Text: Chia-Yi Lee
Translation: J.B. Willis, Steve J. Lin
Since the catastrophic tropical Cyclone Idai struck the eastern African nations of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March, floodwaters have caused a humanitarian crisis of great proportions, and as a result, more than 300 have lost their lives, death tolls are rising, many are still missing, and three million people have been affected. Moreover, infrastructures were severely damaged due to flooding and mudslides, causing rescue workers difficulties reaching victims in many regions. Tzu Chi volunteers from four African countries have visited some of the needy and provided them with necessities. Since March 25, Tzu Chi University has initiated a fundraising campaign on its two campuses, and simultaneously updated information about those in need, in Africa, to enhance students’ kindness and compassion to help them. TCU wishes people in Africa can return to their daily routines and have their homes rebuilt or repaired as soon as possible.
Since March, the Center for General Education has offered numerous classes, inviting Tzu Chi volunteers and the staff of Tzu Chi Department of Religious Affairs, to share various topics. Among them were: “How has Tzu Chi Foundation carried out caring for refugees in the Middle East?” “Helping the needy in Africa;” “Sharing Tzu Chi Foundation’s global relief efforts at the UN;” “Transcending race and religion in Malaysia;” “Facing opportunities and challenges in Indonesia;” “How have we helped the needy at disaster sites when Taiwan faced numerous catastrophes?”
In 1991, Tzu Chi Foundation offered aid to flood victims in Bangladesh and initiated its overseas disaster relief campaign. To date, Tzu Chi Foundation has offered help to 97 countries on various continents, such as Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Other than providing food, clothes, grain seeds, medicine, and so forth, which were badly needed right after the disaster took place, Tzu Chi Foundation also helped build permanent housing, schools and clinics, constructed water resources, carried out medical outreach, etcetera, for needy people there.
Assistant Professor Alex Tan, a faculty member of the Center for General Education, said that Tzu Chi Foundation’s endeavor will help expand students’ global perspectives. Through shared international relief efforts, students watched and listened to how Tzu Chi volunteers overcame barriers and communicated with needy persons around the world, and more than this, they became more aware of ongoing events around the world. Additionally, students had opportunities to look into these cases, searching for root reasons and seeking possible solutions. TCU expects students to put themselves into the shoes of others and attend to their needs.
The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in late 2010, and as a result, a wave of refugees emerged. But the root reason for refugees was global warming, which has dried farm lands and forced farmers to move to cities to earn their livings, and afterward has led to more consequences. Intense tropical Cyclone Idai, which has everything to do with global warming, was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa. Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are among the poorest nations in the world, and Cyclone Idai brought them more devastation causing heavy damage to their infrastructures and houses. It is quite likely they will have infectious disease outbreaks, and rebuilding their infrastructures and houses will probably take a long time.
Tzu Chi volunteers in South Africa drove 2,400 kilometers to care for victims in Malawi. It was a long trip, and on the way, their car was stuck in mud for a while, due to the road’s poor condition. Volunteers also visited Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province, carrying clean water in the car, loaded bread all around them, using up every bit of space in the car to transport the necessities for those who were badly in need. The volunteers in Africa have done their best to help the needy and they continue doing so. It is time for us to stand firmly behind them and support them, for them to continue their great efforts.
Tzu Chi Foundation is asking everyone to donate bricks which cost only NT$3.30 each, to help victims rebuild their houses. TCU’s chief secretary Sheng-Chieh Lin and faculty members who teach Tzu Chi’s Humanistic Culture encourage students to do something to help the needy in Africa. Every penny will be helpful to them, and we can donate our pocket money anytime, or put the change into our piggy banks daily, to donate them afterward. No matter what we choose to do, those needy people will receive our earnest blessings and practical help. Shu-Fen Chen, a student of Human Development and Psychology, heard stories about the refugees in the Middle East and flood victims in Africa. She asked herself if one of those people were she, what would she need? She put herself into their current positions, looked into their needs, and concluded that she would like to do as much as she can to help them.