Volunteers took out bamboo banks to inspire love and compassion, and people opened their wallets to respond. This should be the most enthusiastic donation event in the history of Santa Rosa de Lima City. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/23)

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused persistently high inflation worldwide, exacerbating the hardships faced by the poor. Now that the pandemic is receding, Tzu Chi volunteers around the world are seizing the opportunity to help those in need and enable them to overcome their difficulties.

At the request of the local government, Tzu Chi volunteers in Central America traveled to two locations in Guatemala to initiate large-scale relief efforts. On April 23rd and April 26th, they visited Polideportivo Santa Rosa de Lima, Santa Rose, and the El Píno de San José Pinula in Guatemala Province, respectively. They provided essential living supplies to 483 households and 62 households in each location.

Work Together

On March 15th, María Aceituno Velozo, Director of the Municipal Women's Department in Santa Rosa de Lima City, and Tzu Chi volunteers conducted an on-site survey of three impoverished areas to determine the distribution locations. In early April, the volunteers thoroughly discussed the matter during their monthly meeting. After deciding on the distribution dates, they immediately began procuring supplies and filling out distribution forms.

The quantity of items to be distributed to each household was large. They included 20 pounds (approximately 9 kilograms) of locally produced rice, 5 pounds (approximately 2 kilograms) of sugar, a barrel of oil, six packs of spaghetti, three bars of soap, two packs of cornmeal, and a pack of biscuits. Delivering them was a major operation. The city government arranged for 60 volunteers to assist with the transportation and arrangement of the supplies on the day of distribution.

The Guatemalan national anthem was performed at the distribution site. The patriotism of those present was evident as they sang the national anthem loudly with local volunteers. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/23) 

When the recipient families arrived, they were organized into teams according to their assigned numbers. Volunteers then cross-checked the distribution forms and identification cards. Showing care for the elderly with mobility issues, volunteers assisted them in finding seats; the seniors smiled to express their gratitude.

After confirming the procedures, emcees Hua-lin Deng (鄧化林) and Su-xin Zhang (張素欣) officially opened the event. The Guatemalan national anthem was played; despite the advanced age of many attendees, their unwavering patriotism was evident as they joined the local volunteers in loudly singing the anthem. Then the Tzu Chi volunteers, together with the city government team, led the gathering in sincere prayers, hoping for a peaceful society and a world free from disasters to arrive soon.

Token of Gratitude

Mayor Llan Carlos Davila Arevalo and his wife, Brand, presented Tzu Chi with a commemorative gold medal. Representing Tzu Chi Guatemala, Su-xin Zhang delivered a speech: "We are delighted to be here today. Currently, families worldwide are facing difficulties due to natural disasters, pandemics, climate change, earthquakes, and floods. Today, we have brought supplies such as oil, rice, sugar, spaghetti, cornmeal, and biscuits, along with blessings from Master Cheng Yen."

She emphasized that Tzu Chi has provided assistance to 128 countries globally, and Master Cheng Yen is a compassionate teacher who constantly reminds her volunteers to help those in need.

Mayor Llan Carlos Davila Arevalo and his wife, Brand, presented Tzu Chi with a commemorative gold medal. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/23) 

Mayor Llan Carlos Davila Arevalo of Santa Rosa de Lima City said:  "During the pandemic, we went through a very difficult period. These years have been challenging for families all around the world." Fortunately, Tzu Chi volunteers have continuously provided essential supplies to families in need. All of this is a blessing from Tzu Chi's founder, Master Cheng Yen.

"I am very pleased and grateful to Tzu Chi. Together we have visited impoverished areas solely to donate food to those in need. This brings joy to every resident and family here, and it benefits their households," said María Aceituno Velozo.

Nearly 500 families benefited that day; she was incredibly grateful to Tzu Chi for providing the opportunity to participate. Expressing gratitude through practical action, she personally assisted, holding the hand of a visually impaired elderly person, and participated in the distribution. Volunteers were also assigned to assist the elderly with carrying and transportation.

Thank You, Tzu Chi

The volunteers distributed the supplies to each recipient, ensuring that their needs were met. They provided extra assistance to the elderly, women, and children. Mayor's wife Brand and volunteer Su-xin Zhang accompanied a frail woman to receive her supplies, while volunteers Yao-yao Ling (凌耀灼) and Cesar Guevaro helped a mother holding a baby collect her items. For those who could not attend the distribution in time due to the distance, the volunteers made arrangements for them.

Elmer, the secretary of Santa Rosa de Lima City Hall, made numerous trips back and forth to assist in collecting heavy supplies. He expressed gratitude to Tzu Chi and the municipal government for jointly carrying out relief for those in need. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/23) 

City Secretary Elmer Pineda Rafael tirelessly assisted in lifting the approximately 30-pound bags of supplies, showing admirable dedication. He expressed his happiness in being able to provide assistance alongside Tzu Chi. "This is one of the neediest communities, and I appreciate the efforts of the mayor in ensuring the well-being of families. The food provided today will give people the essentials they need to survive. Thank you, Tzu Chi, for joining us in this aid activity for those in need."

One household consisted of eight family members; a father and a son who came to collect the supplies and praised Tzu Chi's good deeds. Castulo Velis Rivela, an 81-year-old single elder, experienced eye problems for the past ten years and is now completely blind. He relies on his sister for care; with these supplies, his immediate living situation has improved.

Cycle of Kindness

The distribution of supplies in the community of Matapalo in San Jose Pinula is a testament to the overflowing love and the continuous ripple effect of kindness. In January and March, Tzu Chi volunteers received two requests for assistance from the local government. Hearing the plea for help from the residents of Matapalo, Tzu Chi decided to resume the principle of "hand-to-hand giving." On April 26, they organized a distribution event for 62 households at a local school in Matapalo.

Mayor Miguel of San José Pinula participated in the entire event, assisted people in submitting their requisition forms, and took the lead in donating to the bamboo banks for fundraising. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/26) 

"We are grateful for the continuous support from the Tzu Chi Foundation. We have been collaborating with them for the past eleven years. Thank God and thank Tzu Chi for their presence. They are not only here but also working nationwide. We are friends now, and every time we request assistance, they always step forward without hesitation," said Mayor Miguel Angel Solares Montenegro. In appreciation of Tzu Chi's good deeds, he presented them with a commemorative trophy.

Mayor Montenegro actively participated in the event and assisted residents in submitting their distribution forms. The atmosphere during the distribution was warm and harmonious. The volunteers carefully placed the supplies into the eco-friendly bags prepared by the villagers. The abundant supplies included rice, noodles, cooking oil, sugar, condiments, soap, and biscuits and provided nourishment and warmth, allowing the attendees to feel the overflowing love.

Milian, an official from the Office of the First Lady at the Presidential Office, stationed at Santa Rosa de Lima City Hall, followed the footsteps of doing good deeds and responded to Tzu Chi's charitable actions. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/26) 

The volunteers collected donations in bamboo banks after each distribution. Through this practice, the volunteers cultivated humility and eradicated arrogance. It also gave the attendees an opportunity to embody the spirit of "I can also help others" and demonstrate their great love. Mayor Carlos and Mayor Miguel were the first to respond, followed by the residents of San Rosa de Lima at the Sports Center, who enthusiastically opened their wallets. It was the most fervent donation activity ever recorded in the local area.

Officials from the Office of the First Lady of the Republic, stationed at the Municipal Office in San Jose Pinula, including Milian, did not lag behind in doing good deeds. Love flows into the hearts of everyone, creating an overflowing cycle of kindness that continues to spread. At this moment, happiness and joy nourish lives, dispelling any clouds of darkness.

New School Uniform Distribution

After completing the distribution in Matapalo, volunteers Su- xin Zhang, Fen-qing Ke (柯芬卿), Ya-qi Chen (陳亞琪), and Oscar López went to Tzu Chi Oriental Elementary School in Palencia. This school is located in the village of Oriental, 22.5 kilometers from the Guatemala Atlantic Highway. The land was purchased by local residents through fundraising organized by a Canadian charity. However, due to insufficient construction funds, the project was suspended for over two years, disrupting the education of nearly ninety students. In May 2009, the municipal government reported the situation to Tzu Chi; after evaluation, it resumed the construction. The school was officially inaugurated in October 2010.

For over a decade, the volunteers have continuously showed care for the students. Apart from distributing stationery and uniforms each year, they interact with the children, playing stories by Master Cheng Yen and teaching them Jing Si Aphorisms. However, for the past two years, due to the pandemic, the children have been learning online from home;  the volunteers have not been able to interact with them at the school. Finally, this year, regular classes have resumed, and the volunteers arranged to distribute Tzu Chi uniforms to the 117 enrolled students. The principal, teachers, and volunteers joyfully greeted each other and worked together to give out the uniforms.

The students of Tzu Chi East Elementary School joyfully took the stage to perform “Listen to Me, Thank You” after putting on their new uniforms. (Photo by Zhang Su-xin; 2023) 

It has been a long time since they last saw each other, and some of the children have grown taller. Some still remember the Tzu Chi volunteers in their blue and white uniforms and happily greeted them, deeply touching their hearts. The children patiently lined up while their parents watched from behind. Volunteer Su-xin Zhang introduced Master Cheng Yen to the children, telling them that these uniforms are a result of the love from Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide and that they should cherish them and keep them clean.

After receiving the uniforms, the children were transformed and appeared more cultured. About ten children went on stage to perform the song "Listen to Me, Thank You," showing their adorable charm. The audience of teachers, students, and volunteers cheered them on enthusiastically. After the event, volunteers distributed marshmallows and biscuits brought by volunteer Fen-qing Ke, which brought smiles to the children's faces.

The Tzu Chi members in Guatemala practice Master Cheng Yen's teaching of "Love what I love" and personally go to places in need to bring solace to suffering beings. The face-to-face distribution, the act of giving with gratitude, respect, and love truly reflects the sincerity of the volunteers. The significance of the donation ceremony goes beyond words. Throughout the process, the volunteers complemented and cooperated with each other, completing the mission of helping others harmoniously. The light of great love shines upon overseas regions.

A Jing Si Aphorism says: “Those who give love to others will be loved by countless others.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us give Love to the needy.

The villagers of El Píno joined their palms together in reverence, expressing their gratitude to Master Cheng Yen for establishing the Tzu Chi Foundation and spreading blessings through acts of kindness worldwide. (Photo by Ci-tian Wu; 2023/04/26)

Story by Xiu-lien Zhou and Ci-tian Wu from Central America