Honduras was hit by floods in September 2018, and in the following month, Tzu Chi volunteers in the Central American country conducted an emergency food relief distribution that benefitted 5,092 households affected by the disaster. At the end of December, the volunteers reassessed the needs of the residents and distributed cash relief to 5,038 households.
Going the extra mile
A group of local volunteers who received their volunteer certification in Taiwan towards the end of the year immediately devoted themselves into preparing for the cash relief distribution upon returning to their home country.
On 23rd December 2018, many of those who were entitled to the cash relief were seen queuing up before 7am, although the distribution would not start until later in the morning at 10am.
The event, which was held at an activity centre in Monjaras Village, was carried out in an orderly manner. The aid recipients from five villages were divided into five queues to receive their cash relief. However, there were long delays when Tzu Chi volunteers tried to withdraw the aid money from the bank. Thus, the distribution event lasted from 11am to 7pm as there were thousands of households receiving the aid.
Three volunteer representatives from each village were tasked to withdraw the money as soon as the bank started operating. However, each branch of the bank had only a limited amount of cash, so the amount that could be withdrawn was only sufficient for slightly more than a thousand households. The branch manager even nervously requested everyone to stop withdrawing money on that day.
Those villagers who failed to receive the money were disappointed to hear that they had to come back again the following day. The next day, Tzu Chi volunteers went to another bank in Choluteca to withdraw money, but there was still a maximum cap as to how much a person was able to withdraw.
Due to local security issues, the banks in Honduras have tight security regulations in place to prevent robberies. The volunteers were also extra cautious about safety and took precautions by withdrawing money from different banks over a span of five days, with many volunteers tagging along to help ensure safety. There was also army patrol during each of the cash distribution events.
Pray for Honduras
At every Tzu Chi disaster relief distribution, the aid beneficiaries must bring along their identity card and personally collect the aid themselves. However, if they were sick or hospitalised, they would still be able to receive their aid from someone who was collecting the aid on their behalf if that person could provide proof of their identity.
However, some elderly and sick villagers still insisted on collecting the money by themselves. One of them was 85-year-old Rosa, who arrived in a wheelchair. The old lady started crying when veteran Tzu Chi volunteer Zhang Hong Cai personally passed the cash aid to her. Many of those present were touched by the moving sight.
There was another frail elderly woman who personally came to collect her aid and expressed her thanks to the volunteers. Unfortunately, she passed away the following day, and the unexpected news saddened many of the volunteers.
Coincidentally, on the last day of the aid distribution event, a local newspaper published an article about how throngs of Honduran residents were travelling across Guatemala and Mexico to cross the border into the United States. They underwent the long and arduous journey with the hope of making a living for survival, and the number of such migrants keeps increasing……. It truly pains us to witness the pain and suffering of these people. We piously pray for a world free from disasters, and for the people of Honduras to have a better tomorrow.