In 1977, Typhoon Thelma inflicted serious damage on southern Taiwan. Tzu Chi volunteers overcame many hardships to provide disaster relief.
Overcoming Hardships and Providing Disaster Relief after Typhoon Thelma
August 2, 1977
Tzu Chi volunteers fundraised to help the impoverished survivors of Typhoon Thelma in southern Taiwan and Typhoon Vera in northern Taiwan.
September 17, 1977
Tzu Chi volunteers provided care for the impoverished survivors of Typhoon Thelma in southern Taiwan and Typhoon Vera in northern Taiwan. Master Cheng Yen traveled north and called a meeting to discuss emergency relief arrangements and the criteria for distributions.
August 5, 1977
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 130
Tzu Chi is calling on people from all communities to support typhoon disaster relief for the impoverished survivors in southern and northern Taiwan. We urge people everywhere to give a helping hand and donate to help relieve the difficulties of the impoverished survivors.
Typhoon Thelma swept through southern Taiwan on July 25, and Typhoon Vera hit northern Taiwan on July 31, both causing severe damage. Out of deep concern, Master Cheng Yen and all commissioners have decided to launch nationwide fundraising efforts to help the impoverished survivors. After the disaster of Typhoon Thelma on July 25, Master Cheng Yen immediately made a long-distance call to Kaohsiung commissioner Tu Maoxing to ask about the calamity. Commissioner Tu wrote to the Kaohsiung government, social department, and regional administrative offices in each region to ask for their help in compiling a list of the affected households and the details on the damage.
After Typhoon Vera devastated northern Taiwan on July 31, Tzu Chi dispatched local commissioners to assess the situation of the impoverished communities affected by the disaster.
These two typhoons have caused total devastation, and the impoverished communities affected by the disasters are most in need of sympathy. They were already experiencing financial difficulties, and now the typhoon has exacerbated their situation. We hope people everywhere can come together to help and relieve the hardships they are experiencing in terms of shelter, food, and clothing.
Tzu Chi’s mission is to help those in difficult situations, and we have therefore launched a nationwide fundraising effort to relieve the impoverished disaster survivors’ difficulties with warmth and compassion.
September 5, 1977
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 131
All communities across Taiwan have responded enthusiastically with donations to help the disaster survivors of the typhoons in southern and northern Taiwan. By the end of last month, NT$500,000 had already been raised. Master Cheng Yen led commissioners to assess the disaster area.
To help the disaster survivors of Typhoon Thelma and Typhoon Vera, in addition to collecting donations throughout the country, Master Cheng Yen personally led many commissioners to the most severely disaster-stricken areas in Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and others to make an on-site assessment of which impoverished households in the community most need help.
These commissioners set out to conduct these on-site assessments on August 24 and returned to association headquarters on the August 30.
Master Cheng Yen led Master Wu Jian, Hualien commissioner Jing Tzu, Taipei commissioners Jing Ming, Chen Meizhu, Hu Yuzhu, Jing Hui, Jing Yu, Li Shuwei, Mrs. Ma, and Chen Meixue (Jing Ming’s daughter), and Taitung commissioners Principal Wang Tianding, teachers Ms. Chen and Ms. Huang, and others to the Kaohsiung-Pingtung area. After they arrived, they joined Pingtung commissioner Chen Rongqing and Kaohsiung commissioners Tu Maoxing and Xie Xiuru (Jing Yin), splitting into three groups to carry out the assessments. For four days and four nights, everyone endured the scorching sun and heat, setting out at 8 a.m., not taking any breaks at noon, eating simple bento meals, and not returning to Yuantong Temple (Changzhi Township, Pingtung County) until 8 p.m. Then, they held meetings in which every team made updates on their assessments and everyone engaged in discussion until midnight, when they went to bed. Every day was like this. The people who participated not only gave their strength but also their money, as everyone paid their own transportation fees.
Pingtung commissioner Chen Rongqing, who was already on a busy schedule, set his work aside to first compile the disaster survivors’ information, which was extremely helpful to the onsite assessments. Commissioner Tu Maoxing carefully examined the data on the Kaohsiung disaster survivors and forwarded it to the Abode within days.
After the assessments, the initial count of impoverished disaster survivors in Xiaogang District, Kaohsiung County was eighteen households, or a total of fifty-two people. As for Pingtung County, in Wandan Township, there were eighty-eight disaster survivors in twenty-seven households; Xinyuan Township had eighteen people in nine households; Donggang Township had thirty people in eleven households; Changzhi Township had thirty people in eight households; Yanpu Township had twenty-six people in six households; Jiuru Township had fourteen people in five households; Linluo had seventeen people in four households; and Ligang Township had one person in one household. In total, there were eighty-nine households with a total of 277 people.
At the commissioner meeting on the seventh of this month (twenty-fourth day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar), Tzu Chi will discuss how to provide disaster relief.
October 5, 1977
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 132
Our typhoon disaster relief work has successfully concluded, and the affected households we helped are sincerely grateful. We raised over NT$718,000 in donations, and there are still fifty-two households to whom we will continue to provide long-term care. The association volunteers wish to express gratitude to all kindhearted people.
Tzu Chi collected donations throughout the country to help relieve disaster survivors of Typhoon Thelma and Typhoon Vera. The work has now successfully concluded. In total, the number of disaster survivors who received help includes 144 households and 493 people.
People from every part of the country donated, and we received NT$718,290.90 in total. Of this amount, NT$415,100 was distributed (of the cash distributed, NT$285,500 was distributed in Kaohsiung; NT$98,600 in Keelung City; an additional NT$6,000 for purchasing forty boxes of vegetarian noodles, and NT$25,000 for purchasing 100 cotton quilts). The remaining NT$303,190.90 is reserved as an emergency relief fund. On one hand, fifty-two households among the disaster survivors will need long-term care. Therefore, from now on, the need for long-term relief funds will rapidly increase.
Of these fifty-two households, twenty-six are from Pingtung, eight from Kaohsiung, and eighteen from Keelung City.
In providing disaster relief to affected households, we mainly focused on the impoverished survivors to help them in their time of need. The households who received help are extremely grateful for Master Cheng Yen and volunteers, and for the kindness of people everywhere.
In addition to Master Cheng Yen who lead Taipei commissioners (as reported in the previous issue), and local commissioners who carried out disaster assessment work, Keelung area’s assessment work was done by the head Taipei commissioner Chen Meizhu, together with commissioners Yang Yuxue, Hu Yuzhu, Jing Ming, Jing Yu, Jing Song, Jing Tuo, Mei Xue, and others. They went to Keelung City. Jing Yu’s husband, Chen Fucai, contacted Mr. Liang Shaohua of Keelung City Police Bureau’s Department of General Affairs first to ask Mr. Huang Bingnan from the city’s Department of Social Affairs to contact the administrative staff of every district office, including Ren’ai District’s Pan Ying, Qidu District’s Chen Yan, Nuannuan District’s Xu Liang, Zhongzheng District’s Tu Tianbin, Xinyi District’s Chen Yaogeng, Anle District’s Xiao Wantu, and Zhongshan District’s Li Wenlong, about carrying out the work. Everyone very enthusiastically helped. The majority of disaster survivors lived in the mountains, but the staff did not mind the hard work and spent four days finishing the assessment.
On September 17, Master Cheng Yen travelled to Taipei in person and held a meeting at the house of the head commissioner of Taipei, Chen Meizhu, to discuss the details for emergency relief and distribution criteria. On the September 19, Master Cheng Yen went to Keelung City government office to thank the officers who helped in the assessment of disaster survivors and disaster relief work.
On September 24, the cash and material distribution at the Keelung City government office was carried out by Chen Meizhu and other commissioners, and every disaster survivor who received the distributions expressed their sincerest gratitude before leaving.
Keelung City still has eighteen affected households who will receive long-term care from Tzu Chi. On the 26th of every month of the lunar calendar, Taipei commissioners will distribute cash and rice at Keelung City’s Department of Social Affairs.
Master Cheng Yen personally attended the cash and material distribution in the Kaohsiung-Pingtung areas. The Kaohsiung distribution for affected households was held on September 24 at Guanyin Temple in Xiaogang District, and the Pingtung distribution for affected households was held on September 25 at Dong Shan Temple. Aid recipients in both regions expressed their gratitude.
Tzu Chi was founded on the mission of others by providing support, warmth, and relief to those in need of compassion. The Typhoon Thelma and Typhoon Vera disaster relief efforts were also implemented based on this principle. After mobilizing to collect donations, we had enthusiastic responses from Dharma masters and monastics from temples all over the country. In less than two months, we received donations of more than NT$718,000. This was the result of everyone exercising their loving-kindness and compassion. There were also Tzu Chi commissioners who dedicated themselves while overcoming countless difficulties. Master Cheng Yen expressed that she was touched and grateful.
The many commissioners who went to areas in Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and Keelung areas to assess the disaster situation and hold distributions all paid their own travel expenses. Sometimes, when they saw disaster survivors in need of compassion in the disaster areas, they also provided their own money to help them. Such a spirit is truly admirable!
January 23–25, 2004
The Footprints of Master Cheng Yen
Thinking back to more than twenty years ago, almost thirty years ago, Taiwan experienced a typhoon named Typhoon Thelma. Typhoon Thelma caused a great devastation in southern Taiwan. The wind broke utility poles in half. They broke very neatly; the entire pole did not fall. It was very strange, as if rows of utility poles were cut by a knife. They were all made of cement, but they all broke cleanly, like a knife had sliced through them. It was a very strange typhoon.
Many houses were also damaged. At the time, Tzu Chi was not a big organization. We were still unknown to the public, but we did our best, and eagerly came together to help. Back then, I personally led Tzu Chi volunteers from Hualien and Taipei, and was personally there in Pingtung. Many houses were damaged. We provided disaster relief in Kaohsiung and Pingtung.