Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is an international non-profit, non-governmental humanitarian organization with four major missions: charity, medicine, education, and humanistic culture. The foundation also engages in international disaster relief, bone marrow donation, community volunteerism, and environmental protection. “Tzu Chi” means “compassion and relief.”
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was established in 1966 by Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen with 30 donors. Currently, the foundation has nearly 10 million volunteers and donors in 50 countries, and has provided relief in 70 countries. In 1984, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in the U.S. registered as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in California. In 1989, the first office in the U.S. was established in Alhambra, California. There are now more than 80 offices and facilities in the U.S. with over 100,000 volunteers and donors working to make a difference in their local communities.
Tzu Chi U.S.A. has more than 20 community programs. Volunteers are active in programs such as family services, services to the homeless, visits to senior homes, medical and dental services, recycling, and reading to children. Tzu Chi U.S.A. also works with neighborhood schools and organizations such as the Foothill Unity Center and the Center for the Pacific Asian Family in Los Angeles, the Habitat for Humanity in Dallas, and the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Falls Church, Baltimore, and Washington DC.
Tzu Chi’s unique approach to disaster relief includes delivering cash aid and emergency relief supplies directly into the hands of disaster survivors. Wherever there is a disaster, Tzu Chi is ready to provide relief to all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, socio-economic status or religion. The guiding principles of Tzu Chi’s relief work are “gratitude, respect and love.” This is why Tzu Chi volunteers deliver relief supplies and cash aid to disaster survivors with both hands, a smile and a bow or hug.
Tzu Chi U.S.A. was the first organization to provide immediate cash aid to affected families within days after the attacks on September 11, 2001, in New York City. Families received up to a thousand dollars each. In all, Tzu Chi gave two million dollars to 3,164 families.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina struck several states, Tzu Chi U.S.A. mobilized over 1,000 volunteers to distribute emergency cash worth 4.12 million dollars to 22,487 households, or over 58,553 people. A fundraising campaign was held in more than 30 countries to raise funds to assist the disaster survivors.
On June 18, 2008, representatives from the American Red Cross and the Tzu Chi Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding at the Tzu Chi Humanities Center in Taipei. The two organizations will combine their respective strengths and cooperate in disaster relief operations, emergency preparedness and response, cross training, and other cooperation actions in the United States.
In January 2010, Haiti suffered from a devastating earthquake. From January to the end of May, teams of Tzu Chi volunteers and medical personnel from the U.S. traveled to Haiti continuously and worked with Tzu Chi Haitian volunteers to provide immediate relief. Tarps, food and other supplies were delivered to 47,202 households, or nearly 199,176 people. Tzu Chi medical personnel provided medical and dental services to over 15,200 patients, and through Tzu Chi’s Food for Work program, 3,770 Haitians worked together to clean their neighborhood.
Tzu Chi is now a member of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) and InterAction. In 2010, Tzu Chi was granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).