Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Buddhist disaster relief organization is donating a whopping $10 million to Superstorm Sandy victims in New York City, in the form of Visa debit cards.
City Comptroller John Liu announced the plan Sunday outside P.S. 277 in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, with representatives of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and other religious organizations.
The Tzu Chi Foundation, considered one of the most effective aid organizations in Asia, raised the money from contributors from around the world. Most eligible families will get cards preloaded with $600, which can be used to buy everything from food to baby diapers, or to fix broken electrical systems. The volunteers have also distributed food and blankets as well as hot meals and hygiene kits.
“The words ‘Tzu Chi’ mean ‘Compassionate Relief’ in Mandarin and that’s exactly what we hope our aid will bring New Yorkers in their time of greatest need,” George Chang, Executive Director, Buddhist Tzu Chi Northeast Region, said in a release.
Comptroller Liu called the contributions and volunteer work of so many caring people and religious organizations the “one bright spot amid the darkness caused by Superstorm Sandy.”
“This unprecedented cash gift will go a long way toward helping families affected by the storm, just in time for Thanksgiving,” Liu said. “Our thanks go to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation for its generosity and kindness, and to the donors around the world who are extending their support and friendship to New Yorkers in this time of need.”
The $10 million cash gift is believed to be one of the largest of its kind by a company or nonprofit group to New Yorkers affected by the storm. Monica Montoya, manager of disaster partnerships for the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross works side-by-side with Tzu Chi.
Prominent religious leaders praised Tzu Chi. “It is most gratifying to know that the faith communities are first responders in times of crisis. We may have different beliefs, but we also see each other as one family,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis and leader of Congregation Mount Sinai synagogue in Brooklyn Heights.
“When people of faith and goodwill cross international and religious boundaries to help alleviate suffering, we all have something to be truly thankful for. All New Yorkers – but especially those among us whose lives have been most devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy – are blessed by the Tzu Chi Foundation’s generosity this Thanksgiving,” said the Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, the Interfaith Center of New York.
“Serving God’s creation is like serving God himself,” said Vikram Deonarain, President of N.Y. Hindu Milan Mandir in Richmond Hill, Queens.
Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus, Executive Director of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush praised Comptroller Liu for coordinating city agencies and volunteers with the Tzu Chi organization.
Tzu Chi was founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun, in 1966. According to Wikipedia, Cheng Yen was moved to act after observing poverty and lack of services in mountainous Hualien, and decided to set up a charity organization. The endeavor began as a group of thirty housewives who set aside a small amount of their grocery money each day to care for needy families. The group has grown to become a major civil society, with approximately 10 million members and chapters in 47 countries. Organized in the United States as a 501c3, it is a United Nations non-governmental organization and has a working relationship with the American Red Cross.