Over the first weekend of May, BGR team members held their annual general meeting on Saturday, May 2, followed the next day by a board meeting to select projects for our next fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Both meetings took place in the Woo Ju Memorial Library of Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York. Team members came from across the US, including Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington State. Others from California and Florida joined via the internet.
At the board meeting on May 3, the board approved twenty-two projects for partnership grants in the next fiscal year, at a total cost of $375,000. Several projects are renewals of repeated annual projects, while others are new. In addition to our long-term partners, we also established several new partnerships. Projects approved include several multi-year programs, which allow for the pursuit of bolder goals than is possible with one-year projects.
In addition to the regular projects, the board also agreed to provide two further emergency donations for relief work in Nepal: $2,000 to Karuna Shechen and $2,000 to the Tzuchi Foundation. Both are Buddhist-inspired relief organizations working to provide care to victims of the April 26 earthquake. These donations are in addition to the $10,000 emergency relief BGR provided immediately after the earthquake, which was divided evenly among five organizations: UNICEF, CARE, Direct Relief, Oxfam America, and the International Medical Corps.
This is the first of a five-part series of posts giving brief summaries of the BGR projects approved at the meeting. Projects are arranged alphabetically by country. International projects precede the U.S. projects, which will be described in the final post. Thanks are due to Kim Behan, BGR Executive Director; Patti Price, Chair of the Projects Committee; and Jessie Benjamin, Charles Elliott, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ, who helped prepare the material used in this series of posts.
1. Bangladesh: Making Markets Work for Women
Our partner in this project, Helen Keller International (established 1915), works in 22 countries to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged through programs in vision, health, and nutrition. BGR will enter the third year of a three-year partnership with HKI on a program in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) called “Making Markets Work for Women.” In CHT, women are mainly responsible for agricultural production. The program teaches extremely poor women how to effectively utilize communal plots. It builds agricultural skills such as pest management, organic fertilizer use, and intercropping, as well as food processing techniques. It will also establish community marketing groups so participants can work together to process and sell products, helping to combat discrimination at local markets. Courtyard sessions focus on topics of gender and nutrition for men and women, including feeding practices for children from birth to 2 years of age. The project will improve food security for 75 households (375 individuals) across five villages, additional to those already being served in the first two years of the project. Year three of a three-year project.
2. Bangladesh: Educating Children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Our project partner, Moanoghar, was founded in 1974 by a group of Buddhist monks to provide shelter to children of the Chittagong Hill Tracts affected by conflict or living in remote areas. There are currently more than 1,250 children sheltered at Moanoghar, approximately 40% of them girls. Many of the children were left homeless or orphaned as the result of a decades-long ethnic conflict. All children at Moanoghar receive free or highly subsidized education. This will be the third year of a three-year project to establish a sustainable educational system that can generate income to support the institution and the children being schooled there. The BGR grant will provide continued educational stipends for food and educational expenses for students and enable the planting of fruit trees and crops. Year three of a three-year project.
3. Bangladesh: Food Support for School of Orphans NEW
Our partner, the Bangladesh Buddhist Missionary Society, was founded in 1977 by Ven. Jivanananda Mahathera, a Buddhist monk who has dedicated his life to the service of suffering humanity. BBMS is a non-sectarian, non-communal, non-governmental organization officially registered in Bangladesh in 1979. Its purpose is to dispense humanitarian services especially to helpless orphans, distressed widows, and other indigent men and women. The Orphan’s Home Complex is located at Betagi in the rural Chittagong Hills region, near the Karnaphuli River. The number of orphans has increased, food prices have risen, and government grants are not adequate to the need. This BGR grant will provide a six month’s food supply for 54 orphans at the school.
4. Bangladesh: Educating Ethnic Buddhist Minority Girls NEW
The Jamyang Foundation (founded 1988) supports innovative education projects for indigenous girls and women in two of the neediest and most remote parts of the world: the Indian Himalayas and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. These projects foster women’s learning potential in ways that are harmonious with their unique Buddhist cultural backgrounds. About 275 girls are currently enrolled in their schools. This BGR project will fund a school lunch program at Yashodhara Girls’ School in the the Marma community, located in Ruma Village, Bandarban, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. There are 106 students, all female, enrolled in the school; all are from the ethnic Buddhist minority. These girls live in substandard conditions with poor food, yet are happy to be there because it is a good opportunity for them to gain an education. The grant will cover the costs of cooking equipment, a cook for one year, and school lunches.