Media recorded by Su Jen Li, Charlene Lin, Yuan-Lin Lam
Translated by Qingjun Wei (from Chinese)
Edited by Natasha Palance
For more than two decades, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) has been hosting quarterly free medical outreach clinics at the Golden Valley High School in Bakersfield, California. Throughout this time, the TIMA Los Angeles team has established thriving relationships with residents, many of which are retired medical workers. Inspired by Tzu Chi’s compassion, numerous local volunteers have joined the Tzu Chi team to help expand program reach and transform the lives of underprivileged residents within the community.
The Golden State of California ranks high on the national list for average income. Silicon Valley, located in the Southern region of San Francisco, is a leading technology and finance center in the US, and has become a great influence on the world’s economy. Nevertheless, Bakersfield, an agricultural city situated in central California, continues to fall behind as one of the top five cities with the highest poverty rates in the country.
Recognition Within the Community
Bakersfield resident and aid recipient Antonia shares her story of how Tzu Chi’s medical assistance helped to restore her quality of life. Due to financial constraints, Antonia is unable to afford medical coverage. Before meeting Tzu Chi, Antonia would seek medical assistance from alternative outreach programs available within her community. However, this care is limited and is often unable to provide proper medications and services for ensuring healthy well-being in patients. In search of quality and compassionate care, Antonia turned to the open arms of Tzu Chi for help.
Despite facing financial difficulties and high medical bills, Antonia, her son and her daughter-in-law bring bamboo banks filled with donations back to Tzu Chi routinely every three months during free medical clinics. “I receive help from [Tzu Chi]; at the same time I try my best to help others. This makes me happy,” Antonia explained.
Tzu Chi’s dedication to the provision of long-term medical services to the Bakersfield community won Tzu Chi a well-deserved, positive reputation among locals. For over 20 years Bakersfield residents have known Tzu Chi for its free quality medical services, and universal love delivered from hearts around the world — like donations from Antonia and her family that make this work possible.
A Call For Empowerment: Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Tzu Chi volunteer Dr. Berlinda Lin hopes to expand Tzu Chi’s compassionate impact on the Bakersfield community by bringing more local residents onto the volunteer team.
Dr. Lin helps to advocate for more local volunteers by sharing the Tzu Chi medical outreach mission and its values with younger generations during clinics. By cultivating compassion and educating on the importance of social impact in local youth, Dr. Lin hopes these young volunteers will carry on the Tzu Chi mission into the future.
As a Los Angeles native, it takes her three hours to drive north to Bakersfield for each clinic. While she is humbled to dedicate her time to the program, the distance makes it difficult for her to be present for every scheduled clinic. By sharing her passion for the continuation and growth of the program, Dr. Lin hopes more residents will be encouraged to join in the provision of this vital service to the community.
Another volunteer in the medical outreach program, Vincent Chen, demonstrates the Tzu Chi importance of intercultural recognition in global relief efforts. Despite English not being his native language, Vincent has been able to successfully communicate with aid recipients for four and a half years to date — and counting. Compassion and love are truly universal languages.
With a sincere heart, Tzu Chi volunteers continue hosting free medical clinics for underprivileged families in Bakersfield. Residents have been so touched by Tzu Chi’s contributions to the community and dedication to providing quality medical services that upon invitation from Tzu Chi volunteers like Dr. Lin and Vincent Chen, many locals have eagerly registered to become members of the Tzu Chi team. “I believe as long as you put in the effort, you can be a Tzu Chi volunteer no matter what you do,” Tzu Chi Volunteer Vincent Chen said.