In April 2021, as news of the COVID-19 pandemic in India made international headlines, the country’s less noticed neighbor Nepal also shut down its borders as part of the effort to contain the latest wave of infection. As a result, the lives of many already disadvantaged people in Nepal became severely crippled by an ongoing shortage of food and necessities for daily life. In late June, when the pandemic in the country began to show the first signs of slowing down and the lockdown was relaxed, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation went into Nepal right away and with the help of local charity organizations, worked diligently to provide relief for the needy.
By July 5, a total of 3,308 households had received food assistance in the form of food packages containing 25 kilograms of rice, 10 kilograms of flour, two kilograms of beans, one liter of oil, one kilogram of salt, one kilogram of sugar, and four pieces of soap. Many of those receiving help have gone on without these necessities for everyday living since April, and for many, this help may have arrived just in time to save their lives.
With the help of Track Nepal and Byoma Kusuma Buddhadharma Sangha, Tzu Chi began to distribute food packages in the city of Kathmandu and its surrounding mountainous areas, around 150 kilometers away, on June 26. The volunteers worked eagerly and quickly, knowing that many have been living without adequate nourishment for months.
In the city of Kathmandu, the food drives followed the pandemic prevention regulations strictly. All volunteers and those receiving aid were asked to maintain social distancing to ensure the safety and smooth running of the distribution. Many of those benefitted came from impoverished households, including the elderly and the disabled.
“I came to Kathmandu to work from my hometown, but now with the pandemic, I have no work and no food,” said Sunita Tamang, a local woman who was benefited by Tzu Chi’s food distribution. “It is a great relief to receive this food now. It is a gift from the Buddha. Thank you.”
“I am very happy to receive food, which will keep my family fed for at least one to two months,” said Nanu Maya Dangol, another local woman receiving the aid package.
In the nearby mountainous areas, the roads are often rough and in disrepair. To get anything to people living in these areas, Tzu Chi had to dispatch powerful trucks able to handle the rural conditions. In addition, it has been the rainy season in Nepal, making all the roads muddy and often obstructed by soil and rocks that rolled down from the hillside. But nothing could deter Tzu Chi volunteers from getting aid to the people who needed it most. Working together, local volunteers overcame all difficulties on the road and delivered the food urgently needed by villagers in a short span of time.
Tzu Chi’s help will not stop with these food drives. It is estimated that another 5,500 households in Kathmandu and the surrounding areas will receive Tzu Chi’s aid packages, which will contain food and clothing for the impoverished families.
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has also sent assistance to the nearby country of Bhutan. On June 25, with the help of the Empress Dowager Foundation of Bhutan, Tzu Chi donated many cases of medical supplies to the Capital General Hospital, which will then help to distribute them to 31 hospitals in 20 districts. The cases of medical supplies were wrapped in khata, a ceremonial scarf of good luck and blessings in Tibetan Buddhism, symbolizing a coming together of all the districts in a joint effort to combat the pandemic.
On July 10, Tzu Chi volunteer Pravin Bhalesain, on behalf of Tzu Chi, donated two 10L oxygen generators to the Shri Mahavir Jain Hospital in the city of Thane, India. The machines were made immediately available to patients. In order to express their gratitude, the hospital staff thoughtfully took the stickers with Tzu Chi logo from the outer case and affixed them to the machines themselves, to show appreciation for Tzu Chi’s generous donation. In addition to Pravin, two volunteers from the Rotary Club of Mumbai also participated in the donation ceremony. Mr. Raj Verma, the former head of the Rotary Club of Mumbai, who has been actively working with Tzu Chi on behalf of the hospitals on the frontline of combating the pandemic, could not attend the ceremony in person, but he dialed in online to show his support.
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists into the new year, Tzu Chi USA is caring for the long-term needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We’re determined to do this with respect, love, and meaningful action. That’s why we need your support, now more than ever.
We’re providing charity services to individuals and families most steeply impacted socially and economically by the pandemic, like those with low/no income, the elderly, the undocumented, the homeless, college students, domestic violence survivors, and other vulnerable or underserved populations. It may be through personal protective equipment (PPE), food, care supplies, financial assistance, and much more.
We’re also providing long-term aid for those who’ve survived but have lost nearly everything to terrible disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and more. This may also be with cash card assistance that helps households cope with the challenges of restarting a life from scratch.