Amid an ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Melbourne, capital of the Australian state of Victoria, the Buddhist charitable organization Tzu Chi Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure crucial PPE supplies continue to be available throughout the pandemic.
Since 1 April, Tzu Chi Australia has supplied in excess of 41,000 protective masks, 1,300 medical gowns, and some 400 face shields to seven hospitals and eight care facilities for the elderly in and around Australia’s second-most populous city.
At the time of writing on 14 August, Australia had reported a total of 22,742 confirmed COVID-19 infections, with 375 deaths so far recorded and 13,001 recovered. The majority of these cases were recorded in the state of Victoria, which has reported 16,234 infections and 289 deaths.
The Today news website cited Tzu Chi volunteer Wayne Cockerall as saying that many healthcare workers had been emotionally overwhelmed to receive the urgently needed PPE supplies from Tzu Chi amd almost constant shortgages. “The lady at the Northern Hospital when we turned out 20 boxes worth of face masks she was so emotional she was nearly in tears,” Cockerall was quoted as saying. (Today)
Doctors have reportedly been in touch with Tzu Chi throughout the pandemic, seeking help and supplies when government assistance has fallen short.
The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Republic of China, better known as the Tzu Chi Foundation, was founded in Taiwan in 1966 by the Buddhist nun and Dharma teacher Master Cheng Yen. With a focus on “putting compassion into action,” the Tzu Chi Foundation is a UN-accredited NGO with some 10 million supporters and 432 offices worldwide across 51 countries. Tzu Chi Foundation Australia has six offices, and undertakes regular activities in the fields of humanitarian aid, medical care, education, and environmental sustainability.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Tzu Chi Australia continues to source PPE donations internally from supporters around the world, as well as the general public. Tzu Chi volunteer Mei Cockerall noted: “Yes, [the healthcare workers] are still in need of it so what we are going to do is make further contact to see whether they need more and how we are going to deliver it to them.” (Today)
In response to the impact of the pandemic, Tzu Chi Australia has also established an emergency relief fund to provide financial support for vulnerable individuals and families who are not eligible for government assistance. Tzu Chi Australia has extended the application period for the relief to 31 October 2020.
As a global icon of socially engaged Buddhism, Master Cheng Yen has expressed a deeply held belief that all people are capable of manifesting the same great compassion as the Buddha, noting that true compassion is not simply feeling sympathy for the suffering of others, but is found in reaching out to relieve suffering with concrete action.
Master Cheng Yen is affectionately known in Taiwan as one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Buddhism, the others being Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain; Master Hsing Yun, founder of Fo Guang Shan; and Master Wei Chueh, founder of Chung Tai Shan. These four global Buddhist orders, correspondingly known as the “Four Great Mountains,” are among the most influential Chinese Buddhist organizations in the world.
At the time of writing, total global confirmed COVID-19 infections were reported to have reached 20.9 million, with 755,612 deaths so far recorded and almost 13 million recovered.* The World Health Organization in March estimated the mortality rate from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, at 3–4 per cent, based on incomplete and preliminary data, with the elderly and people with underlying health conditions considered most at risk. More recent data suggests that the mortality rate may be significantly lower, however studies are inconclusive due to variations in COVID-19 testing procedures in different countries, and differing methodologies for classifying and reporting COVID-19 as a cause of death.
* COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)
Melbourne healthcare workers relying on charity groups for PPE (Today)
Tzu Chi Australia (Facebook)
Tzu Chi Australia