Torrential rains the first week of December caused major flooding in parts of western Washington and Oregon. A 36-mile stretch of Interstate 5 had to be closed near the city of Chehalis, Washington, and many residents in surrounding Lewis County suffered the loss of homes, farms, and businesses.
Among the numerous volunteers who arrived on the scene to help were members of the Seattle Tzu Chi Foundation.
Founded originally as the Tzu Chi Merits Society by Venerable Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan in 1966, Tzu Chi Foundation is now a major Buddhist charitable organization with branches all over the world. Tzu Chi has been active at the scene of major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami, but also supports regular volunteer programs at the local level.
Seattle Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Lewis County as soon as travel was possible in the area and immediately began to distribute emergency cash relief vouchers in the amount of $300 to families sheltering at local RV parks. In all, 225 Lewis county families received vouchers.
Joining the Red Cross and other agencies at relief headquarters set up at Bethel Church in Chehalis, Tzu Chi took responsibility for the rural area around Adna, Washington. On Saturday, December 15, Tzu Chi volunteers conducted an all day relief project at the Adna Middle and High Schools. Later in the week volunteers returned to Bethel Church to help with efforts there.
Tzu Chi was also on the spot in Vernonia, Oregon, arriving with blankets, warm clothing, and other supplies as soon as the roads reopened. In Tillamook County Tzu Chi distributed 81 cash vouchers to displaced families. Other Tzu Chi volunteers participated in relief activities in Portland.
Tzu Chi means “kind offering.” Tzu Chi volunteers practice “joy in giving,” recognizing that both the giver and the receiver benefit from compassionate generosity. For her compassionate efforts worldwide, Venerable Master Cheng Yen has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and received the “Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award” from the World Buddhist University in 2002.
In the Seattle area, Tzu Chi members regularly visit nursing homes, provide food to homeless “Tent City” residents, volunteer at a major food bank, and engage in a variety of other compassionate activities.