Since Typhoon Vamco (Typhoon Ulysses) hit the Philippines on November 11, Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers entered the affected areas to help clean up, distribute hot meals, and implemented the cash-for-work program. In coordination with local governments, to document the status of victims’ families, Tzu Chi members and volunteers visited victim’s homes to assess the damage and determine how much aid each family will require.
Tzu Chi members and volunteers also coordinated with various government departments and schools to provide suitable distribution venues for Tzu Chi relief operations. They also coordinated with three major banks, namely BDO (Banco de Oro), Metrobank, and PNB to enable recipients to withdraw cash with the Tzu Chi provided vouchers and the banks’ pay cards.
Within four days, the Tzu Chi Foundation enabled more than 37,000 recipients, from Marikina & San Mateo, to go to the designated bank branches near their homes to receive cash with their certified vouchers.
Tzu Chi volunteer is receiving donations from local residents who were also beneficiaries. (Photo provided by Tzu Chi Philippines)
Before the relief distribution began, Master Cheng Yen, the founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation, and all Tzu Chi Foundation members and volunteers had one wish; that the cash intended to help the typhoon victims could be released before Christmas.
It was their intention to enable the recipients to buy materials to rebuild their homes and buy supplies for Christmas and the New Year. They believed that even with the ongoing pandemic and natural disasters, the families of the victims could still have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
As such, local Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers from Marikina & San Mateo were on hand to assist the Chinese volunteers during the relief operation. They are local volunteers who were originally trained by Tzu Chi volunteers following Typhoon Ketsana (Typhoon Ondoy), which hit Marikina in September 2009.
Although many of them were also victims of Typhoon Vamco, several local volunteers shared that the first thing they saved were their Tzu Chi uniforms, because they knew that whenever there is a disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers will be there. These Filipino volunteers rushed to the temporary shelter to meet up with the Chinese volunteers who were already on hand to start helping the victims.
When the recipients learned that their Cash for Relief funds came from 21 countries around the world, they started saving coins in their coin cans that Tzu Chi volunteers distributed to them during the pay card distribution, earlier in December.
When Tzu Chi volunteers revisited Marikina and San Mateo before Christmas, they were able to collect more than Philippine peso (Php) 500,000 from the recipients, showing how seeds of goodness and love grew in their hearts.
Master Cheng Yen has encouraged everyone who has the capacity to help others to not only provide material help, but also inspire spiritual wealth of love and kindness for those who are suffering during these difficult times. Many have taken her teachings to heart as shown by the following heart-warming stories recounted by Tzu Chi volunteers on Christmas Eve.
Although many tens of thousands of families were helped, 23 families were not able to receive Cash for Relief due to missing paperwork. Their neighbours came up with the idea that those families who received Php 25k will donate Php500, while those who received Php 20k will donate Php 400, and those who received Php 15k would donate Php300 to the pool. Everyone agreed to the suggestion, and the 23 families happily received their fair share.
During the Relief for Cash distribution, Tzu Chi volunteers discovered 3 families who received vouchers twice in excess of their supposed shares. When they informed the families of the error, all 3 families returned the excess cash willingly.
One of the Filipino Tzu Chi volunteers is also a victim of the typhoons, but since she was busy helping others, she forgot to register to avail of her Cash for Relief voucher. When other volunteers informed her that she can still apply, she responded by saying that her daughter and her neighbour were already given money by the Tzu Chi Foundation, and that was more than enough for her.
“Great education for the benefit the people, and doing good deeds to bring peace to the world”
This is the message shared by Master Cheng Yen for the new year. She will continue to pray hoping that 2021 will be a happy and auspicious year.