Master Cheng Yen, the founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, reminded us of the massive 7.4 earthquake in Turkey on August 17th ten years ago that left 600,000 people homeless and 40,000 people injured and killed. Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Turkey on the second day, August 18, 1999, and immediately organized a relief team to pass out waterproof beddings and blankets. Tzu Chi also built 300 permanent homes for the affected families in Turkey, and provided continuing help to local needy families. As a result, the people in Turkey have, generously sent their donations along with their blessings to Taiwan after typhoon Morakot.
Besides giving donations, many local residents and Tzu Chi volunteers have participated in the cleanup work in southern Taiwan, with record numbers for the last five days. On August 17, as many as 3,000 volunteers were in Cishan Town of Kaohsiung County alone. Three of the volunteers, ages 80, 71 and 58, helped to clean up a small temple in Cishan Town. They participated in the work with joy and gratitude.
Not only did the Tzu Chi volunteers face the challenge of having limited water supply during the cleanup, some of the traditional homes were not reachable by cars, since they were located inside very narrow alleys. These difficulties didn't stop the volunteers, who lined up side by side to continue their cleanup efforts. For example, the furniture in an elderly lady's home in a secluded and narrow alley was completely destroyed by the typhoon. Many volunteers worked together and cleared out all the damaged furniture one by one, and cleaned up the old lady's kitchen and bedroom.
Tzu Chi Foundation announced a series of relief and reconstruction plans for the survivors and evacuees of Typhoon Morakot.
Immediate plan: As of August 17, Tzu Chi volunteers have prepared and delivered nearly 500,000 hot meals, over 40,000 boxes of instant rice/noodles, nearly 40,000 eco-friendly blankets, 150,000 sets of eco-friendly bowls and utensils, 60,000 relief kits, and provided medical assistance to 4,400 people and cash assistance to 24,000 households. As many as 80,000 Tzu Chi volunteers have personally provided support and assistance in all forms to the affected residents.
Mid-term plan: Tzu Chi will provide subsidies for poor families and students.
Long term plan: Tzu Chi will help poverty-stricken survivors and evacuees to rebuild their homes and provide long term financial assistance. Tzu Chi will also help to rebuild schools and provide tuition assistance, and continue to provide emotional and spiritual care to the affected residents.
As of August 16, Tzu Chi Foundation has committed over NT$400,000,000 in cash and resources to this relief operation.
The Taiwanese government has announced that it will cooperate with five private charity organizations, one of them being the Tzu Chi Foundation, to rebuild the disaster areas.
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