Tzu Chi Q&A

A Glimpse into the Missions and Spirit of Tzu Chi

Living in this world, we are all family.
Care for one another in times of peace,
and help one another in times of disaster.

–Dharma Master Cheng Yen

1. When did Tzu Chi start its international relief work?

In 1991, Tzu Chi took its first step in international relief when it provided aid to children orphaned in the Persian Gulf War and those affected by flooding in Bangladesh and China.

In 1991, after Eastern China was affected by massive flooding, Tzu Chi members from Taiwan arrived in Jiangsu Province to visit those affected who were poor to begin with. (Tzu Chi Foundation)

2. How many countries has Tzu Chi provided aid to?

As of 2020, Tzu Chi had brought aid to 118 countries and regions across the five continents of the world.

3. What are the principles of Tzu Chi’s disaster relief?

Timeliness: to deliver relief supplies in the shortest possible time.
Directness: to personally bring the supplies hand-to-hand to those affected.
Priority: to focus on the worst-hit areas and those most in need of aid.
Respect: to respect the local customs, cultural traditions, lifestyles, and religions.
Practicality: to offer aid that disaster survivors need.

4. How does Tzu Chi usually conduct its international relief projects?

Tzu Chi’s international relief has been carried out in four ways:

(1) Tzu Chi works independently to carry out disaster or poverty relief work.

Examples:
Eastern China flood, 1991
Mongolia winter relief, 1992
Nepal flood, 1993
Cambodia flood and drought, 1994
Aid to Chinese veterans in Northern Thailand, since 1995


After Nepal was hit by severe flooding in 1993, Tzu Chi built a total of 1,800 permanent houses in four villages for those affected. (Tzu Chi Foundation)
As Tzu Chi has expanded globally, most of its international relief work is now carried out in the following three ways:

(2) Tzu Chi and its overseas offices work together to carry out disaster relief.

Examples:
El Salvador earthquake, 2001
Bam earthquake in Iran, 2003
Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, 2004
Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, 2005
Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, 2008
Sichuan earthquake in China, 2008
Chile earthquake, 2010
Haiti earthquake, 2010
Pakistan floods, 2010
3/11 Earthquake in Japan, 2011
Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, 2013
Bosnia and Herzegovina floods, 2014
Nepal earthquake, 2015
Ecuador earthquake, 2016
Puebla earthquake in Mexico, 2017
Cyclone Idai, 2019


The people of Twante in Yangon, Myanmar receive rice from Tzu Chi after Cyclone Nargis caused widespread devastation in the country. (Zhou Qin-xian)
(3) Overseas Tzu Chi offices work independently to carry out relief work in their countries of residence.

Examples:
Charitable work in Africa since 1992, including South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, and Zambia
Angke River cleanup project in Indonesia, 2002
Malaysia flood, 2015
Alberta wildfire in Canada, 2016
California wildfires in the US, 2018


Tzu Chi volunteers in Canada raise funds to help those affected by the wildfire in Alberta that forced nearly 90,000 people from their homes. (Huang Ya-rong)
(4) Tzu Chi works together with other international charity organizations to help people in need of aid.

Relief International:
Flood victims of Azerbaijan, 1999

Examples:
MDM (Médecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World):
War victims of Ethiopia, 1993 and 1998
War victims of Rwanda, 1994
War victims of Chechnya, 1995
Homeless children in Ivory Coast, 1996
■  Kosovar refugees, 1999

Knightsbridge International:
Quake survivors in Afghanistan, 1998
Kosovar refugees, 1999
Afghan refugees, 2001

Red Cross:
Poverty and disaster relief in Vietnam, since 1998
Izmit earthquake in Turkey, 1999
Colombia earthquake, 1999
9/11 attacks, 2001 (along with Salvation Army)
Hurricane Katrina, 2005 (along with FEMA)
Hurricane Sandy, 2012
California wildfires, 2016
Hurricane Harvey, 2017 (along with FEMA)

CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere):
Gujarat earthquake in India, 2001

Healey International Relief Foundation and Caritas Freetown Foundation:
Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, 2015-2016
Sierra Leone flood, 2017-2019


Volunteers from Tzu Chi, Caritas, and Healey International Relief Foundation give out clothing and shoes to children orphaned by the Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone. (Huang You-bin)

4. How does Tzu Chi usually conduct its international relief projects?

Tzu Chi’s international relief has been carried out in four ways:

(1) Tzu Chi works independently to carry out disaster or poverty relief work.

Examples:
Eastern China flood, 1991
Mongolia winter relief, 1992
Nepal flood, 1993
Cambodia flood and drought, 1994
Aid to Chinese veterans in Northern Thailand, since 1995

After Nepal was hit by severe flooding in 1993, Tzu Chi built a total of 1,800 permanent houses in four villages for those affected. (Tzu Chi Foundation)

As Tzu Chi has expanded globally, most of its international relief work is now carried out in the following three ways:

(2) Tzu Chi and its overseas offices work together to carry out disaster relief.

Examples:
El Salvador earthquake, 2001
Bam earthquake in Iran, 2003
Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, 2004
Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, 2005
Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, 2008
Sichuan earthquake in China, 2008
Chile earthquake, 2010
Haiti earthquake, 2010
Pakistan floods, 2010
3/11 Earthquake in Japan, 2011
Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, 2013
Bosnia and Herzegovina floods, 2014
Nepal earthquake, 2015
Ecuador earthquake, 2016
Puebla earthquake in Mexico, 2017
Cyclone Idai, 2019

The people of Twante in Yangon, Myanmar receive rice from Tzu Chi after Cyclone Nargis caused widespread devastation in the country. (Zhou Qin-xian)

(3) Overseas Tzu Chi offices work independently to carry out relief work in their countries of residence.

Examples:
Charitable work in Africa since 1992, including South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, and Zambia
Angke River cleanup project in Indonesia, 2002
Malaysia flood, 2015
Alberta wildfire in Canada, 2016
California wildfires in the US, 2018

Tzu Chi volunteers in Canada raise funds to help those affected by the wildfire in Alberta that forced nearly 90,000 people from their homes. (Huang Ya-rong)

(4) Tzu Chi works together with other international charity organizations to help people in need of aid.

Examples:

Relief International:
Flood victims of Azerbaijan, 1999

Relief International:
War victims of Ethiopia, 1993 and 1998
War victims of Rwanda, 1994
War victims of Chechnya, 1995
Homeless children in Ivory Coast, 1996
■ Kosovar refugees, 1999

Knightsbridge International:
Quake survivors in Afghanistan, 1998
Kosovar refugees, 1999
Afghan refugees, 2001

Red Cross:
Poverty and disaster relief in Vietnam, since 1998
Izmit earthquake in Turkey, 1999
Colombia earthquake, 1999
9/11 attacks, 2001 (along with Salvation Army)
Hurricane Katrina, 2005 (along with FEMA)
Hurricane Sandy, 2012
California wildfires, 2016
Hurricane Harvey, 2017 (along with FEMA)

CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere):
Gujarat earthquake in India, 2001

Healey International Relief Foundation and Caritas Freetown Foundation:
Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, 2015-2016
Sierra Leone flood, 2017-2019

Volunteers from Tzu Chi, Caritas, and Healey International Relief Foundation give out clothing and shoes to children orphaned by the Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone. (Huang You-bin)

5. What help does Tzu Chi offer to refugees around the world?

Since 1994, Tzu Chi has provided care and aid to refugees sheltered in 17 countries. For detailed information, please see the table below:

Host Country Refugees' Country of Origin Type of Aid
USA
since 1994
Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, Pakistan, Syria, Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Iran, Vietnam, Bosnia, Vietnam, Russia, Turkey, Bhutan

food

lodging

medical care

clothing

daily necessities

stationery

Thailand
(Northern Region)

1995-1997
China

permanent

housing

farming skills

schools & classrooms

tuition aid

financial aid

Thailand
(Bangkok)

since 2015
Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Syria, Somalia, Ethiopia

free clinics

medical subsidies

financial aid

Canada
since 1995
Iran, Mozambique, Sudan, Myanmar, Haiti, Iraq

clothing

cash cards

furniture

daily necessities

Jordan
since 1998
Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Chechnya, Syria

daily necessities

food

clothing

blankets

vouchers

financial aid

wheelchairs

free clinics

medical subsidies

tuition aid

stationery

Albania
1999
Kosovo

medicine

New Zealand
since 2001
Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Congo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Burundi, Eritrea, Somalia

daily necessities

clothing

blankets

home appliances

stationery

Australia
since 2003
Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sri Lanka, Congo, Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Rwanda

food

daily necessities

cash cards

blankets

free clinics

stationery

furniture

financial aid

medical subsidies

tuition aid

tutoring

Malaysia
since 2005
Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iran, India, Sudan

free clinics

hot meals

clothing

daily necessities

education centers

stationery

Turkey
since 2014
Syria, Afghanistan

supplies

monetary aid

free clinics

tuition aid

Indonesia
since 2015
Myanmar, Bangladesh, Afghanistan

free clinics

clothing

daily necessities

language classes

vocational training

Germany
since 2015
Syria, Africa, Afghanistan

clothing

food

daily necessities

second-hand

laptops

vouchers

German classes

Austria
since 2015
Middle East, Africa

hot meals

Serbia
since 2016
Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Iran

clothing

hot meals

second-hand

laptops

home appliances

daily necessities

stationery

Italy
since 2016
North Africa

clothing

Chile
since 2018
Venezuela

clothing

furniture

stationery

Mexico
since 2018
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala

daily necessities

food

blankets

portable beds

stationery

Brazil
since 2018
Venezuela

daily necessities

food

5. What help does Tzu Chi offer to refugees around the world?

Since 1994, Tzu Chi has provided care and aid to refugees sheltered in 17 countries. For detailed information, please see the table below:

Host Country Refugees' Country of Origin Type of Aid
USA
since 1994
Kosovo Rwanda
Sudan Pakistan
Syria Myanmar
Thailand
Afghanistan
Yugoslavia Haiti
Iran Bosnia
Vietnam Russia
Turkey Bhutan

food

lodging

medical care

clothing

daily

necessities

stationery

Thailand
(Northern
Region)

1995-1997
Kosovo

permanent

housing

farming skills

schools & classrooms

tuition aid

financial aid

Thailand
(Bangkok)

since 2015
Myanmar Pakistan
Palestine
Sri Lanka Vietnam
Syria Somalia
Ethiopia

free clinics

medical subsidies

financial aid

Canada
since 1995
Iran Mozambique
Sudan Myanmar
Haiti Iraq

clothing

cash cards

furniture

daily

necessities

Jordan
since 1998
Iraq Palestine
Afghanistan Iran
Pakistan Chechnya
Syria

daily

necessities

food

clothing

blankets

vouchers

financial aid

wheelchairs

free clinics

medical subsidies

tuition aid

stationery

Albania
1999
Kosovo

medicine

New Zealand
since 2001
Iraq
Pakistan
Afghanistan
Uganda Rwanda
Ethiopia Congo
Myanmar Sri Lanka
Bhutan Burundi
Eritrea Somalia

daily

necessities

clothing

blankets

home

applicances

stationery

Australia
since 1994
Afghanistan Iraq
Pakistan Syria
Sri Lanka Congo
Russia Ukraine
Cambodia Rwanda

food

daily

necessities

cash cards

free clinics

blankets

stationery

furniture

financial aid

medical subsidies

tuition aid

tutoring

Malaysia
since 2005
Afghanistan
Myanmar Syria
Yemen
Iraq
Pakistan Somalia
Sri Lanka Palestine
Iran
India
Sudan

free clinics

hot meals

clothing

daily

necessities

education centers

stationery

Turkey
since 2014
Syria Afghanistan

supplies

monetary aid

free clinics

tuition aid

Indonesia
since 2015
Myanmar
Bangladesh
Afghanistan

free clinics

clothing

daily

necessities

language classes

vocational

training

Germany
since 2015
Syria
Africa
Afghanistan

food

clothing

daily

necessities

vouchers

German classes

second-hand
laptos

Austria
since 2015
Middle East
Africa

hot meals

Serbia
since 2016
Syria
Afghanistan
Pakistan
Palestine
Iraq
Iran

clothing

hot meals

daily

necessities

home

appliances

stationery

second-hand
laptos

Italy
since 2016
North Africa

clothing

Chile
since 2018
Venezuela

clothing

furniture

stationery

Mexico
since 2018
Honduras
El Salvador
Guatemala

daily

necessities

food

blankets

stationery

portable beds

Brazil
since 2018
Venezuela

daily

necessities

food

6. What does Tzu Chi do to help countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

As of November 2020, Tzu Chi has provided the following relief supplies to 86 countries and regions affected by the pandemic:

7. What is Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work relief program?

When a disaster strikes, Tzu Chi will pay those affected and work hand-in-hand with them to clean up their own communities and other disaster areas. As a form of relief, this program not only brings hope to disaster survivors by allowing them to rebuild their lives with the money they earn, but also helps the affected areas recover sooner as a result of collective effort.

The people of Tatalon in Quezon City, Philippines take part in Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work programs to clean up their own homes after torrential rain caused flooding in many parts of the country. (Lineth Brondial)

7. What is Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work relief program?

When a disaster strikes, Tzu Chi will pay those affected and work hand-in-hand with them to clean up their own communities and other disaster areas. As a form of relief, this program not only brings hope to disaster survivors by allowing them to rebuild their lives with the money they earn, but also helps the affected areas recover sooner as a result of collective effort.

The people of Tatalon in Quezon City, Philippines take part in Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work programs to clean up their own homes after torrential rain caused flooding in many parts of the country. (Lineth Brondial)

8. How does Tzu Chi help disaster survivors, especially those who are impoverished to begin with, start life anew?

Apart from providing emergency relief to people in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or building temporary or permanent housing for them, Tzu Chi will further look at ways to help disaster survivors living in poverty become self-reliant.

For example, after constructing a village for Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palo of Leyte Province in the Philippines, Tzu Chi volunteers have been guiding the villagers to grow vegetables, bake bread, make vegetarian meal sets, and sew handbags to make a living. The volunteers also purchase used tricycles and loan them to the villagers interest-free so they can work as tricycle taxi drivers to support their families.

In Palo of Leyte Province in the Philippines, survivors of Typhoon Yolanda learn how to sew and make handbags to help support their families. (Li Xin-jun)

Tzu Chi volunteers purchase used motor tricycles for Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palo, Leyte Province, Philippines so they can make a living as tricycle taxi drivers. (Cai Juan-hua)

8. How does Tzu Chi help disaster survivors, especially those who are impoverished to begin with, start life anew?

Apart from providing emergency relief to people in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or building temporary or permanent housing for them, Tzu Chi will further look at ways to help disaster survivors living in poverty become self-reliant.

Tzu Chi volunteers purchase used motor tricycles for Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palo, Leyte Province, Philippines so they can make a living as tricycle taxi drivers. (Cai Juan-hua)

For example, after constructing a village for Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palo of Leyte Province in the Philippines, Tzu Chi volunteers have been guiding the villagers to grow vegetables, bake bread, make vegetarian meal sets, and sew handbags to make a living. The volunteers also purchase used tricycles and loan them to the villagers interest-free so they can work as tricycle taxi drivers to support their families.

In Palo of Leyte Province in the Philippines, survivors of Typhoon Yolanda learn how to sew and make handbags to help support their families. (Li Xin-jun)

9. What is TIHAA?

TIHAA, or Tzu Chi International Humanitarian Aid Association, was founded in 2003 by a group of entrepreneurs from various industries in Taiwan to provide logistical support to Tzu Chi’s disaster relief efforts and to develop goods for use in times of disaster.

For example, as disaster areas often lack electricity, TIHAA has worked with Tzu Chi's monastic practitioners to develop instant rice that can be prepared just by adding cold water. It has also developed technologies to process recycled plastic bottles into fiber, which is then made into blankets and clothing to be given out to the needy and disaster survivors.

Tzu Chi’s instant rice comes in many flavors and is a convenience food for Tzu Chi volunteers during their relief missions. (Wu Bi-hua)

These thermal blankets to be given out to students in need at a school in Thailand are made from recycled PET bottles. (Kang Ya-feng)

9. What is TIHAA?

TIHAA, or Tzu Chi International Humanitarian Aid Association, was founded in 2003 by a group of entrepreneurs from various industries in Taiwan to provide logistical support to Tzu Chi’s disaster relief efforts and to develop goods for use in times of disaster.

These thermal blankets to be given out to students in need at a school in Thailand are made from recycled PET bottles. (Kang Ya-feng)

For example, as disaster areas often lack electricity, TIHAA has worked with Tzu Chi's monastic practitioners to develop instant rice that can be prepared just by adding cold water. It has also developed technologies to process recycled plastic bottles into fiber, which is then made into blankets and clothing to be given out to the needy and disaster survivors.

Tzu Chi’s instant rice comes in many flavors and is a convenience food for Tzu Chi volunteers during their relief missions. (Wu Bi-hua)

10. What devices has Tzu Chi designed or innovated for the sake of its disaster relief efforts?

To carry out relief timely and effectively in times of crisis or disaster, Tzu Chi has innovated several devices with the help of Taiwan’s industrial technology experts as well as Tzu Chi volunteers and staff:

1. All-terrain vehicle

2. Mobile kitchen

3. Mobile water purification system

4. Gasifier stove and biomass fuel

5. Temporary housing and classroom

6. Solar street light

7. Portable bed

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