by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Last May, at its annual projects meeting, the Board of Buddhist Global Relief approved a grant of $7,000 to a new partner, the Shambala Foundation, a Hong Kong-based organization working in rural China (unrelated to the American Buddhist network of Shambhala meditation centers). The purpose of the grant was to cover the costs of books, clothes, shoes, and school supplies for orphans and poor children between the ages of 10 and 16 from Qinghai Province in western China.
These children are already participating in the Shambala Foundation’s flagship program, Orphanage Without Walls (OWW), a long-term partnership with 650 rural children and their families. 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.
One of the main reasons poor children in rural China drop out of school is the high cost of education relative to income. Though compulsory education is meant to be free, poor families frequently have to borrow money to pay for food, uniforms, and other miscellaneous fees. Girls are more at risk of dropping out early, since nomadic and agricultural families prefer girls stay home to help with household work. Children who grow up without one or both parents are particularly at risk of dropping out because they have lost one or both income earners in their households.
Of the children benefiting from the BGR grant to Orphans Without Walls, 66 percent are girls and 94 percent are ethnic minorities. Most have lost one or both parents, or have been abandoned, and all are living at or below the UN poverty line. To date, halfway through the implementation of the project, Shambala has bought and packaged all books, clothes, shoes and school supplies for a hundred children. Sixty of them are covered by the BGR grant.
Shambala has contacted and selected all children for the project and their staff are still visiting each family to distribute the packages. At the same time they are running a financial literacy project for each family. They are also offering training to guardians on how to support their child in individual study at home. This increases the impact of the offerings of books, clothes, shoes and school supplies. They expect to complete the project by March 2015, and express their thanks to Buddhist Global Relief for providing these important supplies.
The following photographs, provided to BGR by the Shambala Foundation, capture the impact of the project. The lucky children proudly show off their new clothes, which will enable them to attend school.