By South of France Relief Team (Originally in French)
Responding to Supreme Master Ching Hai’s compassionate request to bring warmth and comfort to the homeless during the cold winter of 2012-2013, members of our Association from the south of France visited four cities in the country to distribute warm gloves, hats, pants, socks, long underwear, floor mats, sleeping bags and blankets to individuals in need who were staying in shelters or on the streets. Supreme Master Ching Hai graciously provided €10,000 for this relief work. Our Association members contributed an additional €772.
The following is a report from our Association’s south of France relief team:
“In the city of Montpellier, we contacted an overnight shelter of the Red Cross. At first, the team leader explained that normally they don’t give clothes to homeless people, but prefer to let them purchase (at a reduced price) what they need in a special shop. After we explained the purpose of our efforts, she understood the sincerity of our motive and helped us organize a distribution activity for about 30 people. That night, the team leader came several times to ask us about Supreme Master Ching Hai and seemed particularly interested in the Quan Yin Method of meditation. During the distribution effort, one Muslim man looked lovingly at the cover of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s book “From Crisis to Peace -The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer” and said, ‘Each of us has to build peace, because it’s within us!’
After we left the shelter, we continued the distribution project in the city center of Montpellier. There we met a group of young homeless individuals who happily welcomed us by saying, ‘Today, it’s Christmas!’ Then two men who did not know each other asked for gloves. As it was particularly cold that night, they immediately put them on and proceeded to give each other a hearty handshake.
A few streets away, we saw a group of people whose dog companions looked at us with loving gazes as we gave the items we had brought to their delighted caregivers. One of the dogs was full of joy when he received a small blanket.
The following day, we met a middle-aged Czech gentleman who had a disability at the Montpellier train station. As he shared his story, we saw that he was in great need of warm clothes. His face brightened up like that of a happy child when he received clothes and a sleeping bag, and he was overjoyed after one or our Association members repaired his walker handle, which had been hurting his hand.
In Toulouse we contacted the organization Restos du Cœur (Restaurants of Love), which offers more than 100 million meals each year to the homeless nationwide during the winter. With the group’s consent, we set up tables on a venue known to many homeless people. There we distributed sleeping bags and other items and also offered nutritious vegan meals. Many people were amazed by the tastiness of the food and especially enjoyed the cakes we provided for dessert. One dog was particularly happy and seemed to dance among the people after eating veggie treats.
That night, three young Albanian men arrived early and looked carefully at the display table. Once they chose a few items, they sincerely thanked Supreme Master Ching Hai and simultaneously gave Her a thumbs-up. The day after, we met the men again at the train station and they happily received the last sleeping bags we had on hand. We were particularly thankful for this perfect arrangement.
The same night, an elderly French gentleman who received a floor mat with a sleeping bag joined his hands, looked at Supreme Master Ching Hai’s picture with thankful eyes, and said, ‘Tonight, I’ll have a good sleep.’ Then a lady came and asked several questions about Supreme Master Ching Hai and the Quan Yin Method. She stayed all evening beside the table, enjoying the cakes and reading the copy of “From Crisis to Peace” she had received.
After a careful look at all the items displayed, a middle-aged man said with a joyful voice, ‘Now I understand—you’re Santa Claus!’
Known as France’s oldest city, Marseille is also the country’s second largest urban center, with a population over 850,000. After our arrival there we contacted the Foundation of the Salvation Army, which manages one of the area’s large overnight shelters. After speaking with the assistant director, we learned that the best way to distribute the warm gloves, hats, pants, socks, long underwear, and warm blankets we had would be to gift wrap them, with each resident receiving one item. We also, prepared presents for the staff members and asked the assistant director to thank them for their noble work.
That night, we followed a van of the SAMU (Emergency Medical Assistance Service) Social, which drives around Marseille and helps the homeless find shelter. The SAMU Social staff brought us to many places where homeless individuals were staying. Many were in great need of warm floor mats and sleeping bags and were grateful to receive the items. SAMU Social wrote a letter expressing the organization’s gratitude to Supreme Master Ching Hai for Her generosity toward the vulnerable. Before leaving Marseille, we visited two day centers for people in need and brought them bags of items they most required. The two-week distribution effort in the south of France ended in Béziers, where we delivered sleeping bags and blankets to the city’s SAMU Social branch, and to an overnight shelter.
After returning home, simple actions such as turning on the heater, opening the fridge and drinking a glass of water seemed so luxurious that we shed tears of gratitude for everything we had. Our sincere appreciation goes to the Red Cross, Restos du Cœur, the Foundation of the Salvation Army, and SAMU (Emergency Medical Assistance Service) Social for their assistance throughout the distribution activity. With deep gratitude for Supreme Master Ching Hai’s caring arrangement of this winter relief activity, we sincerely wish that hunger and suffering will cease to exist on our planet as humanity evolves toward love and wisdom.”
Expenditures by Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Warm Clothes and Blankets Distributed to Homeless in South of France
|Montpellier||Blankets, sleeping bags, floor mats, long underwear, gloves, socks, fleece||2,213.25||A|
|Toulouse||Blankets, sleeping bags, floor mats, long underwear, gloves, socks, fleece||1,339.11||B|
|Marseille||Blankets, sleeping bags, floor mats, long underwear, gloves, socks, fleece||5,434.21||C|
|Béziers||Blankets, sleeping bags, floor mats, long underwear, gloves, socks, fleece||1,290.46||D|
|Transportation (train, gasoline and hotel)||495.38||E|
Throughout the relief operation, the team members paid for their own transportation, food and accommodation.