In Paraguay, a country in South America, winter begins on 1st June. After a spate of continuous showers as winter set in this year, the temperature dropped a fair bit, and it would be easy to fall sick with flu if one was not careful. At this time this year, Tzu Chi volunteers in Paraguay went into the community of Banado Sur to run a free clinic. In addition, they also saw to the other needs of the clinic’s patients, distributing wheelchairs, rugs, etc. to them, to bless them with a warm winter.
Providing Timely Relief for the Sick
In the capital city of Asuncion, Tzu Chi has been providing long-term care and free clinic services to residents in the community of Banado Sur. When Marta, a member of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) in Asuncion, received a request for a free clinic, she immediately rallied other TIMA members to support the medical mission. The medical relief team, which was led by Dr Juancito, set off on 3rd June 2017, to travel to Banado Sur to hold a free clinic for the local needy.
On this day, the sky was overcast with a light drizzle, and many residents braved the rain to come to the local food centre for the elderly, where the free clinic was held, to seek medical services. Among those who came was an elderly woman walking with much difficulty while leaning on her walking stick for support. When volunteers saw her making slow yet careful progress to the clinic, they immediately went up to help her.
“Granny, how far did you walk?” A volunteer, who sensed the elderly lady panting for her breath, asked with much concern.
“I only walked half a street,” she replied.
Although her reply was short and simple, it did take her half an hour to walk to the clinic. The volunteers saw the bent body of the frail, old lady, and were really touched by her effort in coming to the free clinic. They felt a pang of sadness at her plight, and hoped that the free clinic services could help to relieve her condition.
Enthusiasm to Serve Undaunted by Challenges
The consultation rooms at the free clinic looked spartan, with only a few small tables and chairs for patient consultations, but the dedication and care of the doctors were not curbed by the lack of physical amenities.
The services offered by the free clinic included Pediatrics and Internal Medicine. Dr Sandra, who was in charge of Pediatrics, was one of the busiest doctors. As the common flu spread rapidly among children in the community, many parents had brought their children to the clinic.
Ci Ru was the Tzu Chi volunteer in charge of the pharmacy unit, and Alex, was her assistant; the two of them worked seamlessly as a team. When the patients approached the pharmacy to collect their medications, Ci Ru proactively greeted each patient, and even tickled their funny bone to cause a chuckle or two. Her sense of humour helped the patients to temporarily forget their physical pains. This round of free clinic treated a total of 32 pediatric patients and 37 adult patients.
A Warm Winter with Wheelchair and Blankets
After the 3-day free clinic, a team of ten Tzu Chi volunteers arrived again in Asuncion on 11th June, to start a charity distribution. They distributed a total of 20 wheelchairs and warm blankets to patients in need, to provide the sufferers with greater convenience, and to allow them to keep warm during the cold winter months.
After several days of continuous rain, the sun finally appeared over the clouds, but the ground temperature remained at around 5 degrees Celsius. The cold snap in the air was so severe that some of the patients couldn’t leave their homes to collect their wheelchairs and blankets at the relief distribution site. Thus volunteers had to resort to personally delivering the items directly to the recipients’ homes.
When the troop of volunteers arrived in Therese’s home, they could see old and tattered clothes hanging on her fence for drying in the sun; and a simple hut that only blocked the wind and rain. The small shelter housed a family of seven, including 27-year-old Therese, who has congenital cerebral palsy, her father, who has survived a stroke, two brothers, and a younger sister with her two children.
As her younger sister had to tend to their father and Therese, and thus couldn’t make a trip to the school to collect the wheelchair, volunteers took the extra effort to personally deliver the wheelchair to their home. Therese, who was originally confined to sitting on a chair at home, could finally experience freedom of mobility in a wheelchair. When the younger sister witnessed the joy on her old sister’s face, she was very happy for her, too.
“Thanks for your help! This really saves me a lot of effort,” said the grateful young lady.
Volunteers also brought two warm blankets for the father, and wrapped him in one of them. The elderly grandpa happily stroked the blanket and spoke with evident joy: “Thanks to Tzu Chi! The winter this year will be exceptionally warm for me.” The volunteers who were standing beside the jolly old man smiled along with him.
Legislative Member Joins the Ranks of Volunteers
The volunteers continue in their footsteps of charity, and arrived at the home of an 85-year-old elderly man. This man used to depend on the meagre livelihood of picking scraps for recycling. But last year, as he was pushing his cart out to collect scraps, he accidentally fell down and injured his legs. The unfortunate accident rendered him physically immobile, and as a result, he had to rely on wheelchair for mobility.
When the volunteers delivered the wheelchair to the home of the elderly man, they saw that his bedroom window had only a frame, bereft of glass panes, while a blast of cold wintry air kept blowing in from the exposed window. The cold winds left everyone cold and shivering, and they quickly covered grandpa’s body with a warm blanket while he was seated in the wheelchair.
There was a legislator travelling along with the entourage of volunteers, and the team arrived at Ray’s house. 40-year-old Ray was once an electrician, but fell from height after an accidental electrocution at work, which left him paralyzed in his lower body. He has been dependent on the care of his family over the past 11 years.
Recently, Ray had to undergo surgery due to issues with his kidney, and wasn’t able to travel to the school to collect his wheelchair. As such the legislator and the volunteers personally delivered the wheelchair to his home. Ray repaid their kindness with a broad smile that lit up his countenance.
The legislator was very pleased to spend his weekend serving as a volunteer, and said, “If Tzu Chi has any future needs, I will surely join in, because I really enjoy being a volunteer.”
As the team of volunteers went from door to door to personally deliver the wheelchairs to the patients’ homes, they were greeted with warm and happy smiles. The patients’ smiles were the volunteers’ greatest reward, which spurred them on to continue walking the path of charity and medical missions.