Opportunity For All
The World of Tzu Chi | May 8, 2017 by Northwest Region
In the Silicon Valley, while the “haves” see their fortunes soar, the “have-nots” often fall further behind. In a place where poverty and homelessness is increasingly evident, and the cost of living is rising sky-high, we have a lot to do. We strive to have a positive impact, and empower those who are struggling to create a brighter future. Volunteers provide the homeless with routine weekend breakfast, dinner, clothes, and haircut services. Each year, about 5000 hot meals are served to the homeless, children through our Happy Campus program, and other locations throughout California. We also deliver snacks and teach humanities and art courses to youths facing difficult situations. Our chapter is also active on the medical front, offering a bi-weekly dental clinic for low-income individuals. Additionally, our volunteers also take part in regular nursing home visits and free tax preparation.
Tzu Chi volunteers collect unsold bread daily from bakeries in nine cities, and distribute it to those in need across thirty-three different locations. Altogether, our volunteers distribute approximately ten thousand pounds of bread each month. For individuals who are struggling, especially the homeless population, this bread can mean a world of difference.
Tzu Chi Scholars is a scholarship program that recognizes and provides assistance to outstanding college-bound high school graduates who are struggling financially. Each scholar receives an award of $1,000 USD towards their education. To ensure the scholarship goes to those who need it, Tzu Chi volunteers carefully assess the applications through various means. The process also includes face-to-face interviews with the applicants, to better understand their academic performance, community volunteer involvement, and their family’s financial needs.
Since 2004, our volunteers in San Francisco have cultivated a strong relationship with John Muir Elementary School, where we have been teaching students the value of humanitarianism, beginning with the importance of charity work. Volunteers also provide class counseling, food, and instruction on the topic of environmental protection. Knowing that the neighborhood is in a poor area, where some students do not have much to eat, volunteers prepare “backpacks of love” for these children. Each backpack contains bread, canned food, fruit juice, and more for the weekend. Some of these students live in shelters without kitchens, and therefore, they often go without food for more than a day. Thousands of uniforms and backpacks have been donated to 10 schools in the area as well.
Belle Haven Elementary School has the poorest attendance rate in Ravenswood City School District, and suffers from a lack of support of staff. To qualify for free lunch, a child's family income must be below 130% of the poverty line. In 2014, Tzu Chi volunteers in Northern California had the opportunity to partner with Belle Haven Elementary School, to begin working on our Happy Campus Program to aid students in need. We provide academic and social assistance, as well as humanity courses, incorporating the principles of gratitude, respect, and love. Over the span of approximately two years, Tzu Chi helped students make great strides in improving their attendance rate, soaring to the top five rank in their school district. As of 2017, the school is seeing more positive results, where there are 62 students with perfect attendance - doubling the numbers as compared to last year!