Tzu Chi Richmond Chapter and Buddhist Compassion Relief

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 28 February 2013.

Phone: 804-360-5091


Tzu Chi is a major Buddhist charitable organization in Taiwan, staffing hospitals and free clinics, offering educational programs, and providing direct relief to people in areas affected by war and natural disasters. They also have a substantial American presence, and the Richmond Chapter is one of many local branch organizations. Tzu Chi's presence in Richmond goes back to the beginning of 2002, when members from the New Jersey chapter began holding regular activities in Richmond. This included training local members until they were deemed ready to launch their own chapter of Tzu Chi. This finally occured in February of 2003.

Activities and Schedule

The Richmond Tzu Chi Chapter maintains a very busy schedule. Every Wednesday they provide Microsoft Office training at a local women's shelter, and every Thursday they do Meals on Wheels. On the third Thursday of the month, they also distribute food at Richmond's First Ministry Emergency Shelter, and they serve every other month at a local men's shelter. They periodically bring children to local nursing homes in order to cheer up the residents. On Thanksgiving and Christmas they donate hats to the shelters so that residents can stay warm. They are also involved in setting up a bone marrow donors registry. Members have gone on international relief missions, such as a trip to Guatemala where they built classrooms and a community center. There are also two internal meetings each month. Both are held at the suburban home of Tammy Hsieh, who acts as the primary coordinator of the group. One meeting is geared toward relative newcomers, the other involves more intense study and discussion of Buddhism, as well as some yoga activities.


In Taiwan, Tzu Chi has about 75% female membership, and women occupy most leadership positions. Its leader is Cheng-yen, an internationally known Buddhist nun. In America, most members are Chinese-American, especially Taiwanese, and women outnumber men. These general demographics hold true for the Richmond chapter, which is all Chinese-American and has more female members than males. Those men who do participate are in many cases the relatives of women who joined the Tzu Chi chapter before them. Tzu Chi provides women with a place to work, build supportive networks, and embody the Buddhist emphasis on selfless giving. At the same time, its focus on caregiving activities traditionally assigned to women in Chinese society does not revolutionize gender relations, whether in Taiwan or America. In both countries it is an example of the middle path women have developed in Buddhism to steer themselves between the juggernauts of 21st century modernity and traditional idealized Chinese femininity. The group has 52 current members, of which 15-20 are considered core members who participate in activities regularly. Most members are aged 30-60. Richmond Tzu Chi gains members through word of mouth, and also advertises at a local Chinese grocery store. There is some overlap with the Ekoji Buddhist temple in downtown Richmond--several members also attend the Pure Land group that meets there.