Tzu Chi’s involvement with the San Bernardino community began over 16years ago when sibling volunteers, Mr. and Ms. Liao, started passing out flyers about Tzu Chi in their neighborhood. Their actions drew some skepticism and questions at the time from many local vendors and residents and they were even questioned by the local policemen. That relationship has changed since then and Tzu Chi has been serving the neighborhood for the last 16 years, becoming a part of the community. What has been constant are Tzu Chi volunteers’ dedication and determination to contribute to the community, which is the driving force behind the free clinic events. As Tzu Chi and the county of San Bernardino host another free clinic event on their 16th anniversary, this article is dedicated to Mr. and Ms. Liao to honor their contributions in paving the road for the many volunteers that followed.
On the morning of May 23rd, well before 7 am, local residents began waiting in line in front of Riley Elementary School for the free clinic event. Tzu Chi volunteers also began setting up the facility inside the school. Two of the volunteers, siblings Cai Chao-Hui and Cai Su-Xian, took pictures of the desks that were being used. When asked why they needed to take pictures of the desks, they explained that the pictures will help them return everything back to its original place after the event.
One of the patients was an 11-year-old girl named Diana. She came with her mom Leticia and her sister Ana. It was their second time at the free clinic event. The doctor asked if her skin condition had improved since her treatment last December. Her mother said the medicine helped her skin rash and she has been able to focus and study better. Leticia also said that her husband wanted to come to the free clinic too but was not able to take time off work. Diana held her mom and said that when she grows up, she wants to be a doctor so she can help others. The mother and daughters were moved by the story of Master Cheng Yen and decided to take home a bamboo bank to collect donations.
A couple who immigrated from Shanghai also waited in line for a dental appointment. They drove 40 minutes from the city of Victorville and were surprised to see the huge turnout for the event. They also decided to take home a bamboo bank and were really glad to have learned more about Tzu Chi through conversations with the Tzu Chi volunteers on site. They especially liked Master Cheng Yen’s idea of turning Buddhist beliefs into community service actions and were inspired by Master’s dedication and love for the last 40-plus years.
Oliver, a 10-year-old patient, pointed at a portrait of Master Cheng Yen and asked, “Who is she?” After learning about the founder of Tzu Chi, he insisted on taking a picture with the portrait and was very happy to have been able to do so.
The event concluded around 2 pm with 137 people having received services. A total of 46 Tzu Chi volunteers, six high school volunteers, 32 medical personnel, and 19 Spanish-speakering volunteers participated in the event. 34 bamboo banks were taken home by local residents and the next free clinic will be held on August 15, 2011, at Lytal Creek Elementary School.