunteers across the U.S. took to the streets to fundraise for wildfire survivors, and Tzu Chi initiated its #HopeHeals campaign.

Tzu Chi’s #HopeHeals campaign seeks to deliver effective cash relief to families affected by the Camp Fire by raising donations from 10,000 people, which would directly fund cash cards for 10,000 Camp Fire survivors before Christmas. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

As of 2018, Tzu Chi set up offices in 57 countries, brought aid to 97 countries, built 228 schools in 16 countries, constructed 18,683 houses in 15 countries, and provided free medical services to over 2.9 million people in 50 countries. Fifty cities in eight countries have designated a Tzu Chi Day, Tzu Chi Week, or Tzu Chi Month. 

Thanks to generous sponsors, in 2018, donations made to Tzu Chi USA on GivingTuesday were matched up to $360,000.

Love Has No Borders and Never Waits

A brand new pair of glasses for a child who’s never had the opportunity to receive an eye exam can drastically transform their life for the better. Tzu Chi’s Mobile Vision Care program offers free vision screenings and prescription glasses. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

On the path forward, 2019 was a huge year for compassion and relief, beginning with two new Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinics, so volunteers can do even more to serve the East Coast. And, by the end of 2019, Tzu Chi had nine Mobile Clinics in operation in the United States. These clinics provide mobile vision, medical, dental, and cancer screening services, aiming to ensure no one gets left behind when it comes to health care. 

Two Tzu Chi Vision Mobile units are delivered by five Tzu Chi medical volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters in California, all the way to New York. The inauguration of the mobile units began with the See 2 Succeed program on September 18. See 2 Succeed is a nonprofit partnership that works alongside schools to offer eye exams and glasses for children in underserved communities at no cost. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

As the year continued, Tzu Chi provided support for the parents of children with special needs, empowering strong, caring parent/child interactions, and volunteers visited nursing homes nationwide to bring their love and joy to residents. In total, Tzu Chi’s community care services visited 1,008 institutions, benefiting 33,333 individuals, and food pantry services benefited 109,668 individuals. Winter distributions helped 2,608 individuals. 

Across eight California and Texas public schools, Tzu Chi’s Character Education program helped increase student attendance while supporting compassion, goodwill, and self-esteem, with a total of 33,853 sessions provided. DA.AI Technology’s line of eco-friendly alternatives were also made available in the U.S. as of 2019, sparking greater social responsibility. 

After a tornado struck Dayton, Ohio, Tzu Chi sprang to action, holding a disaster relief event that benefited approximately 500 impacted families. At the same time, long-term recovery programs for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the Camp Fire in California advanced on the long path toward recovery. 

Tzu Chi’s long-term relief internationally also continued in 2019, with free medical care in Ecuador, and the Catholic Church that the Foundation helped rebuild in Canoa, that community’s spiritual home, was completed at last. In Mozambique, Tzu Chi provided relief after Cyclone Idai, facilitating the rebuilding process, which included building schools for local children. 

The Tzu Chi International Medical Association’s (TIMA’s) outreach in the town of Santa Ana, Ecuador, addressed concerns from hypertension to nutrition, with volunteers partnering up with local doctors to provide services to residents. Tzu Chi’s medical outreach also returned to Mexico, providing 10,039 services to 7,816 patients, and reconstruction plans to rebuild a school that was destroyed in the 2017 earthquake were well underway. In support of these missions and more, donations made to Tzu Chi on GivingTuesday in 2019 were matched up to $830,000.

Sponsored by Condor Outdoor Products, Niantic Labs, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Tzu Chi USA’s first-ever charity walk, Steps for the Earth, unites communities across the country in support of a cleaner, safer future. Walks were held in New York City on August 11, and in Los Angeles, California, on August 17, 2019. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

Together We Heal

A shocking year for the entire globe, 2020 marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in January, and by March 13, a national emergency was declared. Amid the crisis and several shortages of essential personal protective equipment (PPE), Tzu Chi volunteers were determined to assist. They delivered eco-blankets, and thousands upon thousands of medical masks, with volunteers even sewing handmade masks themselves to help fill the need. Tzu Chi delivered groceries to seniors, and volunteers revamped the way they give by transforming regular community food distributions into contactless drive-through distributions.

Deeply woven within each stitch of a homemade cloth mask created by a Tzu Chi volunteer is a feeling of boundless love and care. Volunteers in Oakland, California, made bunches of these environmentally friendly cloth masks by hand to be given to community members. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer
In addition to the provision of eco-friendly masks, volunteers also deliver groceries to seniors in the community. Photo/Tzu Chi Volunteer

Tzu Chi medical volunteers additionally held COVID-19 testing events, allowing proper health and safety steps to be taken without delay. By October 4, 2020, volunteers provided 2,180,376 surgical masks, 196,352 N95 masks, 26,621 handcrafted masks, 20,826 bags of groceries, 77,120 pairs of gloves, 42,563 protective goggles, 28,601 face shields, and 14,989 antiviral coveralls across the nation. 

During a year already filled with heartache, natural disasters did not cease to occur. Hurricane Laura raged across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, and Tzu Chi volunteers coordinated distributions of cash cards, eco-friendly blankets, and Jing Si Instant Rice and noodles. When ferocious wildfires sparked in California, Tzu Chi delivered blankets and cash cards with love. 

To help people at home stay connected, Tzu Chi hosted a virtual charity concert on October 17, featuring stories of hope, and music from around the world. Donations made to Tzu Chi for GivingTuesday in 2020 were matched up to $660,000, and in May of 2020, in response to the distress caused by the pandemic, Tzu Chi additionally participated in #GivingTuesdayNow — a powerful day of global unity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GivingTuesday launches #GivingTuesdayNow as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Together, with all of your love, Tzu Chi was able to send crucial PPE to healthcare and other essential workers during the pandemic. Donations to Tzu Chi USA were matched up to $700K on May 5, 2020. Photo/Tzu Chi Media Production Center

On The Journey Forward

In 2021, we saw compassion in action reach new heights. On November 30, thanks to the support of generous donors, your GivingTuesday contributions were matched, dollar-for-dollar, up to $2.5 million, doubling the love you gave toward life-changing initiatives like COVID-19 recovery, wildfire relief, Hurricane Ida aid, and Haiti earthquake recovery. 

Tzu Chi began by joining the COVID-19 vaccination effort, and through collaboration with communities across the country, provided 15,000 free COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

Tzu Chi’s charity programs provided food, free vision care, and supplies for students. Volunteers held health and education fundraisers, and upheld wisdom to inspire, guide, and uplift. 

Tzu Chi volunteers responded when a three-alarm fire devastated an apartment building in California’s Inland Empire metropolitan area, displacing dozens of families in a single night. Volunteers helped families recover after a gas explosion in Quezon City, Philippines, and after destructive fires in Oregon and Arizona, providing not only monetary aid but spiritual support. Tzu Chi brought assistance to Chicago after a tornado with winds of over 130 mph passed through multiple suburbs in June, and gave out emergency cash cards loaded with funds to aid one’s recovery.

Wildfires raged across the Northwest, leaving families displaced and in shock, and in addition to monetary and emotional relief, Tzu Chi helped multiple families obtain housing. In 2021, our wildfire emergency aid delivered $206,700, benefiting 1,136 survivors. A Tzu Chi free clinic in Thailand was opened, and volunteers brought relief after a cyclone in Mozambique. Following this initial relief in Mozambique, volunteers provided seeds and farming tools to help locals set their lives back on track. 

In March, Tzu Chi donated medical supplies to hospitals in Malaysia. In April, when an express train tragically derailed in eastern Taiwan, taking the lives of 50 people and injuring over 200, Tzu Chi’s monastic practitioners quickly prepared hot meals to be sent to the accident site, and volunteers visited funeral homes to offer their heartfelt care to families. 

Additionally, in April, India experienced a COVID-19 crisis. Acting swiftly, Tzu Chi provided medical devices, fundraised, and in Lumbini, Nepal, volunteers taught locals how to make cloth masks. And, when news of circumstances in India reached Mozambique, Tzu Chi volunteers there composed a song of love, solidarity, and hope, to raise more funds for the people of India.  

When torrential rain lashed China’s Henan Province, submerging entire neighborhoods, stores donated supplies to Tzu Chi so they could be safely distributed to those most in need. In New Zealand, Tzu Chi volunteers donated winter clothing to people who were experiencing homelessness, and in Zimbabwe, Tzu Chi gave out surgical masks and rice to nearly 1,500 families. 

In July, Germany was hard-hit by floods, and beginning in August, Tzu Chi provided hot, healthy meals for an entire month, along with printed quotes from Master Cheng Yen to lift one’s spirits. In August, Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, and U.S. Tzu Chi volunteers sprang to action. Volunteers immediately assembled 16,586 first aid kits for distribution. Along with water purification tablets, volunteers provided rice and more food to 11,100 households in hard-hit areas and served 8,000 hot meals. 

In September, the homes Tzu Chi built in Palu, Indonesia, for quake survivors were finally ready, and to help care for patients amid the continued effects of the pandemic, a Tzu Chi hospital was opened in Indonesia as well. In the Philippines, to help the government reach its vaccination target, Tzu Chi medical volunteers pitched in to help with vaccination drives. 

After Hurricane Ida reached the Northeast, causing tornadoes and deadly floods, volunteers mobilized to provide $242,100 in financial relief and other aid, benefiting 1,097 survivors. 

With the year nearing its end, Tzu Chi’s UN team attended COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where delegates heard Tzu Chi’s call for mindful living and plant-based diets amid a changing climate. As of November 24, 2021, Tzu Chi USA’s footprints of humanitarian aid reached 126 countries and regions, with offices in 66 countries and regions globally. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tzu Chi USA has sent pandemic relief to 96 countries and regions globally, with a total of 48,635,196 pieces of medical supplies, benefiting 3,900,272 households, totaling over 16,108,770 people. 

Then, in December, The U.S. faced yet another disaster when tornadoes tragically impacted homes and towns across the Midwest. Tzu Chi raced to bring aid before Christmas, the distributions reaching 445 families in hard-hit Kentucky and Missouri by December 24. 

On the East Coast Edition of Tzu Chi’s GivingTuesday charity concert, people tune in for inspiring performances by STC Performing Arts, Wan Fang, Skip Culton, Bart Shatto, Rosa Martínez, Justin Robertazzi, Pauline Parkhurst, Nicholas J. Reese, Diane W. Carter, & Tzu Chi Sign Language Performers. Photo/Tzu Chi Media Production Center

Tzu Chi’s mission to advance global wellness continued with a free GivingTuesday Charity Concert in 2021, featuring performances to awaken the spirit. This virtual concert included pieces from Skip Culton, ​​Wan Fang, Marcos Loya, ​​STC Performing Arts, ​​​​​​Diane W. Carter, Bart Shatto, ​​Rosa Martínez, Justin Robertazzi, Pauline Parkhurst, Nicholas J. Reese, and Tzu Chi Sign Language Performers. During the family-friendly broadcast, viewers took the opportunity to make a donation to Tzu Chi USA and see their generosity grow thanks to a donation matching program. For one day only, contributions made up to $2.5 million were matched thanks to our GivingTuesday sponsors.

With each step we take, we are paving a path of love inch by inch. As we pave the path by giving with love, let us take every step firmly and mindfully and stride forward diligently every day.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen

Dharma Master Cheng Yen once said, “None of us can single-handedly hold up the sky.” But together, wonders do abound. Day by day, we each can help empower the brighter, more compassionate future we all aspire for. 

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