On November 17 and 18, the foundation held its second large-scale distribution in the states of New York and New Jersey. From October 29 to November 18, volunteers in the United States have distributed debit cards to over 10,000 families, provided over 8,000 servings of food and provided concern to more than 15 areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
It has been three weeks since the hurricane made landfall and devastated the northeast of the United States. Thousands of homes in the New York area still lack running water and electricity; residents are struggling to recover. Tzu Chi volunteers from 17 countries and regions are raising money and moving the hearts of people to help the survivors of Sandy get through this difficult period.
On November 17 and 18, the volunteers held the second large-scale distribution in New York and New Jersey. Many traveled from Vancouver and Toronto in Canada and Boston, Chicago and California in the U.S. to participate. One group drove 12 hours by car from Toronto; as soon as they arrived, they started work. The relief items included eco-blankets, scarves, cans of vegetarian food and emergency funds of US$600 in the form of pre-paid debit cards.
On November 18, it was a cold but fair day. During the distribution, many of the hurricane victims could not believe that the emergency fund and goods came from a charity in Taiwan. Many were moved to hear the story of the bamboo bank era, how the foundation began by raising NT$0.50 cents (approximately one cent U.S.) from one person each day in 1966. Some were willing to make a donation to help others in need.
In Staten Island, after received a debit card, one recipient told volunteers: “for someone who had lost everything, the $600 debit card means the whole world.” A pregnant woman who lost everything after the hurricane also told volunteers that she felt that she had seen heaven that day.
A mother of two daughters came to the distribution and told a volunteer that she was there to return the bamboo bank. It was two days ago the lady received relief from the foundation and heard its history and the story of the bamboo bank and how 30 housewives saved a small amount of money each day. She was touched and shared the story with her daughters after she went home.
To her surprise, her seven-year-old daughter emptied the coins she had saved in her piggy bank and put them into the bamboo bank her mother brought home. The family even searched the house to find more coins to put in. Then she saw the information about today's distribution from newspaper and made a special trip to donate their bamboo bank to help others in need. She gave it to Ge Ju-xian, a volunteer from California, who was deeply moved. Volunteers then gave her a new bamboo bank, blessed her and her family and wished them the best. They wish that she can continue to follow the spirit of that early bamboo bank era, in thinking of a good deed and saving a small amount of money to help others.
One recipient asked a volunteer: “Do you have a job?” After learning that all volunteers paid their own traveling and living expenses during the distribution, the recipient immediately offered hospitality: “you can come to stay at my house for free.” It was love and trust between people.
The scene of Tzu Chi volunteers giving relief goods with deep bows of gratitude have touched many government officials. One of them was Mr. Joseph Makhandal Champagne, mayor of the Borough of South Toms River in New Jersey. After understanding the principles of the foundation and seeing the concern of the volunteers for everyone in his city, he participated in the second large-scale distribution. He brought his wife and two daughters and wore the volunteer’s vest while he helped to packed the relief goods. He said he was very proud to wear the vest and that he wished to visit Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan next year to show his gratitude.
The city government strongly supports the foundation’s relief work. On November 18, local time, John Liu, New York City Comptroller, held a press conference to introduce the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and its mission to the public. He said that the foundation’s volunteers responded immediately after Hurricane Sandy struck and provided aid and care to the victims. At the press conference, there were representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches as well as of the Jewish and Hindu communities. They were all touched by Tzu Chi's culture and respect for people; they saw the beauty of human nature in Tzu Chi people.