An international non-profit organization founded by a Buddhist nun is providing relief to survivors of recent United States disasters, including the Blue Cut fire in Southern California that has forced more than 82,000 to evacuate their homes and the flooding in Louisiana that has killed more than a dozen people.
"Whenever there is a disaster that happens … we will try our best to help," Curtis Hsing, supervisor of emergency disaster services of Buddhist Tzi Chi Foundation, told NBC News.
Tzu Chi is preparing to deploy volunteers to both the fire in California and the flood in Louisiana once the sites are deemed safe enough. Once volunteers are cleared to go, they are slated to conduct intakes to determine how much damage has been done.
"We are a secondary relief team. After the disaster scene is safe, we work with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and government agencies to give financial and emotional support. We work with individual families to find out how much is damaged and what will be their special needs so we can form a team to help those families," Hsing said.
Other ways Hsing said Tzu Chi will be able to help is by providing hot meals, clothing, and "miracle blankets," which are created from repurposed plastic bottles from Taiwan, where the organization was founded.
The organization said it is also currently providing relief to those affected in the Clayton fire in Northern California, which burned nearly 4,000 acres. In June, it provided approximately $95,000 in financial support and helped more than 200 families affected in a fire in Santa Clarita, California that burned nearly 30,000 acres, it said. The organization also said it provided about $360,000 in relief toward a West Virginia flood in June that damaged more than 1,000 homes and helped about a dozen families that were affected in a Washington, D.C. gas explosion last week.
This year alone, Tzu Chi has responded to 27 disasters, they said, and provided more than $840,000 in financial support to more than 2,100 families, not including those affected by the Blue Cut fire or Louisiana flood.
Tzu Chi has been in the United States for 27 years and has an estimated 20,000 volunteers, Hsing said. The organization was founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan. It is active in more than 90 countries and has 10 million volunteers worldwide, according to its website. The organization originally aimed to help the poor, but today has expanded its mission to cover areas including bone marrow donor registration, disaster relief, education, environmental protection, and medicine.