The recipients were deeply moved and delighted to receive red packets of blessings. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

As of the end of 2023, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had continued for nearly two years, causing severe global inflation. In Europe, inflation continues to rise, leading to soaring food prices. These difficult circumstances have particularly affected Ukrainian refugees and low-income families in Poland. With the onset of the cold winter, Tzu Chi volunteers planned to expand their winter assistance. This not only covered Ukrainian refugees but also extended to struggling Polish families. This initiative, supported by Master Cheng Yen, aims to address the challenges faced by those struggling with the rising cost of living due to the prolonged war and economic difficulties in the region. Volunteers were actively coordinating and planning the distribution program.

Aid for Ukrainian Refugees

During the distributions on December 19 and 20, each person received three gift cards from a Polish chain supermarket. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

In collaboration with the Opole City Government, Tzu Chi volunteers geared up for the 2023 winter aid distribution and focused on both Ukrainian refugees and impoverished families in Poland. Building on the success of previous large-scale distributions, the Opole Social Bureau verified and confirmed eligibility for assistance, identifying 207 refugees and 686 low-income residents. Each person received 3 gift cards worth a total of 600 zlotys (approx. US$150). The distribution was conducted in two sessions.

The first distribution took place on December 19, 2023, at the 15th Primary School Gymnasium in Opole, benefiting 207 refugees. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Opole, Poland | 2023/12/19

The first distribution took place on December 19, 2023, at the 15th Primary School Gymnasium in Opole, with a focus on refugees residing in the Socrates dormitory. Tzu Chi volunteers, driven by the compassionate teachings of Master Cheng Yen, dedicated themselves to bringing warmth to these individuals during the harsh winter and encourage them to maintain hope for the future. The participating volunteers included five local Tzu Chi volunteers from Opole, led by Hui Ju Chen-Atlas, alongside her entrepreneur husband Radoslaw Atlas. Additionally, seven Tzu Chi volunteers from Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, including Shu-wei Chen (陳樹微), Wan-chen Tsai (蔡婉珍), Shu-nu Chen (陳淑女), Liu Yueh Ying (游月英), Judy Cheng (鄭慈璐), Wei Tao You (尤緯韜), and Wan Xuan Jiang (江宛璇), joined forces to create a warm and welcoming distribution.

The Ukrainian beneficiaries expressed their joy by forming heart with their hands, conveying their gratitude to Master Cheng Yen. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Opole, Poland | 2023/12/19

Volunteers from Germany and Austria who had previously taken part in a distribution in Lublin also came to help with the distribution in Opole. They worked together to look after the elderly and children, creating heartwarming interactions. The refugees were grateful for the help, responding enthusiastically to the volunteers' invitations and sharing smiles as they showed photos of last year's distribution. The volunteers are confident that the seeds of kindness sown by Tzu Chi will continue to sprout and spread goodwill in the hearts of those they serve.

The volunteers noticed a marked difference in the children, whose faces were now radiant with genuine smiles compared to the early days of the conflict last year. Both adults and children alike expressed their gratitude to Master Cheng Yen. Volunteers sincerely pray that the radiant smiles of these children will last forever.

Opole Winter Aid Distribution - Sharing Warmth

The distribution took place on December 20 at the Stegu Arena Opole, helping 686 impoverished families in the local area. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/120

On December 20, at the Stegu Arena Opole, Tzu Chi hosted a distribution for nearly 700 beneficiaries, organized into five teams consisting of two social workers and at least one Tzu Chi volunteer. Supervised by Mr. Radoslaw Atlas, the teams ensured the accurate distribution of Tzu Chi funds by approving the recipient lists. The ceremony began with recitation of the "Verse for Opening a Sutra" and playing of the video "From Vow to Action." Tzu Chi volunteers brought special red packets of blessings to express gratitude to those who support Tzu Chi. The volunteers respectfully presented the red packets, which deeply touched and delighted the recipients.

Mr. Radoslaw Atlas (on the left) helped with recipient verifications. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

Although this distribution did not include homeless people, Tzu Chi volunteers collaborated with the Social Bureau and the Red Cross to organize a fundraising activity to provide hot meals for the homeless. They encouraged refugees and low-income families to embrace the spirit of the "Bamboo Bank Era", pooling together small acts of love to help others in need.

Tzu Chi volunteer Shu-nu Chen (left) from the Netherlands invited the old and young to gather their love to help provide hot meals for the homeless. The response from the Polish local people was enthusiastic, with some donating an amount almost equivalent to their daily meal expenses, a touching display of generosity. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

While waiting to receive their cards, Mrs. Małgorzata Kozak, the head of the Social Bureau, interacted with attendees, introduced Tzu Chi, and encouraged everyone to show compassion. Volunteers handed over the funds collected in the bamboo bank to the local Red Cross to help provide warm meals for the homeless. Staff from the Red Cross expressed gratitude for Tzu Chi's kindness and pledged to continue providing food for the homeless.

The volunteers handed over the funds raised over the two days to Mr. Dawid Drożdż (second from the right), the chairman of the Opole branch of the Red Cross. In the center is Ms. Małgorzata Kozak, the Head of the Social Bureau. | Photo provided by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

During the distribution, a resident named Ms. Magdalena expressed deep gratitude: “Thank you so much for the Christmas gift from Tzu Chi. To me, this is a tremendous present. You cannot even fathom how important this is to me. Thank you for organizing such a distribution, and thanks to the donors of Tzu Chi. I cried, but my tears were tears of emotion. I genuinely and wholeheartedly thank all of you." The volunteers were profoundly moved, witnessing the positive impact of the funds on the community.

Mayor Expresses Gratitude as Tzu Chi Shares Warmth

The volunteers presented tokens of appreciation to the employees of the Opole City Hall Social Bureau, expressing gratitude for their collaborative efforts in successfully conducting the winter distribution. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

As the distribution came to an end, Tzu Chi volunteers presented gift cards, love-themed ornaments, and eco-friendly pens made from PET bottles to the Polish residents, accompanied by sincere blessings. After the event, volunteers and social workers from the local government joyfully posed for a photo, bearing witness to love transcending borders.

Mayor Arkadiusz Wiśniewski of Opole donned a volunteer vest, joined the distribution efforts, and expressed his gratitude to Tzu Chi. | Photo by Shu-wei Chen | Stegu Arena Opole, Poland | 2023/12/20

The Mayor of Opole, Arkadiusz Wiśniewski expressed his gratitude to Tzu Chi and conveyed the deep appreciation of the local Polish community to Tzu Chi’s founder, Master Cheng Yen. In November 2023, curious about Tzu Chi’s journey to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees, the mayor visited Taiwan; Tzu Chi’s principles left a deep impression on him. During the event, the mayor actively joined the volunteer team, and even donned Tzu Chi’s volunteer vest. He praised the volunteer actions of Tzu Chi members, highlighting the uniqueness of Tzu Chi among other NGOs, as its members willingly contribute and share love, earning his deep admiration.

Mayor Wiśniewski thanked Tzu Chi for assisting impoverished families, enabling them to warmly navigate through winter. He expressed gratitude to the Tzu Chi Foundation for realizing this beautiful aspiration. He also shared his appreciation on Facebook and thanked Tzu Chi for the assistance and posting pictures from the distribution. Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide feel the mayor's gratitude and are committed to working together to bring blessings to the citizens of Opole.