Category Archives: Projects & programs

Walk to Feed the Hungry in Uganda

By BGR Staff

Bhante Buddharakkhita in front of the temple

On August 18th, the Uganda Buddhist Centre (UBC) in Entebbe, Uganda, held a solidarity “Walk to Feed the Hungry,” the third such walk organized by the center. The walk was led by Ven. Bhante Buddharakkhita, a Uganda monk who is the founder of the center and a long-time member of BGR’s advisory council.  The purpose of the walk was to raise awareness of hunger and malnutrition as a pressing issue both for Ugandans and for vulnerable communities around the world.

Sri Lankan community practices dana

Distinctive about the Uganda walk was the participation of hundreds of children from Entebbe and the surrounding communities. The walk was also joined by many local people who have been inspired by UBC’s strong involvement in social and economic development. The Sri Lankan community in Uganda, led by Kamal and Dhammika, offered food at the temple. Mr. Kamal also demonstrated in a televised interview how to prepare delicious jackfruit salads and banana flower curry—dishes generally unknown to Ugandans.

Hundreds of children joined the walk

The Uganda Buddhist Centre is the first and only Buddhist temple in Uganda. It was founded by Bhante Buddharakkhita in 2005 with the vision of promoting “peace for all” and with its mission “to preserve and disseminate the original teachings of the Buddha, to spread the Buddhist culture of peace within the context of African culture, and to serve as a center for Buddhist studies, meditation practice, and Buddhist research in Africa.” To realize its mission, UBC has organized various socio-economic, cultural, educational, and other humanitarian projects such as hunger relief, education, and youth and women’s economic empowerment. Currently, UBC is providing safe and clean water to over a thousand people in the surrounding communities and local schools.

Participation of the Peace School

UBC has also established a school for local children called the Peace School, the first of its kind in Uganda. The aim of the Peace School is to provide education in an ethical learning environment so that children can become conscientious citizens. The school aspires to offer a mindfulness-based education that will contribute to inner and outer peace and care for the natural environment. The school is grounded in a Buddhist perspective but also teaches traditional African ethics and values, such as the philosophy of Ubuntu, explained as “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

The Peace School gives financial support to orphans and children in need whose parents or relatives cannot afford school fees and basic needs. The school recently received a grant from Buddhist Global Relief to assist with its development.

Bhante Buddharakkhita, the founder of UBC, was born in Uganda and encountered Buddhism in the 1990s during his travels in Asia. He received ordination as a Buddhist monk under the late Ven. Sayadaw U Silananda in 2002 at Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose, California. He subsequently spent eight years under the guidance of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia.  He is an adjunct professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the spiritual director of Radiance Retreat Center in Magnolia, Mississippi. He has been teaching mindfulness meditation in Africa, the U.S., and worldwide since 2005, and is a much-loved teacher in many countries.  His book, Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa, tells the story of his religious and spiritual work in the continent of his birth.

The information on which this article is based was provided by Bhante Buddharakkhita and Andrew  Mukomazi. Photographs were sent by Dolores Watson.

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Building Bridges for Poor Widows in the Punjab

By BGR Staff

Building Bridges India represents a bridge from the past to the future, from a patriarchal society to an egalitarian one in which women have role options, rights and responsibilities; a passage from despair to hope.

For over thirty years now, parts of Punjab have been stricken by a tragedy barely reported in the mainstream media: the suicides of small-scale farmers. A fatal combination of factors, including successive seasons of bad weather, the soaring cost of seeds and fertilizer, a falling water table, and the usurious rates imposed by moneylenders, have combined to make it impossible for them to sustain themselves on their ancestral lands. Seeing no way out, thousands have taken their own lives. Their deaths are tragedy enough. But for the widows and children they leave behind, life becomes a desperate struggle simply to survive.

Untrained, often illiterate and malnourished, burdened with their husbands’ debts yet without any way of earning an income, the women left behind–sometimes older, sometimes quite young–are responsible for housing and feeding themselves, their children and sometimes elderly relatives as well. Continue reading

Hot Meals and Mentoring for Poor Kids in Mongolia

By BGR Staff

One-third of Mongolia’s population experiences extreme poverty and is unable to afford basic food and shelter. The Tibetan monk, Ven. Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche, was determined to do something about this.

Born in Eastern Tibet in 1939 to nomadic parents, Ven. Rinpoche received full monastic ordination in 1961 under His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He completed his formal studies in India and was awarded the highest degree of Geshe Lharampa, equivalent to a Doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy. In 1995, the Dalai Lama asked Rinpoche to go to Mongolia to teach Buddhism to the Mongolian people. After his arrival in Mongolia, he set about finding ways to overcome the high levels of poverty he encountered there. He established Asral NGO in 2001 with the objective of keeping families together and preventing children from going onto the streets. Asral is the Mongolian word for “care.”
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Training Single Women in Cameroon

By BGR Staff

BGR has been supporting the Cameroon organization CCREAD (Centre for Community Regeneration and Development) since 2017 on projects that provide livelihood training to widows and single mothers. In 2018, through the grant given by BGR, CCREAD was able to establish a second tailoring and design training unit, which enabled the organization to conduct more training sessions and enroll 68 new women and girls into the program.

As of February 2019, 68 widows and single mothers are undergoing full-time training, spending three days per week on intensive practical sessions in smaller groups split from the main training hall. Thirty-eight of the current 68 women in this cycle of training had been displaced as a result of political crisis and are now being empowered at the training center. Each of those 38 displaced women came to the training with children below the age of 10. CCREAD is helping to feed these children at the training center while their mothers undergo training.
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Climate Change and World Hunger

By David Braughton

Climate Change and the World’s Poor

For the 821 million people across the globe who face chronic hunger, climate change is no theory, but an ever-present reality.  Fully 80% of the world’s chronically hungry and malnourished people live in rural areas, surviving only on the food they grow from their rain-dependent farms.  Variability in the amount of rainfall, when the rain falls, days between rainfall, or daily temperatures – all the result of climate change – can quickly transform what is at its best a marginal existence into almost certain starvation.
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Learning about Home Gardens, Nutrition, and Public Speaking in Vietnam

By Randy Rosenthal

With so many problems in the world, it sometimes feels like nothing we do can makes a difference. But Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) is showing that by improving the lives of individuals, we can in fact make a difference. A great example of this is BGR’s partnership with Helen Keller International (HKI) on the Enhanced Homestead Food Production (EHFP) project in Vietnam, which is now in its third year.

With BGR support, during 2018, HKI expanded their EHFP project to the provinces of Hoa Binh, Son La, and Lai Chau, which is one of the poorest areas of Vietnam. In July, the latter two provinces were heavily hit by tropical storm Son Tinh, which caused flash floods and landslides, but the program’s goals were successfully reached in all areas. These goals focused on alleviating hunger mainly through training mothers and pregnant women about nutrition and horticulture. Continue reading

Cooking Porridge and Training Health Workers in Côte d’ Ivoire

By Randy Rosenthal

One of the leading factors in infant mortality in Côte d’ Ivoire, where about 40% of the population lives in poverty, is malnutrition. This is especially the case in Korhogo District, in the northern region of Poro, where malnutrition is the most prevalent. That’s why Buddhist Global Relief chose to support Helen Keller International’s (HKI) effort to greatly reduce instances of malnutrition among women of child-bearing age in Korhogo, and especially among children during their first 1,000 days of life.

Compared to their projects in other countries, the way HKI approached their effort in Côte d’Ivoire is quite unique. And this is because they focused their efforts on training local community health workers, who could then continue to share knowledge locally, rather than solely holding information sessions. Continue reading