Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
3. Cambodia: System of Rice Intensification
Rachana is a Cambodian organization dedicated to improving the socio-economic well-being of poor and vulnerable communities in Cambodia. Rachana promotes the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an ecologically sensitive agricultural methodology that increases yields of rice from an average of 2 tons to 4.75 tons per hectare. BGR has already partnered with Rachana over the past three years in spreading the use of SRI, with highly favorable results. The program has enabled farmers to feed their own families better and obtain a surplus to sell on the market. As a result, SRI has substantially boosted family incomes. The annually renewable program will promote SRI in eight villages, five old ones and three new ones.
4. Cambodia: Giving Girls Access to Education
Since 2009, BGR has been partnering with U.S.-based Lotus Outreach International in support of its life-transforming Girls Access To Education (GATE) program, intended to ensure that girls remain in school. In Cambodia the education of girls is considered unnecessary, but LOI and BGR promote a new perspective. To encourage families to keep their girls in school, Lotus Outreach provides 50 kg of rice monthly during the school year to the families of poor girls in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey. Students enrolled in the GATE program are more likely to stay in school, lowering their likelihood of returning to exploitative labor. In 2013, 90% of GATE scholarship recipients passed their exams and advanced to the next level.
With support from BGR, Lotus Outreach has extended rice support to GATE graduates who enroll in college or university programs. These graduates, who have risen up from poverty to enter university, are called GATEways scholars. The grant from BGR will provide rice support to 52 impoverished families of the poorest girls in the GATE program and to 89 university students enrolled in the GATEways scholarship program. With continued scholarship support, these young women will rank among the exclusive 1% of Cambodia’s female population to receive a college education. An annually renewable program.
5. Cambodia: Helping Women Escape the Sex Trade
Driven by desperate poverty, with no other opportunities in sight, many girls in Cambodia find themselves compelled to turn to the sex trade to support themselves and their families. Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program offers these women and their children a light in the dark. By teaching them basic literacy, health education, life skills, and vocational training, the program helps young women escape exploitation while discovering their own strength, self-worth, and competency. The renewed grant from BGR will provide non-formal education, vocational training, and life skills to approximately 30 sex workers and their children. Daughters of sex workers receive scholarship packages so they can return to school. Many of these women and children will learn to read and write for the first time in their lives. An annually renewable program.
6. China: Orphans Without Walls NEW
In the rural mountainous areas of China with minority populations, 25–40 percent of students drop out before completing nine years of compulsory education. These children will not be able to enroll in high school and have no chance of entering university. Girls are more at risk of dropping out early, as nomadic and agricultural families prefer girls to stay home to help with household work. Children who grow up without one or both parents are especially at risk of dropping out .
The Hong Kong-based Shambala Foundation (unrelated to the U.S. Shambala centers), founded in 2006, is seeking to redress this problem in the western province of Qinghai with its Children of Shambala Qinghai (CoS Qinghai) programs. In 2010 CoS Qinghai began implementing a long-term poverty-alleviation program called Orphanage Without Walls (OWW). One of the main reasons poor children in backward areas drop out is the high cost of continuing in school. Even compulsory education, which is meant to be free, is costly for poor families owing to incidental fees. If students are able to attend academic high school or vocational school the cost per student becomes prohibitive for poor families.
With a grant from BGR, Shambala Foundation will provide a new set of clothes, shoes, school supplies, and child-friendly books directly to 60 children. These subsidies reduce each family’s burden of paying for their child’s education-related costs. The overall goal is for each child to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Shambala Foundation works with each child so they can attend school for as long as possible and eventually find their first paid jobs.
7. Côte d’Ivoire: Enhanced Homestead Food Production
Last year, BGR entered into a partnership with Helen Keller International on a three-year expansion of its innovative Enhanced Homestead Food Production program in Côte d’Ivoire’s Bouaké District (Gbèkè Region), an especially poor district where families struggle with food security and lack access to food markets. Teams teach the Enhanced Homestead Food Production model to community gardening groups comprised mostly of women.
The project is designed to increase the availability and quantity of micronutrient-rich vegetables. A key component of the program is growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a food rich in micronutrients, especially vitamin A, essential to preventing blindness. The project improves gardening practices, irrigation systems, and income generation. It also provides instruction in nutrition and hygiene to young mothers. Women farmers learn marketing strategies for selling their crops. Successful small-scale irrigation systems will be applied not only to programs in Côte d’Ivoire but throughout the region, especially to areas vulnerable to climate change. Year two of a three-year program.
(To be continued)