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Great Love in the Midst of Poverty

Wu Ranyun, a Tzu Chi volunteer in Venezuela who owns a sizeable supermarket, was stirred in her spirit to share her love among the local slum dwellers so as to bring light into the lives of people struggling in the darkness of life.

Wu Ranyun would give Carlos food and clothes when he visited her, to show her care and love for him. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan website)

Wu Ranyun, a Tzu Chi volunteer in Venezuela who owns a sizeable supermarket, was stirred in her spirit to share her love among the local slum dwellers so as to bring light into the lives of people struggling in the darkness of life. 

Reaching Out to the Poorest of Dwellings

In July 2015, Tzu Chi volunteer in Venezeula, Wu Ranyun, together with a few other local volunteers, started visiting impoverished households in the slums with the local mayor as their guide.

When the team reached the village of EL Primero de Mayo de Quibor and came to the home of 80-year-old Carlos Quinonez, the volunteers were taken aback by his spartan living conditions. Carlos’s home had practically nothing; he had no tables, chairs, bed, or clothes.

Although Carlos is rather advanced in age, he is still relatively robust, and lives together with his wife, who is suffering from depression. Although they have a daughter, they are not living together presently. Feeling deeply for the heartache and loneliness of the elderly couple, the volunteers decided to repair their home and donate some furniture to them.

One scorching sunny day, Wu Ranyun and the volunteers were going to purchase some cement and sand at a shop, to pave the floor in Carlos’s home. When the shop owner heard about the intended purpose of the sand and cement, he generously offered to sponsor the raw materials. His generosity and support greatly solidified the determination of the team to do good for the elderly couple.

Volunteers labour under the hot sun to fill some empty sacks with their bought sand. Their kindness has moved the shop owner to donate the sand to them. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan website)

The materials were transported by truck to the couple’s home, and the rebuilding works started on a joyful note. Through everyone’s hard work, the floor was evenly paved, and volunteers even bought new furniture and delivered a new mattress, so that Carlos and his wife can enjoy blissful sleep at night. “It doesn’t matter if the house is old, what’s important is that it is neat and clean, then you will stay healthy.” Wu Ranyun, tenderly encouraged the couple out of concern for their health.

Encourage Self-Subsistence for Better Quality of Life

The volunteers cared ceaselessly for Carlos’s living conditions, and also delivered some second-hand clothes. Wu Ranyun also worried if Carlos had enough to eat or warm clothes, and specially invited him to her house, and gave him some clothes from her shop. Carlos accepted her generous gifts with much gratitude and joy.

One day, Wu Ranyun and a few volunteers came to visit Carlos in his home again, and seeing that his house was spick and span, fervently praised him. “I didn’t know what time you were coming, so I packed everything up,” Carlos explained as he showed the volunteers around his home.

When everyone came to his back garden, they witnessed the bountiful harvest - there were fair quantities of pumpkins, avocados and tomatoes. Carlos leisurely explained, “In the past, the melons and vegetables were given to friends for their consumption, while some were stolen.”

After listening to his account, Wu Ranyun gently suggested, “In future, if you have an excess of melons and vegetables, you can try to sell them away, and use the money earned for a better living.” Carlos felt that it was a good idea and nodded his head in agreement.

In May 2016, Carlos’s wife passed on, and he was left living all by himself. The volunteers couldn’t bear to leave the old man alone and continued with their regular care visits to keep him company.

Wu Ranyun was truly happy for Carlos when she found out that he had started selling his home-grown vegetables, and used the little income to supplement his living expenses.

Carlos introducing the home-grown vegetables in his backyard to volunteers. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan website)

Rendering Help to the Needy

Over the past few years, Venezuela has not only faced food shortages, but more seriously, rampant inflation, which has caused food prices and costs of living to rise rapidly. Wu Ranyun was thinking of getting Carlos another table, but felt that it was too costly. As such, she bought the materials and invited some volunteers to self-assemble a table instead, thus save some money. Gradually, Wu Ranyun helped Carlos to make his home more conducive for living.

After learning that there was a group of slum dwellers locally, Wu invited them to her house and distributed food from her shop to them. Carlos also turned up on that day, and happily parted with some goods.

However, the slum area where Carlos is living became unsafe, with worsening condition in law and order. The locals were quite disturbed by some violent clashes between people and the police; so, out of safety concerns, Wu Ranyun decided to temporarily halt the visits to Carlos.

Deepened Affection After Long-awaited Reunion

Even though she couldn’t see Carlos, Wu Ranyun constantly remembered Carlos in her heart. When she attempted to visit him again, she was surprised to find Carlos’s brother-in-law (his late wife’s brother) living at the address in his absence.

In the light of this surprising find, Wu Ranyun began to worry about the wellbeing of Carlos and searched everywhere in vain. Finally, on 12th February 2017, she received some good news. With the help of the mayor, she finally located his whereabouts.

Venezuelan volunteers’ care and concern for Carlos warmed his heart and helped to improve his living conditions. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan website)

The team of volunteers travelled along the directions given by the mayor, and finally found Carlos. As he truly missed the volunteers after a long absence, the old man was visibly moved, and couldn’t hold back his tears. He quickly wiped away his tears and joyfully exclaimed, “Wah! You really care for me. Even though I do not live there anymore, you still cared enough to come and find me!”

For Wu Ranyun, to reunite with Carlos after such a long time, it felt like a long-awaited reunion with a family member. She held his hand, hugged his waist, and walked together towards his present living quarters. Then, Carlos carefully explained what had happened in the preceding months: “The place I used to live in was passed down from my father-in-law, so I moved out after my (late) wife passed on.” The house he currently lives in belongs to his ex-son-in-law. Although his daughter and his son-in-law are already divorced, the latter invited the old man to live with him after he heard that he was homeless.

As the volunteers surveyed the surroundings, they saw that the house was really clean. Carlos said, “Every day, I wake up at 5 am to tidy up my things, and sweep the house clean.” Carlos remembered the advice from the volunteers, and told them with a bright smile, “You asked me to clean up, and I have done it!”

On 24th February 2017, Carlos walked over an hour to Wu Ranyun’s house. Wu Ranyun happily took some corn flour, flour and snacks from her storehouse and passed them to him, caring for his health as always. After a rare reunion, Wu Ranyun and Carlos have grown much closer, almost like family.

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