Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 02nd
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Home Global Activities America Bringing love to Cauquenes, Chile

Bringing love to Cauquenes, Chile

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Global inflation is increasing, and Chile in South America is no exception. In October 2022, inflation hit a 28-year high of 13.7%. At the start of 2022, a kilogram of bread cost 1,200 pesos (about US$1.52). But by October, the price had risen 1.8 times to 2,200 pesos (about US$2.79), making it unaffordable for many.


Relief Aid

Cecilia, a local volunteer, is from the small town of Cauquenes, about 375 kilometers south of the capital Santiago. The town is in decline due to an aging population and young people seeking better opportunities in larger cities. Its residents rely mainly on grape cultivation and wood processing as their primary sources of income. They face increasing unemployment due to severe inflation.

Seeing friends and relatives in her hometown struggling, Cecilia applied to the Tzu Chi Foundation in Chile for relief aid. After its  assessment, the team decided to distribute relief aid, as well as hold an eye care clinic, to help the community.

Unwavering Determination

On October 21st, Tzu Chi volunteers Liao Chin-Chiu (廖欽九), Fernanda Wu(吳惠蘭), Chen Juan-Shu (陳絹淑), and Yang Ying-Ling (楊櫻玲) planned to take the subway to Cauquenes one day in advance. However, unexpected events occurred -- someone walked onto a subway track, causing stations to close. They had to change their plans and take a taxi to the bus station; fortunately, they were able to reach their destination safely despite the sudden change.

After a car journey of five hours and ten minutes, the volunteers finally arrived. Despite the long and arduous journey, the volunteers did not complain. They knew many families in need were waiting for Tzu Chi's timely help, and that all their hard work would be turned into "happiness." The 16 local volunteers were to join the team the next day (2022/10/22) by driving to the location.

The four visiting volunteers stayed with local volunteers Jorge and Erica. The two had been preparing for this meaningful encounter for a while. In late September 2022, they went to purchase supplies, which were transported to their home by a large truck. The next morning, they prepared a sumptuous breakfast for the volunteers. The whole family fully dedicated themselves to this cause, leaving a deep impression on the volunteers.

Supplies for Essential Living

On October 22, 2022, the volunteers arranged two distributions of relief supplies, in the morning and in the afternoon. Whenever the truck arrived with the goods, volunteers of all ages worked together to unload the items. For the second distribution, they moved the location to a second soccer field. The volunteers were busy loading the supplies; during the lunch break, they only had a sandwich. They put their heart and soul into the work, which was truly touching.

In April, Carlos from Santiago experienced a devastating fire that destroyed his home in Laguna Verde. He was in the process of  rebuilding; nonetheless, he came to help with loading and unloading supplies for the relief effort. He believes that, as long as people are safe, they can start again from scratch. He valued the opportunity to volunteer and made a positive impact, and cherished every blessing that came his way.

A Tzu Chi youth, Cathalina, is a high school senior who was going to take the college entrance exam at the end of 2022. She is a good role model for children. The volunteer group consisted of people of all ages, from young to old. The elderly were treasures of the Tzu Chi community and also good examples. The young ones, like Maxi and Agata, understood the spirit of "willing to give and joyfully receive" and happily contributed their love.

The relief materials provided by Tzu Chi to the needy were all essential items for daily living. An elderly person said: "I am really happy today. I have never received so many donated goods before." One of the elderly people who came to collect the materials was disabled; the volunteers helped to deliver the goods to her home.

Volunteer Nelson assisted an elderly person who needed to take a ride outside to collect the relief materials; the elderly person was grateful for the generous gift from Tzu Chi. A young mother with her baby came to receive the relief materials -- so they will not go hungry again in the short term. Another elderly person who received the materials was moved to tears. The leader of the local neighborhood expressed gratitude and said: "Thank you so much. Bless you, and may God always be with you."

Jorge, who was responsible for receiving and storing the goods this time, said happily: "It is a very joyful thing to contribute my little effort to help others."


Surprise Gift

The first session of the free clinic was held in the church. Tzu Chi youth volunteer Valeria was the first to receive a check-up. Medical volunteer Christal from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) used her expertise to check carefully Valeria’s eyes. Tzu Chi volunteers care for those in need; they must also care for their own people, in order to walk together on the Bodhisattva Path of benefiting others selflessly.

Another medical volunteer, Luisa, came from Santiago to Cauquenes  to provide medical services. In addition to checking people's eyes, she also helped to load and unload relief materials and never complained of fatigue.

The free afternoon ophthalmology clinic was held at a neighborhood activity center; residents came to see the doctors one after another. This small town only has a clinic. So, when people have eye problems, they need to go to a nearby big city for treatment; it takes an hour and a half by car.

After the medical consultations, those who needed glasses were provided with free glasses by the Jas Glasses Company, whether they were near- or far-sighted. There were also a variety of frames to choose from -- a pleasant surprise for the town's residents.

With their new glasses, they can see more clearly and improve their quality of life, as well as work and study more efficiently. During the three sessions of the free clinic, the five volunteers of TIMA provided a warm and caring service, to a total of 30 households with 60 people.

Giving Back

In February 2019, twelve-year-old Fernando fell into a coma due to  persistent high fever; he was rushed to the hospital for meningitis treatment. His worried parents accompanied him throughout his month-long hospital stay; during that time, they had no income and fell into financial difficulty. They wrote a letter requesting assistance from Tzu Chi volunteers, who immediately responded with care and support.

The couple was moved to tears and said at the time: "Tzu Chi volunteers must be angels sent by heaven." Fernando eventually recovered from his illness and slowly regained his ability to walk, and his health continued to improve.

In 2022, fifteen-year-old Fernando and his father participated in the aid distribution, working tirelessly to load and unload relief supplies. The volunteers were delighted to see Fernando, who has recovered and grown up so much since they first met him.

At every distribution event, Tzu Chi volunteers Yang Ying-Ling and Chen Jian-Shu carried coin banks and joyfully spread the words about Tzu Chi; they encouraged people to donate and join in acts of kindness. Even though the town's residents might not be wealthy, they were still willing to give and contribute, regardless of their age or gender. "Thank you for helping others in need. May your love continue to flow" -- the volunteers used these words to send their blessings.

After the successful distributions, volunteers stayed one more night in Cauquenes. The next day, four of them took the 11:00 bus back to Santiago; the remaining 20 volunteers personally delivered relief supplies to eight families who live in remote rural areas and then went back to Santiago.


During the two days of distribution, a total of 200 households and 750 people received relief supplies. Tzu Chi's love spread in Chile, even to the most remote regions.

A Jing Si Aphorism says: “Cherish what you have and use it to benefit others.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us spread love to the needy.

Story by Fernanda Wu and Chu Hsiu-Lien in South America.