Genuine love, care and comfort bring hope to disaster survivors
Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, was hit by a fatal landfill landslide disaster towards the end of February this year. Upon receiving the news, local Tzu Chi volunteers rushed to the site in the immediate aftermath, to provide care and support to those affected. They prepared and distributed hot food daily to the disaster survivors at the shelter, as well as gave out living necessities, including mosquito nets. As the emergency relief mission came to an end, the volunteers held a distribution of aid shopping vouchers for the affected families on 10 April 2018.
It was the first time that Tzu Chi was handing out aid shopping vouchers in Mozambique, thus the volunteers put in extra effort in preparing for the aid distribution. Before the event, they visited the affected households to give them care and comfort, and also carefully assessed their living conditions and needs.
Volunteers also made use of their free time to fold the letters of well-wishes from Master Cheng Yen to the disaster victims. They worked late into the night, knowing that each of these letters carried hope to the beneficiary family.
Receiving love from thousands of miles away
On the day of the distribution, the disaster survivors were relieved and delighted to learn that they would be receiving aid shopping vouchers, which would allow them to purchase much needed necessities. Before giving out the vouchers, local Tzu Chi volunteers explained to the aid recipients how to use the vouchers to make purchases. Upon confirmation of their identity and the number of family members in their household, they collected their shopping vouchers according to their queue number.
The letter from Master Cheng Yen and the shopping vouchers in each envelope carried hope for the future. When everyone found out that the cash value of the vouchers given was determined based on the number of family members in each household, they were all very happy and relieved, commenting that this was a very fair practice.
After everyone had received their letter and vouchers, Tzu Chi volunteer Sheila read the letter from Master Cheng Yen aloud, before asking everyone to read the letter word by word slowly again. At this juncture, the excitement in the air was immediately replaced by quiet respect. The disaster victims were grateful for the practical help and support from Master Cheng Yen, who resides thousands of miles away from Mozambique.
Many of them were moved to tears. One of them shared, “I kept praying for a miracle, and didn’t expect to receive aid shopping vouchers and such empathic love coming from somewhere so far away, especially from a venerable master whom I have never met before. It is really touching.”
Disaster victim Americo Lhatxuaio gratefully kissed the envelope containing the shopping vouchers several times, while 32-year old Joao Mateus was so touched by the love and care from the volunteers that he draped a Tzu Chi flag over himself. He said that he hoped to have the opportunity to join the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers someday.
Accepting the unexpected with understanding and grace
After receiving their shopping vouchers, the recipients boarded chartered buses that were going to take them to a supermarket in Chinatown, where they could purchase what they needed. It would take 2 to 3 bus transits to travel to Chinatown, therefore, Tzu Chi volunteers specially made the transport arrangements.
Just as they were about to depart, the volunteers suddenly received a notice from the town council that they needed to apply for permission in order to take the disaster victims out of the shelter in a group. With an apologetic heart, the volunteers explained to those sitting in the buses that the shopping activity could not be carried out on that day because they had forgotten to apply for an “outing pass” from the authority. They reassured the aid recipients that the shopping trip would be postponed to a later date, and they would be able to go out after permission was obtained.
At that point of time, everyone chose to trust and support the volunteers. But the volunteers couldn’t help asking the aid recipients if they were unhappy with the outcome that day. The latter responded with an unanimous “Nao!” (“No” in Spanish). It was a very touching and heart-warming moment for the volunteers, and the recipients even said to them, “You have taught us to be grateful, and to show love and respect for others!”
The affirmative response from the locals was a relief for the volunteers, and it was heartening to see that everyone had truly found joy and peace through practising “sincerity” and “love” taught by Master Cheng Yen. Under the companionship and support of the volunteers over the years, many of the locals had learned to help and care for one another with sincere love.
This relief mission also touched and inspired some prominent local Chinese residents, who were eager to render their support and assistance. They included the management of the Chinatown supermarket as well as the head of the local Hokkien association, Chen Xiang Ze, who generously offered to provide any assistance and products from his factory to Tzu Chi at zero cost for future relief missions or aid distributions.
Timeline of Tzu Chi’s Mozambique Landfill Disaster Relief Mission
2018.02.19 — In the immediate aftermath of the landfill disaster, local Tzu Chi volunteers rushed to the site to provide assistance and moral support to those affected.
2018.02.21 — Volunteers began supplying hot meals every day at the shelter that housed the disaster survivors (a total of 8,879 meals were provided from 21 February to 13 April 2018)
2018.02.27 — 250 packages of daily necessities were given to disaster victims
2018.03.17 — 334 mosquito nets were distributed
2018.03.27 — 395 blankets were given out
2018.04.06 — Staff from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) donated money to Tzu Chi to provide toiletries for the victims. Items purchased with the donation included 1,121 toothbrushes and 411 sets of toiletries. Tzu Chi also sponsored 195 packets of sanitary pads.
2018.04.10 — Tzu Chi’s first distribution of (1,590) shopping vouchers benefited 194 affected households.