By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Twice over the past several months, BGR made emergency donations of $10,000 to the World Food Programme to help address the humanitarian crises in four countries—South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen—all of which are suffering from severe food shortages bordering on famine. Stephen O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has called this “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.” More than 20 million people across the above four countries face starvation and famine.
The World Food Programme, a United Nations agency, is the world’s largest body tackling hunger around the globe. Last year WFP assisted 76.7 million people in 81 countries with nutritional aid and related forms of assistance. They have been consistently effective in delivering aid to the four countries tottering on the brink of famine.
World Food Program USA builds support and resources for the UN’s World Food Programme. Shortly after we submitted our donations, Zeenia Irani, Major Gifts Officer of WFP-USA, wrote to thank us and asked if we would be available for an in-person meeting in New York City. We replied positively and fixed the meeting for June 27th. On Tuesday afternoon BGR Board member Sylvie Sun and I met Erin Cochran, WFP-USA’s Vice President of Communications, and Zeenia for tea at the Roosevelt Hotel in mid-town Manhattan.
We were deeply honored by the invitation and touched to know that the two women came up from Washington especially for this meeting. Over tea we had a wide-ranging conversation that touched on many topics: my experiences living as a monk in Sri Lanka, the monastic practice of alms round, the origins of Buddhist Global Relief, the values that inspire and sustain us, the effectiveness of school meals for poor children, simple methods of curtailing food waste (namely, plastic silos for storing grain), and the need for the international community to collaborate in combating global hunger. I also invited them to visit Chuang Yen Monastery, where I live, on their next visit to New York.
Today I received a message from Zeenia:
It was an absolute pleasure meeting you in person yesterday. Thank you for sharing with Erin and me your commitment to making the world a better place as well as some of your values – “kindness, love, life, beauty, health and happiness.” The meeting was truly inspirational.