Tribute Circle | RELIEF | Tzu Chi

My first exposure to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation wasn’t random but was a pleasant, heartwarming and serendipitous surprise. My involvement in social and environmental justice education basically planted me in this tranquil San Diego downtown cafe and bookstore called EcoVerse: Jing Si Books & Cafe. Upon entering, I felt a calming effect. Perhaps, it was the warm smiles? The beautiful artwork? The zen decor? The smell of freshly brewed tea? The soft music? Whatever the reason, I felt at home.

Tzu Chi Environmental AdvocateMy original intention was to use their knowledgable staff and inspirational learning space for an upcoming “Zero-Waste Living-Party” to promote the sustainable lifestyle in our community. Then, in the future, I had hoped to plan other educational events there. I had no idea what else this experience had in store for me.

Pure. Authentic. Inspiration.

What inspired me

"Tzu Chi’s core values in disaster relief included a deep respect for the environment and an emphasis on personal connections."

I learned that the blue and white clad volunteers of Tzu Chi were first responders in many worldwide disasters. What seemed incredible to me was their sustainable methods used in disaster relief. They pitched tents, ate sustainably and left no trash behind. They entered quietly and left just as quietly. I am still surprised that there is no fanfare, no publicity … just immediate service to those in need.  I was touched by a story of how each handout is given with both hands, accompanied by a smile, with a bow or hug ensuring the dignity and respect for each recipient. The blankets given are made from recycled bottles. The rice only needs water (doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold). The mattresses are portable. Mostly, I was, and still am, impressed at how this organization is able to offer impactful assistance with incredible compassion.

The story of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 8.04.22 AMThe Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was established in 1966 by Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen (named in 2011 TIME ‘s most influential people in the world). It is an international non-profit, non-governmental humanitarian organization with four major missions: charity, medicine, education and humanistic culture. It is recognized with a Special Consultative Status with the United National Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) and even partners with The Red Cross in some regions. The guiding principles of Tzu Chi’s relief work are “gratitude, respect and love.”

Let’s celebrate Tzu Chi’s successes in worldwide disaster relief

"Tzu Chi volunteers promote environmental protection even while assisting disaster survivors. Volunteers give reusable bowls and utensils to aid recipients, protecting the environment from the ‘second damage’ cause by mountains of disposable containers and utensils. They also hand out blankets made from recycled plastic bottles, passing on both warmth and an appreciation for recycling."


Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 8.05.01 AM– First organization to provide immediate cash (up to $1,000 each) to families within days of attacks on NYC on September 11, 2001 totaling $2m to 3,164 families

– Within three days of Japan’s devastating Tsunami, Tzu Chi delivers the first relief shipment to Japan – it includes 5,000 eco-friendly blankets, 3.5 tons of instant rice and 1 ton of nuts. Two days later, first hot meals are served to survivors, feeding nearly 1,000 people each day.

– More than 25,000 eco-friendly blankets distributed in Haiti. Additionally, tarps, food and other supplies were delivered to almost 200,000 people.

– More than 100,000 reusable bowls offered  in Sichuan, China

– Mobilized over 1,000 volunteers for Hurricane Katrina and distributed over $4.12m to 58,553 people

How you can help the relief efforts

There are many ways you can help this worthy organization.  The one I love the most is a cannister, provided by Tzu Chi Foundation, you can place in your home of place of business. The idea is to add a coin everyday. This keeps service (compassion and gratitude) in your mind and heart everyday! It is a beautiful reminder. Then, when it’s filled, send or bring coins collected to their donation locations. I’m certain that the Tzu Chi Foundation would also be appreciative of your on-line donations. Here’s a link to help in these disaster response efforts. DONATE 

Find out even more

If you would like to find out more about this organization and enjoy a relaxing afternoon, visit EcoVerse: Jing Si Books & Cafe in 302-304 N. 11th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101. Or call 619.756.6299 to speak with one of their very helpful and knowledgable staff members. For worldwide citizens outside of San Diego, please visit Tzu Chi Foundations’ website at

PHOTO CREDITS: Tzu Chi Foundation website


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