Last year, Zimbabwe’s myriad of troubles were aggravated by long-drawn battles against drought, which had led to depleted harvests from parched soil, a critical environmental threat that endangered the nation’s agricultural production. In addition, after the drought period, the African country had to grapple with torrential rains that led to massive flooding. These calamities have brought about untold sufferings among its impoverished people. Head of Tzu Chi Zimbabwe Zhu Jin Cai often led volunteers in organised relief aid distributions, free clinics, home visits and other missions of compassion, in order to alleviate the suffering of the people affected by disasters .
Unleashing the Power of Mutual Help
In 2016, Zimbabwe experienced a period of prolonged drought, a devastating calamity that caused severe food shortages and deaths of tens of millions of livestock. The dry spell lasted past the rainy season in October and continued till December, when there was a continuous heavy downpour for many days, which turned Zimbabwe into a disaster-ridden land of devastating floods. Parts of the public roads became inundated by flood water and bridges were even washed away by powerful torrents. The devastating floods led to nearly 2,000 damaged houses, leaving at least 117 people dead and another 106 people seriously wounded.
The capital city of Harare also suffered extensive damages from the flood. As there were about 1,800 local Tzu Chi volunteers living in the city, Zhu was particularly concerned about the well-being of the volunteers living there and immediately led some volunteers to provide post-disaster care for the flood-affected victims.
The volunteers conducted house-to-house visits to have a good grasp of the disaster situations faced by those affected, and these were their staggering findings: 18 of the volunteers’ homes had toppled, and another 78 homes were badly damaged and needed long-term repairs. Among the many broken homes, some had their roofs torn away, others had broken brick walls and rubble-ridden floors, leaving the houses exposed to the weather elements. Thus safety became a real concern; but because the inhabitants had no alternative shelter in the interim, they had to bear with the unsafe and broken state of their flood-damaged homes.
After visiting the flood-hit disaster zones, from January 2017 onwards, close to 200 volunteers began home care visits, deep into the hearts of 96 volunteers’ households, to help with post-disaster relief work, including distribution of aid supplies.
As many affected homes had completely collapsed and many volunteers suddenly found themselves stranded into homelessness, some of the unaffected volunteers graciously invited the homeless volunteers and their families into their own homes, as a temporary respite until their home situation has improved. To tackle the challenges of the damaged homes, fellow volunteers rolled up their sleeves to clean up the flood-hit homes, and also started sourcing for materials, such as bricks, plastic bags, woven bags, thatch materials, etc. to repair or rebuild the houses.
In addition, another 50 volunteers divided themselves into teams and went deep into the flood-hit areas, to visit the homes of volunteers that were less seriously damaged by the floods to offer a human touch of love and concern. The Zimbabwean volunteers stood united to tide through the difficult times, spreading Great Love to those in need in the community.
Giving in Compassion for Disaster Victims
Many of the volunteers who were also flood victims themselves chose to put on their volunteers’ uniforms, and availed themselves for the caring activities. They brought along Tzu Chi’s multipurpose foldable beds, carpets and other daily necessities, traversing long muddy distances to personally deliver the relief items to the affected homes of volunteers.
Some of these “aid recipients” who knew that the relief items were delivered after much difficulties even attempted to reject the aid, and hoped that the items could instead be given to others with much greater need than them. Some of them even gave out their gifts of warm blankets to other disaster victims.
The Tzu Chi family in Zimbabwe truly exhibited a strong bond of mutual love and friendship in caring for one another. Everyone braced together as one united body to face the multitude of challenges in meeting the needs of the disaster victims, journeying alongside one another as they walked through the difficulties.