Over 100 care packages were handed out last Saturday at the Garapan Central Park Roundhouse by volunteer group Friends of CWs for foreign workers in the CNMI who remain unemployed or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The packages included rice, canned goods, butane canisters, noodles, fruits, produce, and eggs.
The main sponsor for this batch of care packages is Masako Ono, wife of the Japanese consul to Saipan, Kazuhiko Ono, who is also a volunteer for the Tzu Chi Foundation. Aside from sponsoring the care packages, Ono also spent hours at the roundhouse joining the volunteers handing out the packages.
“Due to the pandemic…a lot of people…lost their work and they are suffering so I want to help them,” Ono said. “I know that they are really in a hardship. It’s very painful for me. I want to do something for them so I donated and prepared food parcels. I also wanted to encourage them to care for their mental health so I chose wisdom words by master Cheng Yen, and hope they read it and treasure it in their hearts.”
Aside from helping CWs, Ono said the foundation also provided 12,000 masks for the man’amko, the hospital, schools, Guma Esperanza, and the Northern Marianas Technical Institute.
“The Tzu Chi Foundation was founded by a Buddhist nun, master Shih Cheng Yen, in 1966 and, since then, [the foundation] has been holding to our principle of doing grassroots effort to help the poor alleviate their suffering with concrete actions and educating the rich to do more good deeds,” she said, adding that the foundation is nearing its 55th anniversary and that they are happy that Saipan is part of the growing Tzu Chi family.
Beneficiaries of the care packages came early in the morning and expressed their appreciation to Ono and Friends of CW sponsors. One of them, Albert Bergancia, said the package is a great help, especially since many have lost their jobs.
One of the organizer of Friends of CWs, Irene Holl, said that a total of 138 care packages were handed out, 30 of which were given to Turkish workers shortly after the distribution at the Roundhouse.
“There are still people who need help. That’s why we’re still here. And there are still people like Masako who offer to help. Our job is to bring the sponsors and people in need together. Friends of CWs is just the arm,” Holl said. “We thank the sponsors, past sponsors, now, and the future sponsors. We’re still here, and we’re still accepting donations because there are still people who are in need. …So please help, we still need help.”
Holl also clarified that Friends of CWs only gives to foreign workers who have not gotten government assistance, have no Public Unemployment Assistance, and are without jobs, or at least have gotten furloughed or have had their work hours reduced.