TIMA USA Southern

Part 1

Written by Shioubih Yang
Edited by Chenglin Li

On November 27, 2003, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region holds a free community clinic event for the first time in Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving festivities

On November 27, 2003, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region holds a free community clinic event for the first time in Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving festivities. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Southern Region


TIMA Houston

“Shioubih!” Tzu Chi volunteer Mei Yang, accompanied by several other Tzu Chi team members, exclaimed, “You study nursing and are more qualified than anyone else in the center without a medical background to participate in this bone marrow donation camp.” And so, with these brief words of encouragement, Shioubih Yang traveled to Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters in San Dimas, California, to participate in the bone marrow donation camp.

On March 3, 2002, Shioubih Yang (back row, first right) interacts with Tzu Chi care recipients during a discussion at the Cancer Support Group
On March 3, 2002, Shioubih Yang (back row, first right) interacts with Tzu Chi care recipients during a discussion at the Cancer Support Group. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Southern Region

Yang was the leader of Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region medical team at the time, and didn’t yet have hands-on experience with bone marrow donation, aside from some information she had found while researching — which she eagerly read on the flight over. The Region’s medical team is composed of both healthcare professionals and non-professional volunteers.

“I learned about bone marrow donation, the selfless contributions, and the gratitude of patients, bit by bit, through tears,” Yang recalled. “Bone marrow donation became a cause I was determined to promote and participate in, without any hesitation.”

After the camp, Yang brought abundant resources on bone marrow donation from Tzu Chi USA National Headquarters to her Tzu Chi Houston family in Texas. Together, they actively planned more bone marrow donation and blood testing events. A strong and lasting commitment to community medical services was key to everyone in Houston from then on. The medical team provided activities such as flu vaccinations, health clinics, hepatitis B screenings, medical lectures, and beyond, to help families without medical insurance and people with low incomes maintain their own good health as well as their family’s, and prevent illness.

On March 3, 2002, Dr. Samuel Chen, the convener of Houston’s TIMA, serves as a speaker at the Cancer Support Group health seminar. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Southern Region

As volunteers for the Tzu Chi USA Southern Region Office in Houston, they took on the responsibilities of medical volunteers seriously, and invited professional healthcare personnel to provide job training for the medical volunteers. This was to ensure that every volunteer could make good use of their abilities at the clinics, and assist doctors in managing a large number of patients and consultations.

Establishing Patient Support Groups

In the process of reaching out within the community, volunteers met several people who were battling cancer. They learned of their health challenges and their journey while undergoing treatment, and empathized with these most difficult moments of their lives. Whether it was the patients themselves or their families, the path of cancer treatment can be heart-wrenchingly demanding to traverse. If there were people who had been through the same and were willing to come out and help, it would provide more support for a cancer patient’s psychological and mental wellness.

On March 25, 2001, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region established a Cancer Support Group, which continued its work until 2009. Here, people living with cancer gathered monthly to exchange experiences, comfort one another, and help each other while walking their treatment path together, providing a little less uncertainty and a little more warmth. For family members of patients, they could temporarily let go of their need to be strong. When they wanted to cry, they had a shoulder to lean on.

Dr. Mingtong He, who worked at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, introduced the Cancer Support Group to his colleagues. It received support and assistance from many doctors. Different cancer lectures were held every month. With this, patients and their families could access the latest medical information and treatment techniques, saving them from unnecessary detours on the road to remission. In addition, the American Cancer Society also sent specialists to support and guide others, providing applicable information for patients and their families.

TIMA Houston members share information within their Kidney Support Group
On November 10, 2002, TIMA Houston members share information within their Kidney Support Group. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Southern Region 

Under the same philosophy, TIMA in Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region established the Kidney Support Group on November 10, 2002, holding monthly meetings to formally initiate services for kidney patients and their families. This helped kidney patients undergoing dialysis, providing them with a group they could rely on and confide in during the long process. Every month, experts from different fields, including medical care, pharmacy, nutrition, and social welfare, were invited to share professional knowledge and relevant information.

Volunteers participating in the service originally intended to contribute their efforts to benefit patients. Unexpectedly, they gained valuable medical knowledge in the process of the activities. Hope Huang, who did not have a medical background, was involved in medical volunteer work for twenty years. She assisted in various tasks such as administrative work, activities like medical lectures, and the Kidney Support Group, where she helped with video recording and setting up tables and chairs. “I have learned a lot of medical knowledge from experts in various lectures,” Huang said, adding, “This knowledge has been useful when caring for elderly family members at home.”

In the monthly group gatherings, volunteers formed connections with patients and learned more about the needs of the community. Volunteer Annie Wang was in charge of coordinating the Renal Support Group. She still remembers a patient who became blind due to diabetes and received dialysis three times a week: “He worked hard in a restaurant to support his family and had no idea he had diabetes. When he found out, his vision was already impaired, and he eventually went completely blind. The continuous and arduous process of dialysis was even harder.” The patient and his wife, who was also suffering from a long-term illness, had no children to care for and assist them. However, Tzu Chi volunteers understood the hardship intertwined with poverty and illness deeply, and the groups further deepened their motivation to aid others with love and accompany them through those difficult days.

They are an unforgettable part of my memory. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet them, to walk a short distance with them, and I am grateful for their teachings to me.

TIMA USA Southern Intro

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