Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 02nd
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Home Global Activities America Tzu Chi in Dominican Republic Celebrates 24th Anniversary

Tzu Chi in Dominican Republic Celebrates 24th Anniversary

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The Tzu Chi Dominican Republic Office celebrated its 24th anniversary and re-launched its free dental clinic to safeguard the community.



It was on February 26, 1999, that the Tzu Chi Dominican Contact Point was established; it was the Foundation’s first base in the Caribbean. It was set up in response to the devastating impact of Hurricane George. A Category 4 hurricane that struck the Caribbean islands in September 1998), caused heavy loss of life and left 300,000 people homeless.

After conducting disaster assessments, Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan and the United States launched a large-scale relief and medical mission from December 1998 to February 1999. The positive results of their efforts led to the establishment of a Tzu Chi point in the region; this enabled the organization to expand its charitable, medical, educational, and international disaster relief work. On August 8, 2002, the contact point was upgraded to a liaison office.


Alumni Reunion

In 2000, Tzu Chi established the Tzu Chi Elementary School in La Romana (Escuela Tzu Chi La Romana; ETCLR). The first group of eighth-grade students graduated in 2005. Since then, over 1,000 students have graduated and become a support to society. Tzu Chi volunteers have been eager to establish an alumni association for these students with a connection to Tzu Chi. With the arrival of Tzu Chi's 24th anniversary, the volunteers actively planned and held an alumni reunion event on the afternoon of March 10, 2023.

Local volunteer Ramon Martinez, an ETCLR alumnus himself, came up with the idea of designing the invitation notice as a newspaper "latest news", in order to attract attention. The headline read, "This is the most incredible reunion event of the year, where all classmates and teachers gather for the first time. We cordially invite your participation." He also created a social media group to invite graduates. Volunteer Juana Garcia's two children are also ETCLR alumni.

The venue was decorated by volunteers; they prepared eco-friendly bags for each graduate, inviting them to take action to love the Earth. Current students dressed in beautiful long dresses with the colors of the national flag (blue, white, and red) and passionately danced for their graduating seniors -- some were their parents. Their lively and lovely performance received enthusiastic applause.

Simona graduated in 2006 and continues to participate in Tzu Chi activities in the community. Her mother, Dania, is an important assistant in the hot meal program for the underprivileged. Karina also graduated in 2006 and is now a third-grade teacher at ETCLR. She joyfully compared her current self to her graduation image on the screen. Esther, another alumnus, brought his student ID and notebook, which contain unforgettable and beautiful memories, to the "Thinking of Our Alma Mater" session.

Sarah, who has disabilities, and her sister both attended ETCLR but had to move away from the community because her sister graduated and there was no one to take her to school. Sarah completed her high school education and returned to ETCLR as a secretary. She also attends university on weekends and receives a scholarship from Tzu Chi. Her hard work and perseverance are an example for everyone to follow.

During the alumni reunion, a video showcasing Tzu Chi's efforts in the Dominican Republic was shown; alumni were enthusiastically invited to join and help Tzu Chi to spread love in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the event, each person was given a reusable bag, and a Blessings and Wisdom Red Envelope; it contained the hope that everyone can "practice kindness and compassion, be blessed with good fortune, and transmit virtue and wisdom to future generations." Forty-four alumni attended the event and took a joyful group photo; they vowed to reunite again.


Free Dental Clinics

After the outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019, the regular free dental clinics had to be suspended. As the pandemic eased in 2022 and many countries gradually relaxed their control measures, the volunteers decided to restart the free dental clinics during this year's anniversary celebration.

To continue to attract volunteers, the first clinic was held in the Los Rios district near the capital city of Santo Domingo. This community has a high level of volunteer unity since a group of volunteers gathered and participated in relief and volunteer training activities after the floods last December. The Foundation hoped to promote environmental protection projects in the area and invited residents to sign up by recycling plastic bottles in exchange for their participation -- this received a good response.

Is there a dentist for the clinic? Don't worry! During the pandemic, the Foundation donated epidemic prevention supplies to various medical units and thus formed a good relationship with them. This time, 11 dentists were invited to participate in the free clinic. Since there were enough dentists, five of them provided consultations in a classroom, while five others performed assessments and health education before the clinic. Dr. Hsun-Yuan Hsu (許竣淵), who has long assisted Tzu Chi's free dental clinics, focused on guiding the logistical volunteers in preparing and disinfecting equipment. Everyone cooperated with each other to ensure complete preparation and efficiency.

To prevent the patients from becoming bored while they waited for treatment, volunteers played Tzu Chi videos in the waiting room. They showed disaster relief work, environmental initiatives, medical aid, and educational programs; they aimed to let everyone know more about Tzu Chi and hopefully inspire kindness in them.

Dr. Yanet, who was measuring blood pressure for everyone, discovered that many residents had high blood pressure. He reminded them of precautions to avoid potential risks associated with tooth extraction.

Mr. Jose, in his 70s, could not remember when he last had his teeth cleaned; he was very satisfied with the excellent service provided by the dentists. A total of 100 adults and children came to the free clinic; they received a toothbrush and toothpaste after their treatment. Daily dental care is more important, so they were encouraged to start from their daily routines.

The strong support from the community volunteers in the Los Rios district, who usually work together in mutual cooperation, made the free dental clinic successful. Ten volunteers were involved in coordinating registration and inviting residents to recycle plastic bottles. They also cooperated with three La Romana Tzu Chi volunteers who came early to prepare and support the event. Their performance made the Foundation believe that it is highly feasible to promote environmental protection projects in the future.

Gratitude to All

There are many people to thank for promoting Tzu Chi's mission in the Dominican Republic. Volunteers expressed their gratitude to supportive community leaders and institutions during the Annual Appreciation Party. In attendance were about 80 members, volunteers, La Romana community parents, students, and representatives from institutions for whom Tzu Chi has been caring, such as HIV care units and Catholic churches.

The party promoted Jing Si publications and products; this was undertaken by young local volunteers who graduated from ETCLR. Students from ETCLR performed "Earth and Wind" martial arts, which was both vigorous and meditative, captivating everyone's attention. During the anniversary, the Tzu Chi 2022 Year in Review was shown, and Damaris, sales manager of the rice supplier who provided relief food aid for Tzu Chi last year, told volunteers after watching it: "Through this video, I learned that Tzu Chi's love is truly beyond religion, borders, and races. It's amazing!"

The highlight of the Appreciation Party was the Collection of Coin Banks, for which both adults and children were well-prepared. They hope to make Tzu Chi's charity stronger in the Dominican Republic and also to show support for the relief work after the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria in February this year. Another surprise was a lotus-shaped lantern made by Maria Pinales, a new Tzu Chi volunteer who has taken part in relief work in recent years, to bless the 24th anniversary of Tzu Chi. It added much color to the event.

This was the first activity in the Tzu Chi center after the pandemic. Through the devout prayers of everyone present, they hope that the world will be safe and sound. Before distributing the Blessings and Wisdom red envelopes, volunteer Zhu Yao-Lin (朱瑤琳) explained to the audience that the red envelopes came from the royalties of Master Cheng Yen's publications. She wished everyone blessings and wisdom. Volunteers also invited everyone to turn their gratitude into action and walk the Tzu Chi path together to make their lives shine. She also thanked the four senior volunteers present -- Tsai Yu-Yun (蔡玉雲), Liao Cang-Ye (廖倉葉), Tian Wen-Deng (田文登), and Wang Zhi-Ping (王志平). They have accompanied and dedicated themselves to the Bodhisattva path of benefiting others selflessly.

As stated in Ramon Martinez's invitation to alumni to return to their alma mater: "Great love can embrace and purify the world. Tzu Chi is an organization on which the sun never sets and where charity is carried out globally. Because of disasters, Tzu Chi formed a bond with the Dominican Republic and has been continuously guarding local people for 24 years, upholding the spirit of ‘first in; last out.’"


Although we have differences in race, skin color, language, and belief, we are all members of the global village; "with fate, we walk the path together." We share and bear each other's burdens, and join hands to give to those in need.

Join Tzu Chi. Let us make the world a better place.


Story by Ju Xi-Luian and Ju Yao-Lin  in Central America/ 2023/04/05

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Jing-Si Aphorism