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A Book Donation Inspires a Relay of Love From California to Mexico

Tzu Chi Elementary School, Walnut  |  May 12, 2021
Tzu Chi Elementary School in Walnut, CA, assists with re-organizing textbooks to be donated to students in Mexico, while also creating personalized greeting cards. Photo/Video Screenshot

Written by Pheel Wang 
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Diana Chang, Adriana DiBenedetto

Amid educational reforms, Tzu Chi Elementary School in Walnut, CA, is moving forth with new textbooks. But with more than 600 previous editions on hand and in excellent condition, Tzu Chi had decided to donate the books to a school in Mexico that volunteers hold close within their hearts.  

In September of 2017, a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake had shocked the country, causing extensive damage in the states of Puebla and Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. Tzu Chi mobilized quickly, conducting an assessment mission, organizing large-scale disaster relief distributions, holding medical outreach events, and launching a Cash-For-Relief program.

After Tzu Chi’s initial aid and medical outreach, relief volunteers asked the community of Jojutla directly how best they could continue to help. The community expressed their sincere hopes for the revitalization of education, and therefore, Tzu Chi’s long-term relief began with the rebuilding of a school in Jojutla — Morelos Institute

With translation and communication, along with assistance from a shipping company, these books have now successfully reached their destination.

The textbooks retired by the U.S. Department of Education provide an impetus for volunteers brainstorming on how to extend the life of these books. Photo/Video Screenshot

A Medium of Knowledge

Amy Liu, a second-grader at Tzu Chi Elementary School in Walnut, drew a tree with books as sprouting leaves along with bilingual phrases to convey her love and well-wishes. Offering their own artistic flair as well was Amy’s classmate, Katrina Zhang. With the heart of a painter, Katrina splashed all kinds of vibrant hues upon the card to lift one’s spirit. “I hand-made this card to send to students in Mexico,” explained Katrina.  

Tzu Chi’s educational team, along with the school’s student representatives, spent approximately two months carefully sorting out the textbooks — the shipment’s combined weight measuring up to 400 lbs. Enclosed within the shipment of textbooks were these heartfelt greetings crafted by students at Tzu Chi Elementary School. 

“Because of the education reform initiated by the U.S. government, we still have a batch of textbooks that cannot be used anymore,” said Judy Chuck, the Deputy Director of Tzu Chi USA’s  Education Foundation. Her team actively brainstormed new ideas on how to extend the life of these books.

“Judy took me to the basement where filled bookshelves lined the whole length of the wall,” said Gina Shih, a librarian. This immediately reminded her of Morelos. “My calling as a librarian tells me, as a medium of knowledge, a book should continue to play its role as intended. If not here, then it shall go where it still can find its value. Let’s donate them. And Martin Kuo, a coordinator for rebuilding the school in Mexico concurred because, for the hardware of a school to make sense, there’s a need for software of which a book is the equivalent.” With their minds thus made up, these books began their journey.

Tzu Chi volunteers pack up books to be delivered to Mexico. Photo/Video Screenshot

California, Denmark, and Mexico

Across time zones, volunteers work together to facilitate the book donation process. Photo/Video Screenshot
The owner of the shipping company arrives before dawn at the Education Foundation’s campus in Walnut to pick up the books. Photo/Video Screenshot

Martin Kuo contacted Sara Kao, a Spanish-speaking Tzu Chi volunteer living in Denmark to discuss the idea as well. Soon after, Sara assisted with translation virtually to discuss the donation with Sister Marta, the president of Morelos Institute in Jojutla. Sister Marta was very happy to hear about the textbook donation.

Martin was very grateful, too, because as soon as he wished for it, “The owner of a trucking company responded. And he immediately came the same night and picked up the books from the campus; a total of 21 cases with 642 textbooks.” On the following day, a Saturday, he started driving before daybreak, crossing the border via San Diego, and helped in customs, too. By noontime, his truck had arrived at a religious institution in Tijuana, and the church transferred them onto its own transport vehicle which carried the textbooks to Jojutla.

Morelos Institute receives the donated textbooks from Tzu Chi’s elementary school in Walnut, California. Photo/Video Screenshot
Morelos Institute is delighted to receive Tzu Chi’s donation of certified textbooks. Photo/video screenshot

Thank you for the textbooks, and we hope to read them upon the school finishing construction.

Marco Polo Palacios, Student

Many thanks for the textbooks Tzu Chi donated to our school. It was very generous! And I hope to meet you someday.

Maria Celeste Hernandez, Student

Despite the continued pandemic, with everybody pitching in, the relay of love and compassion continues, unhindered by distance. 

A student named Mark expresses gratitude for the textbook donation. Photo/video screenshot
In response to the greeting cards from Tzu Chi Elementary School students, Mark and Maria draw a picture to show their appreciation. Photo/video screenshot

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