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Tzu Chi Volunteers Join the Camp Fire Memorial in Paradise, California

On 8th February 2019, amid the wintry cold, Tzu Chi volunteers joined more than 700 residents in the town of Paradise, California, in a memorial service that commemorated the 85 victims of the Camp Fire, which devastated the town three months ago.

20190208 Camp Fire Memorial 1After the memorial service, the attendees viewed art works specially done by local elementary school students to cheer for the people of the town of Paradise. (Photo by Zhang Jin Bao)

Sign language of love and blessings

The Camp Fire Memorial, which was organised by the Chico Area Interfaith Council in Northern California, was hosted at the Paradise Performing Arts Center. This was the first major public event held at the center since its closure due to the fire disaster which ravaged the town on 8th November 2018.

20 Tzu Chi volunteers from Northern California joined over 700 members from various other civil groups and the local community in the memorial service to mourn for those who had lost their lives in the disaster and to give their sincere blessings for the rebuilding of the town of Paradise.    

The programme for the 1.5-hour event consisted of 24 items, which were put up by various religious groups, artistic performers, and members from the local community. These items included choir performances of gospel songs, a self-composed song (that commemorated the fire disaster and victims) accompanied by guitar, poetry readings, etc. A pastor recited some Bible verses and led everyone in prayers, and some family members of the fire victims went on stage to share stories of their loved ones who lost their lives. A group of seven Tzu Chi volunteers also presented a sign language and song performance titled, “Love and Care for All".  

Dressed in their blue cheongsams, the volunteers staged the sign language and song performance, with a video depicting Tzu Chi’s Camp Fire disaster relief efforts being played in the background. As the volunteers opened and closed their palms, which resembled the blossoming of lotus flowers, the audience was moved by the beautiful scene, and many of them joined in the singing to pray for all.   

In his speech, the CEO of Tzu Chi’s chapter in Northern California, Xie Ming Jin, highlighted the importance of “peace, harmony, unity, and family” and encouraged everyone to stand up bravely to rebuild their town together and to reunite their families.

20190208 Camp Fire Memorial 2Tzu Chi volunteers staging the sign language and song performance, “Love and Care for All” (Photo credit: Tzu Chi USA website)

Grateful for Tzu Chi’s care and support

After the memorial service ended, the audience made their way out of the performance hall. Many of them gave positive feedback on the heart-moving sign language and song performance when they met Tzu Chi volunteers outside. Some of the residents who had received Tzu Chi’s assistance embraced the volunteers happily like old friends.

12-year-old Leah Gleason shared that after watching the performance, “Love and Care for All”, she was really happy to know that many people were there to care for those affected by the fire disaster. She said that the volunteers’ performance truly depicted the love and warmth of people in the town of Paradise, and believed that there was still hope as everyone would work together to rebuild their homes. A little girl standing next to her added that Paradise would stay strong, and that the townsfolk would be able to overcome all the challenges as they recovered from the disaster.

Three months after the devastating Camp Fire disaster, the residents, who were forced to evacuate from their homes, had reunited on this day to cheer one another on as they embarked on the journey to rebuild their town. The timely help and assistance from others gave them hope to keep moving forward and lighted up their path of recovery.

20190208 Camp Fire Memorial 3(Photo credit: Tzu Chi USA website)

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