Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Thanks for the Sunshine - Homes posted

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Homes posted
After driving on a stretch of road that appeared to have been repaired just recently, we arrived at Troncos, one of our distribution sites, on the morning of February 27. However, our trucks with all the relief goods were nowhere to be seen. Apparently, they had run into some problem en route, probably getting stuck in the mud on the treacherous roads.

The Troncos tent city was in San Julian, northeast of Santa Cruz. In front of their tent entrances, the residents set up stoves improvised mostly with clumps of dirt. The moisture-laden wood that they burned produced a tremendous amount of white smoke that nearly suffocated everyone in the vicinity. The hygienic conditions were troubling.

Of the 600 or so families living there, many had been there more than a month. They were not hopeful that they were anywhere near the end of their stay. Worse, they were not sure what they could do after they did leave the tent city.

Mrs. Andrea Castro, queuing up with many others for the relief distribution, told us that her family had lived in the tent city since January. "Before the floods, we raised hogs for a living. But the downpours were so intense that we had to be evacuated. The flood water was pushing up against the roof of our house when the helicopter got my family out." Though they did get out just in time, they alone got out. Nothing else did: neither their belongings nor their hogs. All that they had left were the clothes that they were wearing. "The water has not receded after so long. God only knows where our hogs ended up and what we're going to do for a living."
Mrs. Guadalupe Gosman and her family, who farmed for a living, also had been in the tent city since January. They were rescued by a boat. Sadly, as was the case with most other victims, none of their farming implements and belongings made it out. As she told us about her family's plight, she began to sob. We asked her when she expected to go home. She said, "Our house is still under water, and so is our hope for the future."
Another tent resident, a teacher, said that many people had lived there for about a month. Children from three schools crammed into tents for their lessons, but the tents kept collapsing under the strong winds. "I pray every day for outside help to put the children in more secure and permanent quarters where they can focus on their studies," she said, tears in her eyes.

The distributions
Thankfully, our trucks finally arrived with all the goods intact. It was about noon with the sun shining overhead. Some of the waiting people helped volunteers unload. However, out of the blue, heavy rain started falling. We scrambled to cover things up or move them into tents. When we had shielded the relief goods from the falling rain, there was almost not a dry spot on any of us. We were all drenched.

Amazingly, the recipients remained lined up patiently in the rain, probably so as not to lose their places in line. Apparently, this distribution really meant a lot to them. Zou Yu-ru (鄒裕儒), a volunteer from New York, strongly urged them to take shelter from the downpour.

The tents sagged under the drenching rain, and so did our hope for a successful distribution. "That had to be the heaviest downpour that I have ever seen in more than a decade of international relief work with Tzu Chi," commented Zhao Wei-gong (趙惟功) of New York.

After about a half hour, the rain tapered off, much to the delight and relief of all. Then everyone moved quickly to make up for the lost time. Volunteers respectfully handed over the 45-kilogram [99-pound] bags to the recipients. Each bag, containing such necessities as macaroni, wheat flour, sugar, cooking oil, medicine, and rice, could maintain a family for several weeks. Many of the flood victims broke into smiles, something quite rare for many of them these days. A total of 580 bags were given out.

A larger distribution was staged two days later at Guarayo, one of the 15 provinces of Santa Cruz Department, located northeast of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The prefect [similar to a governor] of Santa Cruz Department, Ruben Costas Aguilera, and his wife, Sonia Vincenti, kicked off the distribution. The first couple also presented the Tzu Chi volunteers with certificates of appreciation, certificates of honorary citizenship, and some mementos.

Many eligible recipients for this distribution lived in a flooded area 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Some of them were unable to come in person because they could not afford the cost of travel (30 bolivianos, or four U.S. dollars). Ten recipients who were present on site received the distribution on behalf of those who were absent. They went back with a large chunk of the day's total distribution: enough relief goods for 600 people!
Handling so many bags and so much weight--some volunteers literally weighed less or not much more than a bag of the distributed goods--the volunteers understandably were fatigued and sore after a while. A woman recipient gazed at the volunteers and uttered shyly, "Tzu Chi, I love you." Magically, all the soreness and any thoughts of taking a break dissipated from the volunteers, and they kept on bowing and giving out one bag after another.

In all, 2,200 families received the much needed goods on that day. Thus for both days of the distribution, a total of 2,780 bags were handed out to help more than 10,000 people. Mrs. Aguilera said that as a woman, she felt honored to be able to work with a charitable organization founded by a female. She shared with the tent city residents her thoughts: "I hope that we all learn from these Tzu Chi volunteers. They have come from far away places to help us. Let's plant their seeds of love in our own hearts. Cultivate those seeds so that they can sprout and grow, and let's go out and help others someday."