Category Archives: Engaged Buddhism

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 4

By BGR Staff

16. India: Nutritional Support for Garden of Peace School
NEW PARTNER

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White Lotus Trust, an affiliate of Lotus Outreach, is a grass roots level organization in India working toward the development of a common school system, seeking to ensure the Right To Quality Education, especially in government schools. The Trust runs a holistic educational program called Garden of Peace, which provides students with the traditional primary school curriculum, English and Tamil courses, training in meditation and in philosophies of non-violence. The program supplies the students with school uniforms, books and other materials, transportation, and nutritional support twice a day. All of these services are critical to the holistic enrichment of the students’ lives and the long-term sustainability of their educational commitment. The nutritional component is at the program’s core, especially considering that the facilities are situated on an organic farm. The students and their parents are involved in farm activities, helping to grow a portion of the food served to the students. The school serves morning and midday meals to all students, which creates a further incentive for the support of the children’s continued education.

The grant from BGR will cover nutritional support for 174 students and assorted staff members for an entire academic year. This funding will facilitate Garden of Peace’s holistic educational and wellness objectives.  The grant will go toward the purchase of food items for direct nutritional support for the students. This includes rice, ragi (finger millet), gur (a sugarcane product), vegetables, cereals, oil and spices, and other items for the provision of two meals daily for the students and assorted staff members.

17. Jamaica & Haiti: Nutritious Morning Meals for Young Children

The Trees That Feed Foundation was founded in 2008 and is currently run by two Jamaican natives, Mike and Mary McLaughlin. TTFF has worked in the Caribbean for over eight years and maintains an intimate working knowledge of the people, economies, and agricultural sectors of both Jamaica and Haiti. In Latin America and the Caribbean more than seven million children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which has a far-reaching negative impact on health and cognitive development. To address these challenges, TTFF has partnered with BGR on a school-feeding project in Haiti and Jamaica that provides children in both countries with nutritious, locally-sourced morning meals at their local schools. These meals will be produced by local small businesses. In addition to alleviating hunger, this model encourages a gradual increase in availability and accessibility of nutritious food within communities and a gradual decrease in reliance on continuous charitable food donations.

The key objectives of this project are: (1) to alleviate hunger, (2) to provide nutritious food for children in need, and (3) to build economic opportunity so communities can become self -sufficient. This project will provide approximately 36,000 meals to young schoolchildren at ten schools within Haiti and Jamaica. Each of the ten schools will be able to provide a breakfast meal to three classrooms of 30 children, about three times per week, for a full semester. This project will dovetail with other separately funded TTFF programs that help to build local markets for nutrient-rich food. Annually renewable project

18. Kenya: Improving Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition

Over half of Kenya’s population lives in poverty. Undernourishment is prevalent among children, affecting roughly 41% of children. It is a leading contributor to an infant mortality rate of close to 5%.  Kenya’s poor nutrition outcomes are the result of a complex interaction of factors. Poor health-seeking behaviors among pregnant women and caregivers of children exacerbate the problem. As a result, undernourished children and mothers are not identified and proven preventative treatments, such as vitamin A and iron folate supplementation and deworming medication, do not reach those who need them most.

BGR’s partner, Helen Keller International (HKI), is currently working in five counties in Western Kenya (Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans-Nzoya and West Pokot) to improve access, delivery, and utilization of essential nutrition-related services within a framework of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) programs. Kakamega County, which is densely populated with more than 1.6 million people and a poverty rate of over 50%, requires additional support if it is to succeed in improving health and nutrition outcomes for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable women and children. The grant from BGR, the second in a three-year project, extends the current HKI health and nutrition interventions in Kakamega County to address the crisis of infant and childhood mortality. The grant from BGR sustains the program in its entirety.

With this grant, HKI is working with the Ministry of Health and Action Against Hunger to design and deliver proven programs to reach mothers, infants, and children in need of assistance.  The project  will improve delivery of nutrition health services, as well as offer access and training at the community level.  HKI also works with the Kakamega County Health Management Team to assess and act on the results of a baseline survey they are designing and implementing. The program will have a direct beneficiary impact on 255,000 children and adults and an indirect benefit on an additional 380,000 community members. Second year of a three-year project

19. Kenya & Malawi: Grow Biointensive Sustainable Mini Farming for Improved Food Security and Nutrition

Our partner, Ecology Action of the Midpeninsulafounded in 1971 and based in California, disseminates the GROW BIOINTENSIVE system of agriculture worldwide through publications, classes, workshops, internships, apprenticeships, and outreach programs. GROW BIOINTENSIVE improves agricultural productivity and soil building methods, using less land area and water in degraded areas. Using this methodology, Ecology Action has helped start sustainable agriculture projects in Mexico, Russia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, providing solutions to the challenges confronting small farmers.

Drought conditions in Kenya and Malawi are worsening and were  recently declared a national disaster by Kenya’s President.  With support from BGR, Ecology Action will provide training in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE system to farmers in Malawi and Kenya, partnering with the Grow Biointensive Agricultural Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK). In Malawi, women  who are the primary victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis—and more specifically widows—are among the worst affected and most marginalized sectors in the country. Ephraim and Charity Chirwa train primarily widows and woman farmers at the Mbowe farm and in villages near Mzuzu city. The team also trains men, although in smaller numbers. Children of all ages assist their families in the production of food and are a critical part of the farming community.

Kenya’s Red Cross says 2.7 million people face starvation if more help is not provided. GROW BIOINTENSIVE is one of the few solutions available to the smallholder farmer in Kenya. It is reported that the G-BIACK mini-farm is one of the few properties in the area that is green and producing food successfully. In Kenya the G-BIACK team has started working in three new communities, Ngorongo, Maragua and Mangu B. They are aiming to train 200 farmers in each of these communities in 2017–18.

20. Nicaragua: Educational Sponsorship of Girls

BGR’s partner, the North Country Mission of Hope, is a spiritually-based humanitarian organization committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships with the people of Nicaragua. The organization is registered in the U.S. as a 501(c)3 and in Nicaragua as an NGO. Working with local community leaders, the Mission’s primary objective is to empower the people to help themselves.

The education of poor girls is a major aim of the Mission. In Nicaragua families with limited financial resources choose to send their sons rather than their daughters to school. This leaves another generation of young females uneducated and at increased risk of rape and childhood pregnancy. Mission of Hope aims to break the cycle of poverty by sponsoring the education of as many girls as financially possible. In partnership with Mission of Hope, BGR is sponsoring the education of 112 girls, including six who are attending university.

With BGR sponsorship, each student receives coverage of tuition and/or registration fees; the schoolbooks appropriate for their grade level; an insignia, which every student must have sewn on their school shirt; and the government-mandated school uniform, along with black shoes and white socks. Additionally, each student will receive bi-annual parasite medicine treatment and a free physical at the medical clinic located on the Mission of Hope compound in Chiquilistagua. Tutoring is available for girls who need additional assistance.  The goal is to encourage and empower the girls to complete their high school education and aspire to either vocational or university level.  Annually renewable project

21. Sri Lanka: Computer Skills Education for Girls from Low-Income Families

Vocational training of low income girls

Founded in 1984 the vision of CENWOR—the Centre for Women’s Research—is gender equality and the empowerment of women in Sri Lanka. Its mission is to promote research, training, lobbying, advocacy, and monitoring gender-related issues facing women and girls in Sri Lanka. This current project with CENWOR provides access to skills development for approximately 60 girls selected from low-income families to equip them with employable vocational skills in computer technology and to facilitate their upward occupational mobility and socio-economic development.

The project financially supports:  (1)  approximately 20 women students in low-income families with the appropriate qualifications who are enrolled in the Diploma in Technical Education (level 5) and Advanced Diploma in Technical Education (level 6) programs of the state Colleges of Technology (COTs), located in each province; (2) approximately 20 women in low-income families enrolled in the second (Advanced Diploma level) year and the final year of the Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) program conducted by the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC)—a fee-levying external degree program;  (3) approximately 10 women in low-income families enrolled in the fields of multi media and web technology, mechatronics technology, software technology, building services technology of the University of Vocational Studies (UNIVOTEC); (4) approximately 10 women in low-income families enrolled in the fields of Higher National Diploma in Quantity Surveying and Higher National Diploma in Engineering (Civil) at the Advanced Technical Institute (AIT), Galle. Additionally, gender sensitization programmes will be conducted to motivate the women to challenge negative gendered norms that limit their opportunities for upward career mobility. Annually renewable project

22. Sudan: Helping Farmers in South Darfur Affected by Conflict & Drought

This project with long-time BGR partner Oxfam America will be launched in the Belail locality of South Darfur, in Sudan. Sudan is affected by multiple crises: poverty, inequality, conflict, poor governance, drought, marginalization, and gender disparities. The main humanitarian needs in Sudan result from sporadic conflict coupled with natural drought. New and protracted conflict-related displacement has hindered access to basic services and disrupted livelihoods and food security, especially for rural people. Acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5 is above emergency thresholds in different areas across the country, and some 4.6 million food insecure people are in need of assistance.

Due to the protracted nature of the crisis in Darfur, it is essential to address food security needs as well as to build longer-term resilience through food security and livelihoods capacity building. This project aims to address the critical problem of food security by providing agricultural inputs and training on improved farming techniques to a total of 500 households (appx. 2,500 people).  Activities will include: meetings with community leaders to agree on beneficiary selection criteria and suitable types of crops and tools, provision of drought tolerant and early maturing cereal seeds (sorghum and millet), and suitable cash crop seeds (groundnut and watermelon) for self-reliant food production, provision of hand tools.

The project will train 200 farmers (100 male and 100 female) on water harvesting techniques suitable to their land type, to enable them better utilize rainwater to increase crop yield per unit area. This training will also be associated with general agricultural extension skills such as seed selection, planting time, planting density, tillage, mulching, integrated pest control, and proper weeding.

 

 

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 3

By BGR Staff

10. Haiti: A School Feeding Program for Students in Jacmel

BGR’s partner in this project, the Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC), is a US-based organization (founded 1999) whose mission is “to build a passionate community of future leaders, visionaries and dynamic thinkers who are empowered to better their lives and their world through the arts and education in Jacmel, Haiti.” The partnership with BGR will provide the students at ACFFC with at least one nutritious, filling meal per day on each of the six days of the week they attend school. Many children in Haiti will not attend daily education programs if meals are not a component of the program. For many of the students enrolled at ACFFC, the meals they receive there are their only opportunity to eat. Without the feeding program many of the children would spend their days either looking for food or working rather than attending school or being part of an art program. The feeding program is implemented by the staff of three kitchen personnel who prepare a minimum of 360 meals per week. BGR’s grant covers about a third of the total budget for the program. Annually renewable program

11. Haiti: Improved Production and Diversification of Crops in the Artibonite Valley

This project, with our partner Oxfam America, supports improved rice production and backyard vegetable gardening in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti. Agricultural activity is one of the main sources of income for this population, focused on rice produced in the Artibonite Valley. Attempts to increase the production of rice face structural constraints. In spite of this, Oxfam has worked for approximately five years to help smallholder producers to develop the potential for rice cultivation and maintain the livelihoods of poor families. Previous projects have encouraged the adoption of innovative farming practices such as the Sustainable Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques, irrigation, post-harvest improvements, and improving production practices in vegetable gardening.

The proposed project will leverage the grant from Buddhist Global Relief to expand upon existing activities in the small rural community of Délogner, in the third communal section of Petite-Rivière. This vulnerable population (pop. 5,139, 90% poverty rate, 50% food insecure) experienced a flood in January 2017, which nearly annihilated agricultural production, their primary means of subsistence. By reinforcing ongoing efforts in response to this recent shock, the project will directly reach 224 beneficiaries through a suite of activities including SRI training, establishment of an agricultural credit fund, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures (5 km of canals), agricultural diversification with backyard vegetable gardening, provision of specialized SRI equipment and plastic sheeting for drying of harvested rice, establishment of collective local nurseries, and local partner capacity building.

12. Haiti: Meals for Hungry Kids in Port-au-Prince

This project continues our long-time partnership with the U.S.-based What If? Foundation, which works in Haiti through its partner on the ground, Na Rive, to provide life-sustaining nutrition to children in the Ti Plas Kazo Community of Port-au-Prince. For many children Na Rive’s Lamanjay food program continues to provide their only substantial meal of the day, and many children will walk miles just to receive this meal. Between 500 and 750 meals are distributed each weekday. Each hot meal includes a portion of rice, beans, vegetables and a piece of protein. Preparations for the day’s meal begin at 7:00 am in the kitchen at the Father Jeri School, which began operation in September 2016. The school now houses a fully equipped kitchen where all the food is prepared. The program is helping to support the children’s physical and cognitive development and to nutritionally support their parents as well.  Annually renewable project

13. Haiti: A School for the Children of Ti Plaz Kaso, Port-au-Prince

The Father Jeri School opened its doors in September 2016 and is offering children in the Ti Plas Kazo community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a wonderful opportunity—to receive a quality, affordable education. The building is clean, filled with natural light, structurally sound and designed to be an environment for learning. The school provides a challenging academic curriculum along with real world learning outside of the classroom and opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. The physical space and curriculum, in combination with the commitment from teachers, students, and families, is providing a unique educational opportunity for poor Haitian children. The grant from BGR, administered through the What If? Foundation, is the second in a three-year project. The purposes of the grant are as follows: (1) Ensuring that salaries are competitive to help retain a quality teaching and administrative staff. (2) Installing a water pump to get water from the underground tank that collects groundwater to the tank on the roof, which supplies every room in the school with water, including the bathrooms and kitchen. (3) Purchasing four laptop computers for administrative staff and teachers. (4) Providing school supplies to ensure that teachers have the materials they need to create a strong learning environment. This includes paper, pens, chalk, and books. Year two of a three-year project

14. India: A Girls’ Home and Women’s Social Service Center

This grant to BGR’s partner, the Bodhicitta Foundation, will help to sponsor the education and training of 30 teenage girls in danger of child marriage or unable to finish high school and university due to poverty. This will be the second such three-year program implemented by Bodhicitta with financial support from BGR. The girls have been brought from some of the poorest regions in India. They are being instructed in nursing, social work, and law as well as in job training so they can become agents of change and help others when they return to their villages. Through the grant, the girls will receive school fees, clothes, shelter, books and all their other expenses.

The women’s social services center will offer legal help to women facing divorce, domestic violence, and land disputes as well as job training to poor women in sewing, computers, English, beauty therapies, and so on. The legal service is offered for free by the previous batch of girls trained as lawyers and social workers. Bodhicitta’s food program makes 6,000 meals per year for undernourished slum children. On top of this Bodhicitta offers youth groups, counseling, health and human rights workshops, and interventions.

15. India: Prosperity through Resilient Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh

This is the second year of this project, “Prosperity through Resilient Agriculture,” with BGR partner Oxfam India. The project aims to improve the food and livelihood security of women farmers. The project is supported entirely by BGR. Through the program, women farmers will obtain increased access to government schemes and inputs and adopt climate resilient agriculture practices for improved agricultural output. The goal of the project is to contribute to increased resilience and improved income of smallholder farmers, especially women.

In five core villages in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, intensive work will be done with women farmers, with focus on self-financed agriculture development initiatives of women farmers.  The project area is populated primarily by marginalized Dalit and poorly educated and landless people. Five farmers’ field schools (FFS) will be established in strategic locations for accelerating spread of improved agricultural practices. A women farmer’s collective will be formed and strengthened in core villages to carry forward self-managed agriculture initiatives and advocacy for policy and practice changes. An intensive mobilization will be done in the core and peripheral villages of the project area to advocate for increased minimum support price (MSP) of crops. Women farmers’ support centers will be established for timely and efficient agricultural works and farmers groups will be trained in climate resilient agriculture (CRA) practices to minimize crop failures and improve production. Year two of a three-year project

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 2

By BGR Staff

7. Cameroon: Practical Vocational Training for Single Mothers and Marginalized Women    NEW PARTNER

CCREAD-Cameroon—the Centre for Community Regeneration and Development—is a civil society organization based in Cameroon with a United Nations Special Consultative Status. It runs strategic programs developed in collaboration with state and non-state actors. Its interventions aim to introduce marginalized people and communities to social and economic empowerment opportunities and foster environmental sustainability.

This new BGR project will be launched in Mile 16 Bolifamba, a typical slum community with a population of 17,850 inhabitants, 98% of them peasant farmers. More than 85% of households live below the UN poverty line, with extreme marginalization of women and girls. More than 60% of children born of single/teenage mothers and widows are unable to complete a single academic year in school because of extreme poverty, as their mothers are unemployed. These households face major challenges in purchasing food and paying rent, medical bills, and school fees for their children.

This project is aimed at reducing extreme suffering for marginalized women and single and teenage mothers through practical vocational training. This will equip the women with the social and vocational skills they need and with the financial means to send their children to school; it will also transfer the skills to other girls to tackle long-term poverty within the area and beyond. Each year, the project is expected to benefit 100 women  (adults), 50 young girls (youth), and 100 children.

8. Cameroon: A Food Program for Poor Children

The mission of CENCUDER (Centre for Community Development and Environmental Restoration) is “to enable rural youths and women to acquire survival skills in order to secure a better future for themselves through education and training in life and vocational skills.” Ebase village is amongst the most marginalized rural areas in the Kupe-Muanenguba Division in southwest Cameroon. About 97% of the population are peasant farmers who have trouble affording their basic needs. The majority of the peasant farmers survive through subsistence agriculture and hunting, meaning they remain underemployed for almost a third of the year, driving them further into poverty. Hunger and poverty have colonized most families.

Ebase village operates a local community primary school as the only social facility. Families are unable to send their children to towns and cities because they cannot afford to pay house rents and buy school needs like uniforms and books. Only 58% of children will complete primary school.

The BGR-sponsored school feeding program aims to enhance the education and health of over 95 poor and needy village children, many of them girls and orphans, by distributing meals to them. It promotes literacy among school-age children suffering from chronic hunger and an insufficient diet. Introduced last year with support from BGR, the feeding program has helped solve many problems faced by the local community. Many more children now attend school and parents have seen improvements in their children’s academic and moral output.

The sign reads,”Thank you CENCUDER and Buddhist Global Relief for the meals you are providing us.”

The program is expected to further increase school attendance, enhance learning capacity of undernourished children, improve their health, and act as an incentive for more children to attend school. Funding will cover kitchen equipment, consultants, and food for the students, increasing primary school attendance and improving the children’s learning capacity and general health. Annually renewable project

9. Cote d’Ivoire: Improving Nutrition among Children in Korhogo District

This is the second year of a three-year project with Helen Keller International (HKI), a long-time BGR partner. The project, which is being funded in its entirety by BGR, aims to improve nutrition for pregnant women, infants, and children in the Korhogo District of Cote d’Ivoire. Cote d’Ivoire ranks 172 out of 188 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index, making it among the poorest countries in the world. Estimated child mortality under five years is 195 per 1,000 live births and life expectancy is just 54 years. Malnutrition, including vitamin and micro-nutrient deficiencies, is a major contributing factor to the high rate of infant mortality. Chronic malnutrition affects about 33% of children under five years.

The project is being implemented among young girls and women in Korhogo Health District. Korhogo, located in the underserved Poro Region in northern Cote d’Ivoire, has 77 health clinics that serve a target population of around 760,000. HKI is using the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework to reach mothers at the right time with the right message. The ENA framework promotes optimal nutrition practices, including women’s nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, feeding the sick child, vitamin A, and the integrated control of anemia, vitamin A and iodine deficiency.

This project’s primary goal is to decrease the incidence of malnutrition in children during their first 1,000 days of life by training health workers in ENA in the Korhogo District. Trained health workers in turn deliver messages and training to expectant mothers at all 77 health clinics in the health district. By the end of this project, an estimated 77,000 children and their mothers will have been reached. Second year of a three-year project

Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 1

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

 

 

 

BGR Provides Emergency Relief to Countries Facing Famine and Floods

by BGR Staff

At the recent annual projects meeting on May 7th, the BGR board voted to provide $20,000 for emergency relief in four countries currently affected by near-famine conditions: South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen. This donation has been divided evenly between two organizations working in the affected countries: the World Food Program and Oxfam America. This is in addition to the $10,000 donation sent this past March to the World Food Programme for assistance to the four countries.

For separate reports on conditions in those countries, see the website of the World Food Programme. According to their report, 20 million people in these countries are suffering from extreme food shortages. The lives of many hang in the balance, yet WFP has at present received only 25% of the monetary assistance they require to tackle the crisis.

Flooding in Sri Lanka (Photo: Groundswell)

This past week BGR also provided $10,000 in emergency aid to Sri Lanka, which has been ravaged by virulent floods that have swept across the country, inundating towns and villages, displacing half a million people, and claiming over 200 lives. The contribution was divided between two organizations working in Sri Lanka: Sarvodaya, the largest grass-roots village renewal movement in the country, and a smaller humanitarian organization, Karuna Trust.

Although BGR is not an emergency relief organization but focuses on intentional projects that address chronic hunger and malnutrition, on occasion we find it necessary to respond to heartrending emergencies in ways that are feasible within the limits of our budget.

Improving Crop Resilience and Income for Rice Farmers in Thai Nguyen Province, Vietnam

by Tricia Brick

When a series of tropical storms struck Duong Thi Thanh’s village in northern Vietnam last summer, she feared that her rice harvest would be lost. “I thought we would have nothing to eat and sell for this crop,” she said, noting that a neighbor’s rice fields, grown using conventional methods, were severely damaged by the storms. But Thanh’s crops, cultivated using practices of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), survived the rains and brought a good price at market.

Hoang Van Phu, director of the International Cooperation Center (ICC) of Thai Nguyen University, has been working for more than a decade to bring SRI practices to smallholder farmers in the region, with the goal of increasing farmers’ efficiency, productivity, food security, and income through the use of environmentally sustainable methods. Buddhist Global Relief grants have supported the center’s efforts since 2011.

The BGR grant for fiscal year 2016-17  was used to support training for farmers in SRI methods via the creation of three large-scale collective fields in the Phu Binh district of northern Vietnam’s Thai Nguyen province.

SRI cultivation practices involve the planting of fewer seeds, with seedlings transplanted according to precise recommendations to encourage stronger root growth; fertilization with compost and other organic materials; frequent weeding; and reduced water use. These methods have resulted in more resilient plants and crop yields 20 to 50 percent higher than in traditional methods. Other benefits of SRI include a need for fewer seeds per hectare, a reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and improved water conservation.

While the use of SRI methods has been increasing among rice farmers in the region over the past decade, the fragmented nature of the local farmland has proven an obstacle to maximizing productivity and efficiency. Most farming households in the province raise rice on multiple small plots, with up to seven varieties of rice grown in each field. As a result, farmers have difficulty applying standardized methods across their fields, as the varieties often require differing optimal growing conditions and cultivation calendars. Further, these mixed crops are difficult to market, given vendor demand for single varieties.

This year, in alignment with government efforts to encourage farmers to organize as collectives, the ICC established large-scale fields, each 50 to 70 hectares (about 123 to 197 acres) in area, in three communes in Phu Binh district. A single rice variety was cultivated in each field, enabling farmers to tailor growing conditions to the selected variety and thus optimize labor efficiency.

Supported by the BGR grant, the fields became outdoor classrooms for farmers’ field school classes in SRI methods. More than 200 farmers from nine villages in the communes participated in training courses and field workshops to learn about SRI practices on large-scale fields, evaluate the successes and challenges of the model fields, and consider changes that might improve the next generation of crops. The ICC also provided weeding tools and other materials to farmers using SRI.

The grant also supported conferences bringing together representatives from provincial and district government and other agencies with local farmers to develop plans for the fields and, at the end of the grant period, to study the project’s results. The ICC reports that this cooperative engagement has been key to the project’s success.

Tricia Brick is a volunteer writer for BGR.

A Decision Cruel and Callous

by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Much has been written over the last several days about the political and economic repercussions of Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out from the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s been pointed out that the decision will diminish our standing in the world and cast us in the role of a rogue state, a pariah among nations. Our economy will languish, overtaken by other countries that make the leap to full reliance on clean energy. The mantle of global leadership will pass to Europe and China, and we’ll find ourselves increasingly isolated on the international stage. To be an American abroad will become a mark of shame.

The decision to leave the Paris Accord, however, should be seen not only as an act of foolishness, arrogance, and delusional thinking, but also as an appalling expression of cruelty. The decision is cruel because it reveals a glaring deficit of compassion—a callous lack of concern for the billions of people around the world who are endangered by a more hostile climate. Sadly, it is those nations and peoples with the lightest carbon footprint that are being hit the hardest. Even before freak weather events began to multiply and inflict horrendous harm, smallholder farmers and day laborers in the developing world faced an uphill struggle just to put food on the table and get enough clean water to meet their daily needs. Now, assailed by ever more frequent and destructive climate disruptions, these same people find their very lives suspended over an abyss.

As I write, Sri Lanka, the country where I lived for over twenty years, is reeling from floods that have turned streets into angry rivers, driven half a million people from their homes, and brought hills crashing down on top of the people who lived on their slopes. Parts of Pakistan are experiencing temperatures that have soared past 120° Fahrenheit, heat waves that claim the lives of the poor, elderly, and frail. Large swaths of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been transformed into desert, no longer able to sustain their populations. Four countries border on famine—South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northern Nigeria—partly because of political turmoil, but also because of climate change. In some regions, beset by long droughts, crops shrivel up and livestock drop dead. In others, once lush fields are invaded by hordes of rapacious pests, which find the newly warmer climate a congenial home.

Flooding in Sri Lanka (Photo: Groundviews.org)

When we take in the total picture, the conclusion is clear. Accelerating climate change will condemn millions of people to an early death, either swiftly through sudden disaster, or slowly and painfully through hunger and malnutrition. Fragile countries will be rocked by social instability, giving tyrants the chance to grab power, breeding terrorism, and sending millions in flight across seas and deserts in search of better living conditions. Is this the kind of future we want for the men and women who share this planet with us?

It is the responsibility of the global community, as inherent in our humanity, to protect the poor and vulnerable, to ensure they can live with dignity in their own lands, enjoying an acceptable standard of living. To achieve this goal it’s imperative that we cut carbon emissions as swiftly and sharply as we can in order to prevent global temperatures from rising past 1.5° Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at which point climate calamities will rapidly increase. The Paris Agreement was weak, flawed, and inadequate, and we are already half way toward the 1.5° mark. But for all its shortcomings, the accord has been a step in the right direction. It serves as a starting point that can be built upon and strengthened as the signatories begin to see the benefits of switching to a post-carbon economy and also, hopefully, as their sense of social responsibility extends beyond their own borders to those whose lives are most gravely threatened.

The decision to withdraw, however, turns a deaf ear to the demands of reason and the call of compassion. It even snubs the principle of enlightened self-interest, which tells us that our economy will thrive and good jobs increase with the full-scale transition to renewable energy. Defying the decrees of moral conscience, it imposes a merciless death sentence on the millions who will die because the U.S. denies them the aid they need to adapt to a harsher climate. When it comes to boosting military spending, we have no trouble finding hundreds of billions of dollars to be wasted in fighting futile wars. But when it comes to helping those desperately in need, suddenly our treasury is empty. Yet which policy will make us truly safer: engaging in military operations all around the world or adopting a policy of global generosity by which we share vital resources with others?

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord may leave those of us who invested time and energy mobilizing for a sane climate policy confused and dismayed about the future—about our own personal futures and the future direction of the planet. While it may take us time to recover from the shock, we should not lose hope. To become disheartened and passively accept the new wave of climate policies would be to play right into the hands of those who  want to force us into submission. It would simply give them a signal that with enough bluster they can get their way. Rather, we must be prepared to stand up even more defiantly, to resist with greater courage. In this we can draw on the strength of our numbers, the righteousness of our cause, and the recognition that the transition to a post-carbon economy is the only way to preserve a natural environment conducive to human flourishing.

While our chances of changing federal climate policy may be slim as long as the current administration remains in power, there are still several lines of action open to us. One is to become more politically aware and support only candidates who recognize the dangers of climate change, make it a pivot of their campaigns, and pledge to act effectively to reverse course. All candidates for office—from the federal level to the local level—must be closely examined and pressed to reveal their positions. Only those who, without deceit and distortion, acknowledge the hard truths of science and endorse the move toward a clean-energy economy should receive our support and our votes.

A second line of action is to actively oppose new fossil fuel projects clear across the country. Such action can take various forms: signing petitions, writing to our representatives, joining protests and marches, and directly obstructing the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure. This last option poses risks, since the fossil fuel corporations have been mobilizing police and hiring security firms to attack dissenters, even painting them as terrorists; they have also resorted to severe legal action to discourage those who would oppose their projects. But earlier movements on behalf of social justice—particularly the civil rights movement of the 1960s—also had to face harsh penalties and brutal crackdowns. By pressing ahead, they eventually prevailed. If we have the trust in the rightness of our cause and remain undeterred, we too will triumph and in the process make America truly great again.

To make America great does not mean to abdicate our global responsibilities and close in upon ourselves, self-absorbed and suspicious of others. It means to become a nation great in wisdom, great in compassion, and great in moral leadership. Remaining in the Paris Agreement and strengthening its commitments is essential if we are to rise to this challenge.

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This essay was originally published on Common Dreams on June 4, 2017. t is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.