Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jul 02nd
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Home Global Activities Asia Filipino Volunteers Store Rice from Taiwan

Filipino Volunteers Store Rice from Taiwan

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Rice with Love from Taiwan
Volunteers cleaned a warehouse in Manila harbor that is storing the first batch of 500  tonnes of rice which Tzu Chi has delivered from Taiwan to poor families in the Philippines. They worked through the night to load the rice, which will be distributed to the needy in early July.

Each year Taiwan’s Agriculture & Food Agency, under the Council of Agriculture, donates a portion of the country's rice harvest as foreign aid.  This year Tzu Chi applied for and received a quota of 6,800 tonnes of this rice to distribute to the poor and victims of natural disasters in four countries -- the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa and Lesotho. Of this, 1,500 tonnes of high- quality rice will go for an assistance program that will benefit poor families in the Philippines.

The first 500 tonnes of rice were shipped from Taichung, Taiwan on April 28 and arrived at the Manila South Harbor on May 5. Tzu Chi Philippines was waiting for the Bureau of Customs to sign the necessary documents so that the rice could be transferred to the National Resource Operations Center of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Parañaque City. These documents would allow the rice to be unloaded.

While waiting for the documents to be processed, 18 Chinese and Filipino volunteers worked hard to clean up the warehouse where the 500 tonnes of rice would be stored. The Filipino volunteers were survivors of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana); it struck the island of Luzon at the end of September 2009, leaving 710 dead and 37 missing and causing damage of US$1.09 billion. It was one of the most devastating typhoons ever to hit Manila. The foundation played a major role in the reconstruction effort, distributing food, blankets and other goods and organizing a relief work program. The Filipino volunteers in the warehouse were among those who received help during Typhoon Ondoy. Taking part in Tzu Chi’s missions is one way for people to give back the kindness shown them by the foundation and share their blessings with those who are in need.

In the scorching heat, the volunteers showed their respect to the future recipients of the rice assistance program by cleaning diligently the spacious warehouse. They dedicated every ounce of their strength and every drop of their sweat to help one another in putting plastic palettes on the floor where the sacks of rice will be stacked.

It was also an opportunity for the volunteers to introduce to the DSWD personnel the foundation’s missions and recall some of the projects successfully undertaken by the two organizations to serve the needy.
Bernard Ligan, 26, a DSWD assistant for two years, heard of the foundation for the first time; he was happy to learn of its missions. “We are happy to see that volunteers even came here to clean up the place. They showed us that we can rely on their assistance, especially when the rice arrives and the re-packing starts,” Ligan said, after joining the team in cleaning the warehouse.

After almost one hour of cleaning the dusty warehouse, 62-year-old Chinese volunteer Richard Tan was exhausted. “My heart is at ease to see that the area has been cleaned and is ready to store the rice safely,” he said. “When we are giving out relief goods, we need to be certain that they are in good condition. We cleaned this warehouse to ensure that the rice will be safely stored here, so that the recipients will benefit from it once it reaches them.”  

On May 27, trucks loaded with the rice arrived at the warehouse, where 33 volunteers from Marikina carefully loaded the sacks in neat piles. Initially, they worked by hand, carrying the sacks on their backs. Then the DSWD provided a forklift truck, which speeded up the process. They worked all-night to the morning of the next day, until all 500 tonnes were safely stored in the warehouse.

On the afternoon of May 27, the foundation and the DSWD held a news conference at the branch’s Jing Si Hall, to explain this act of love by Taiwan and the co-operation of the two organizations. A total of 29 people took part in the event, including representatives from four television stations, three broadcasting channels and six other media. Before the news conference began, the volunteers showed a documentary of their work in the Philippines, with footage of their aid distribution and the love and respect that accompanies it; it showed how the act of giving aims to inspire those who receive to do the same thing in return. They laid out on a table samples of the rice that had been cooked, so that the reporters and staff of the department could taste its excellent quality and feel the love from Taiwan.

Volunteer Alfredo Li, chief executive of the foundation in the Philippines, expressed their thanks for the support of the department, in allowing the rice to enter the country free of duty and facilitate this collaboration between the government and an NGO. He also thanked the department staff for working overnight with the volunteers to ensure that the rice was safely stored in the warehouse. Patricia Luna, the department official responsible, read out the agreement which it had prepared with the foundation. Then Li signed the agreement with department chief Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman. Juliano-Soliman praised the foundation’s help to the Philippines over many years, saying that, through its low-key giving, it had yielded a harvest of good. She said that she watched DaAi Television: “although I cannot understand Chinese, the speeches of Master Cheng Yen have English sub-titles. Our friends from the media can watch too and understand Tzu Chi better.”

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" When walking, as we step one foot forward, we lift the other foot up. In the same way, we should let go of yesterday and focus on today. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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