by BGR Staff
At the BGR board’s annual projects meeting on May 7, the board approved 28 projects for partnership grants in the next fiscal year, at a total cost of $480,000. Most are renewals of repeated annual projects, while others are new. In addition to our long-term partners, we also formed new partnerships. Several project applications that did not arrive in time for the meeting will be considered later. Besides our grants, the BGR board voted to donate $20,000 to the World Food Program to provide food relief to four countries afflicted by near-famine conditions: Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen.
This is the first of a multi-part series of posts giving brief summaries of the BGR projects approved at the meeting. Projects are arranged alphabetically by country. Thanks are due to Kim Behan, BGR Director of Programs; Patti Price, Chair of the Projects Committee; David Braughton, Vice Chair; Chot Elliott, Board member; Ayya Santussika, Board member; Tom Spies, ED; and Jessie Benjamin, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ, who helped prepare the material used in this series of posts.
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1. Bangladesh: Food Support for School of Orphans
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 provide humanitarian assistance to the needy, especially orphans and widows. The Orphan’s Home Complex is located at Betagi in the rural Chittagong Hills region, near the Karnaphuli River. This year’s BGR grant to the Orphans Home Complex will help to feed 54 children for 12 months. Annually renewable project
2. Bangladesh: Educating Ethnic Buddhist Minority Girls
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. For the second year, BGR will be sponsoring Jamyang’s School Lunches for Marma Girls in Bangladesh, a project to support the nutritional requirements of 121 students studying at Visakha Girls’ School in the remote village of Dhoshri and the surrounding villages. Because Dhoshri is so hard to reach, the parents and village elders never dreamed that their children would be able to study. The goal of the School Lunches for Marma Girls in Bangladesh is to provide healthy food at least once a day for the 121 girls who are now receiving schooling at Visakha Girls’ School. The objective is to help the girls maintain good health, so they don’t miss classes and can sustain their concentration. Whereas earlier the students were so malnourished that they had trouble concentrating and often dropped out, they are now healthy and happy and are able to focus on their lessons. Their parents are glad that their daughters get a good lunch at the school and are encouraged to send their other girls to study. Annually renewable project
3. Bangladesh: A Permanent Dormitory for Boy Students 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 805 residential children at Moanoghar, 55% boys and 45% girls. Many of these children have lost one or both parents in the decades-long conflict that plagued this backward part of Bangladesh, a poor region in an extremely poor country. While the girl students have a permanent dormitory, the dorms for boy students are built with bamboos and wood poles and are all more than 15 years old. These are temporary structures that require constant repair and maintenance. To help solve this problem, BGR is sponsoring the construction of a boys hostel—a three-story building, to be called Shanti Bhavan (House of Peace), that will house 120 boy students in total. Each floor will be able to accommodate 40 boys. The BGR grant for the first year (September 2016 to August 2017) sponsored the construction of the foundation and the ground floor. Work is currently in progress. It is expected that this stage will be completed by August 2017. The second phase is the construction of the first floor of the building, to be started in September 2017. It is expected that the first floor will be completed by February 2018. Second year of a three-year project
4. Burma (via Thailand): Supporting the Education of Children of Backpack Medics over the Thai Border NEW PARTNER
This will be BGR’s first project in partnership with the Burma Humanitarian Mission (BHM), a U.S.-registered 501(c)3 organization based in Utah. BHM supports community-based backpack medics who administer village healthcare services in Burma (Myanmar), grass-roots education projects that empower youth, and projects that promote cross-cultural sharing and collaboration for refugees from Burma living in the U.S. On account of Burmese military attacks upon ethnic minorities, over 450,000 villagers in Burma are internally displaced, sheltered in the jungle. The result is a horrific health crisis among the minorities. 135 infants out of 1,000 do not survive their first month. Malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia are the leading causes of death. In response, the Burma Humanitarian Mission teamed up with Backpack Health Worker Teams (BPHWT) to provide mobile medical care to isolated villages and internally displaced person camps. The backpack medics are recruited from the people and villages they will serve.
For security purposes, the families of the medics live over the border in Mae Sot, Thailand, where they are safe from the violence in Burma. This project, in collaboration with BHM, funds education for the medics’ children—56 children in 2017. The school is located in Mae Sot. Thirty-one students are children of medics working in Burma’s conflict zones, 25 are children of backpack medics who staff the office in Mae Sot. The students will attend an established migrant “school” known as the Child Development Center (CDC). There are 19 students in the 4th grade and below and 37 students in the 5th grade through 12th grade. Eight children 4 years of age and younger will receive day care. Classes start in June and continue through May of the following year. Without this program, these students would have no educational opportunity.
The BGR grant will fund the students’ tuition, food budget, uniforms, and school materials. BPHWT purchases school supplies locally in Mae Sot and pays the tuition to the CDC school. Students attend classes throughout the year. After their final year, students take the exit exam (also known as the matriculation exam).
5. Cambodia: Food Scholarships for Girls to Stay in School
Lotus Outreach, a trusted BGR partner since 2009, is dedicated to ensuring the education, health, and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world, especially in Cambodia. The long-standing BGR-Lotus Outreach partnership provides rice support to primary, secondary, and tertiary students receiving scholarships via the GATE and CATALYST programs (see below). The GATE program provides educational scholarships to girls pursuing primary and secondary education. CATALYST builds on this by supporting girls who have graduated high school and are pursuing higher education at universities and vocational training institutes across Cambodia.
Rice support is a critical feature of both programs. The provision of food aid, in the form of dry rice, will ensure that the girls will not be distracted from their studies by the uncertainty of where their next meal is going to come from. Moreover, the students’ families will also be provided with rice support. For the rural poor of Cambodia, nutritional sustenance makes up a substantial portion of the family budget, and eliminating or greatly minimizing that cost is a major contribution. With the financial and nutritional impact of their daughter’s absence mitigated, their parents become much more receptive to the long-term investment of education. In turn, the parents place far less pressure upon the student to dropout of school to return home to help with household duties or go to work.
With BGR’s funding, Lotus Outreach plans to provide food aid on a monthly basis to students currently enrolled in both GATE and CATALYST, and also to their families. The food aid will have a positive impact on 109 families and 428 individuals. Annually renewable project
6. Cambodia: Catalyzing the Potential of Girls at the Margins
Lotus Outreach’s Cambodian Tertiary Education and Leadership Youth Training (CATALYST) program evolved out of LO’s GATEways program, which provided qualified graduates of GATE with university scholarships and related assistance. During the upcoming academic year, CATALYST will provide services to sixteen young women: three already enrolled in a nursing program, and an additional thirteen newly enrolled university students who graduated high school through GATE last year. Food aid, in the form of 15 kg dry rice, will be provided (under the previous program) to every girl to ensure they have enough food. CATALYST will cover their school supplies, including textbooks and all necessary writing materials, computer training, and special language tuition (in French and English). All housing and school funding is provided as needed before the start of the new school year in September. Additionally, monthly stipends will be provided to the girls to support their cost of living.
By facilitating access to higher education, the program activates the social and economic potential of those at the margins. Young women who gain experience and job qualification through CATALYST attain security, self-sufficiency, and fulfillment. In so doing, they also raise themselves up as role models for future generations, and combat damaging class and gender norms on a societal level. Annually renewable project
7. Cambodia: Rice Intensification and Training in Agro-Ecology
The project, with long-term BGR partner Rachana, will help ensure sustainable communities in Koh Andeth in Takeo province (southern Cambodia) through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), vegetable and cash crops cultivation, installation of household-level water harvesting techniques, fund-saving in groups, and educating secondary school students in the creation of innovative vegetable gardens through agro-ecology—the application of ecological principles to the design, development, and management of sustainable agricultural systems. The project will build the capacity of poor and vulnerable families for climate change resilience and disaster risk reduction, improving food security.
This year’s project will establish twelve demonstration fields for SRI and vegetable/cash crops. It will engage 180 farmers (117 of them women) in the SRI demonstration fields and 120 farmers (78 women) in the vegetable/cash crop demonstration fields; it will also provide educational study trips for farmers to other SRI fields (150 people) and vegetable/cash crop fields (150 people) for instruction on these adaptive techniques. The project will train 300 secondary school students (195 women) in establishing innovative vegetable gardens through agro-ecology techniques and create three vegetable gardens in secondary schools, with follow-up at these locations. Annually renewable project