Tag Archives: Girls’ Education

Children: The Face of Hunger

By David Braughton

Introduction

 

Look into the eyes of someone who is hungry and one out of five times it will be a child under age five staring back at you. The child will probably bear little resemblance to the graphic images found on the internet of a little wizened skull with sunken eyes sitting atop an emaciated body that more resembles a skeleton than a small living being grasping for life. What you will see is an otherwise ordinary kid who appears stunted (too short for its age) and wasted (underweight for its age). Or, you may see a child who is both too short and, at the same time, obese, another seemingly paradoxical symptom of chronic malnutrition.

Stunting and wasting represent two key markers of child malnutrition.  In 2017, there were 151 million children who were abnormally short for their age.  There were also 51 million kids who were seriously underweight for their age and 38 million who were overweight.  What is particularly alarming is the growing number of children who are overweight and stunted, although no reliable statistics are available to determine the true scope of the problem (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank).

Obesity results when children are fed foods that are high in calories, but which offer little by way of nutrition—protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.  In many parts of the world, healthy and nutritious foods are both scarce and costly.  Highly processed foods, rich in calories, become an appealing substitute when the alternative is going hungry. As a result, children consume more calories than needed, resulting in overweight, a leading cause in the rise of Type II diabetes among children worldwide.

What you may not notice when you first see a hungry child is its flat affect or languid movement, the consequence of anemia and a deficit of essential nutrients. The child may cry often and seldom smile. It may be developmentally delayed, inattentive and unable to concentrate or learn, should he or she be lucky enough to go to school. The child may also suffer up to 161 days of illness per year (Glicken, MD, 2010).

An estimated 5.4 million children under age 5 died in 2017, and, of these, half died within their first month of life. In some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, children are 15 times more likely to die before age 5 than children in high income countries. The leading causes of death—diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria—are illnesses related to malnutrition. In fact, 45% of all deaths of children under five worldwide are directly linked to malnutrition  (World Health Organization).

The Cycle of Child Hunger

Health experts agree that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most critical for its development and long-term prospects. The number one risk factor in post-neonatal deaths is low birth weight; the second most prevalent risk factor is malnutrition. In developing countries, one out of six infants is born with a low birth weight (United Nations). Since women comprise sixty-percent of the world’s hungry, it comes as no surprise that the growing prevalence of anemia in women (a major predictor of low birth weight) is a serious red flag, affecting one in three women of reproductive age around the globe.

A fetus that is conceived by a malnourished woman seldom receives the micronutrients needed for healthy gestation, such as iodine, zinc, iron, folate, and vitamin D. After the child is born, she or he will continue to be deprived of the carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins essential for healthy growth and development, dooming that child to a life of poverty and hunger.

Almost all hungry people are extremely poor, living on less than $1.90 per day. Ninety-eight percent reside in developing countries, with Asia accounting for 62% of the total, Africa 31%, Latin America and the Caribbean 5%, and Oceania and the developed countries the rest. Fully 80% of these individuals live in rural areas, surviving only on the food they grow from their rain-dependent farms.

It is clear, then, why local or regional violence, droughts, floods, other natural disasters, or higher than normal temperatures take such a catastrophic and devastating toll. Any disruption to the tenuous existence of the poor guarantees that the cycle of hunger will continue to repeat itself. Malnourished mothers give birth to undernourished infants, who grow into malnourished children and adults, and so on from one generation to the next.

BGR’s Response to Child Hunger

Understanding the underpinnings and ramifications of the cycle of child hunger explains why Buddhist Global Relief invests so heavily in child nutrition, the education of girls, and improved agricultural techniques such as the System of Rice Intensification and crop diversification.  (More about the latter in our next article.)

BGR’s project in Côte d’IvoireImproving Nutrition among Children in Korhogo District focuses on the first 1000 days of a child’s life in a country where chronic malnutrition affects about 33% of children under five, where the mortality rate of children under five is close to 20%, and where life expectancy is just 54 years. With its partner, Helen Keller International, BGR is addressing vitamin A and iodine deficiency and educating women about nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, and feeding the sick child. By the end of the project we hope to reach 77,000 women and their children.

In Kenya, a similar BGR-HKI partnership seeks to improve access, delivery, and utilization of essential nutrition-related services for an estimated 255,000 children and adults.

In Jacmel, Haiti, BGR is involved with the Joan Rose Foundation—a U.S.-based nonprofit—to give impoverished children and their families the opportunity to succeed in life. For the past several years, BGR has sponsored the Foundation’s program that provides local children with two nutritious meals, breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday.

In Cambodia, BGR has partnered with Lotus Outreach over the past 9 years to help young women gain a primary, secondary, and college education. Historically, girls living in the impoverished rural areas of Cambodia were needed at home to help grow rice. This innovative program provides participating families with surplus rice to make up for any shortfalls resulting from the girl attending school rather than helping out in the fields.

These and other BGR programs are only possible through the generosity and support of our donors like you. Thank you for helping us to end child hunger and malnutrition.

David Braughton is the vice-chair of Buddhist Global Relief. During his professional career he led a number of nonprofit agencies involved with mental health, trauma, and child development. 

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Educating Migrant Children from Burma

By BGR Staff

In eastern and northern Burma (Myanmar), the Burmese army oppresses and routinely attacks the country’s ethnic minorities—Karen, Kachin, Shan, Mon, Palaung, and other ethnicities—forcing many to seek shelter in the jungle. The result is a horrific health crisis among these internally displaced persons, whereby 135 infants out of 1,000 do not survive their first month. Malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia are the leading causes of death.

A U.S.-based organization, Burma Humanitarian Mission, has been supporting Backpack Health Worker Teams (BPHWT) to provide mobile medical care to isolated villages and camps of internally displaced persons. The backpack medics are recruited from the people and villages they serve. Each team travels to 9–12 villages per month, supporting approximately 2,000 people. In 2016, the teams successfully reduced morbidity rates from malaria and dysentery, and likewise lowered the infant mortality rate from 135 deaths per 1,000 births to 1.6 deaths per 1,000 births.

In 2017, BGR entered into a partnership with BHM to support the education of the medics’ children living in Thailand. Over the period of the project, from mid-2017 to mid-2018, BGR sponsored the education of 56 children at a school located in Mae Sot, Thailand, where they are safely removed from the violence in Myanmar. In Mae Sot, the students attend an established migrant school͛ known as the Child Development Center (CDC). Without this program, these children would have no chance to get an education.

Thirty-one of the students are children of medics working in Burma’s conflict zones. In Myanmar, because of the violence of the Burmese army and the fact that the medic teams are constantly moving, it is unsafe for the children to stay with their parents. Twenty-five students are children of backpack medics who staff the team’s office in Mae Sot.

The BGR grant to Burma Humanitarian Mission provided the 56 children with their tuition costs, a food budget, school uniforms, and other materials needed for them to attend school. Classes started in June 2017 and continued through May 2018. Nineteen of the students were in the 4th grade and below and 37 students in the 5th through 12th grades. Eight children 4 years of age and younger received day care.

According to the final report for 2017–18 from Burma Humanitarian Mission, the project realized the following successes:

  • 56 children gained access to education, food, and a safe environment.
  • They are learning not just math, science, and reading, but also are gaining an understanding of their unique ethnic culture and history—a priceless gift to the present and future generations of Karen, Kachin, Shan, Mon, and other ethnic groups from Myanmar.
  •  The project empowers young women, since three-fourths of the backpack medics and staff are women.
  • By educating the backpack medics’ children, the project successfully helped prepare the children to follow their parents’ example, as medics or in other fields of service.
  • Eleven of the sponsored students are enrolled in the CDC’s “Non-Formal Education” program. Success in this program allows the students to gain accreditation from the Thai Ministry of Education and opens the gate for them to attend universities in Thailand.

In its final report, the Burma Humanitarian Mission writes: “We are honored to partner with Buddhist Global Relief! Living in the Thai-Burma border region, these children are witnessing the world increasingly ignore and marginalize their existence. Your compassion and commitment instills hope for these young children that they can succeed in school and in life.”

At its annual projects meeting in April 2018, the board of BGR voted to renew its partnership with Burma Humanitarian Mission for the academic year 2018–19, continuing to provide the children of backpack medics with an education.

Meet some of the children who have been benefiting from this project:

At the far left is Naw Khlee Moo, age 16 and in grade 11 at the CDC school. When she grows up, she would like to become a medic like her Dad and help her people.

Second from left is Naw Eh La Thar, age 14, in grade 10. Her father, too, is a backpack medic. She speaks Karen, Burmese, Thai, and English. She enjoys studying chemistry and physics and would love to become a doctor.

Third from left is Mother Paw, age 11, in grade 7. She likes to study biology.

Third from right is Naw Paw Poe, age 10, in grade 5. She likes to study Burmese language and to learn about the Karen people, their culture and history.

At the far right is Saw Kel Doh Say, age 13, in grade 9. He likes the English class, but he prefers to play football and hopes someday to play it professionally.

Girls’ Education as a Key to Combating Climate Change

By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Project Drawdown describes itself as “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” The Project brought together a group of top researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model “the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change.” The resulting plan provides “a path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years.” The solutions to reversing climate change, the website says, “are in place and in action.” The purpose of the Project is “to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible.”

Somewhat surprisingly, in the Project’s ranking of solutions to climate change, in the sixth place is educating girls. This item ranked higher than several of the more familiar solutions often proposed by the experts. It ranks higher than solar farms and rooftop solar (nos. 8 and 10, respectively), regenerative agriculture (no. 11), nuclear power (no. 20), electric vehicles (no. 26), LED lighting (no. 33), and mass transport (no. 37). Continue reading

School Lunch Program for Marma Girls in CHT

by BGR Staff

 In 2016, BGR provided a grant to the Jamyang Foundation to support the free school lunch program at the Visakha Girls’ School in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The grant covered the period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. This article, based on the final report from the Jamyang Foundation, describes the challenges faced by the school and the benefits of the project.

 

Visakha Girls’ School is located at Dhosri, a remote village in the district of Khagrachari in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. The school was founded in 2005 and began offering free education for girls with the generous support of the Jamyang Foundation, which is under the direction of the American bhikshuni, Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Initially, the Visakha Girls’ School offered classes to students in the 1st grade only. Later, more classes were gradually added. Now the school offers classes up to 5th grade.

The school still faces significant challenges. For decades the indigenous people throughout the Hill Tracts have been the subjects of genocide perpetrated by the Bangladesh military. The situation is critical and has required the UN and others to intervene several times, but for the most part the situation has received little or no international attention. Land grabs and aggression against the indigenous population occur continuously and any resistance to these injustices is met with extreme retaliation, including rape and murder by the Bangladesh army. The indigenous peoples of the CHT are victims of forced displacement and discrimination in all aspects of life in Bangladesh. The theft of their lands continues to have enormous social, economic, and political consequences for the people. Educating Marma girls is one of the only ways to protect them from exploitation and strengthen them to face the difficulties that lie ahead. Continue reading

BGR Solidarity Walk in Nagpur, India

By Ven. Ayya Yeshe

On Saturday, October 21, the Bodhicitta Foundation and members of our girls’ home walked in solidarity with our wonderful partners, Buddhist Global Relief, and all the wonderful people who contribute to our work of lifting women and children out of poverty.

Many of the girls in our girls’ home have come from villages where they had to walk for many kilometres, missing school to carry water, take care of livestock, and watch over siblings. Now the girls walk to end poverty, they walk for girls’ empowerment, they ride to school, to a new life.

Often as we move through life, we don’t know where we are going, in what direction we are moving. The annual Walk to Feed the Hungry offers us a chance to reflect where we are going, how we are manifesting the truth of our sacred bond and inter-connectedness with the earth and all beings.

For us at Bodhicitta Foundation, the support of the wonderful people at BGR means we can walk in the direction of hope and dignity, of empowerment, equality, love, compassion, and human  rights. We thank you for walking this journey with us for so many years now!

Bonded as I am with each of the hundreds of children and women we help, I can really see the hope and gratitude in their eyes, for your gift is the gift of life. These children shine like stars on earth, as they can now reach for their dreams because of you.

Ven. Ayya Yeshe, an Australian bhikkhuni (Buddhist nun), is the founder and spiritual leader of the Bodhicitta Foundation.

Being the First to Finish School  


By BGR Staff

The following article, from Suzanne Alberga, Executive Director of BGR’s long-time partner, the What If? Foundation, features an interview with Cadet Fridelène, a student in Haiti who recently graduated high school through a scholarship from Na Rive, a program that BGR has been supporting over the past few years. She also speaks about the Father Jeri School, which a grant from BGR has helped to equip and staff.      

 Na Rive scholarship student Cadet Fridelène will not be returning to school this year. And it’s for the best possible reason: she graduated in June!

cadetoneCadet is entering a world of possibility that would not be open to her without your support. She is a wonderful example of the intelligence, determination, and hope that our partner, Na Rive, see in their students every day. And as you’ll hear from Cadet, the financial support and encouragement she received over the last six years has changed the course of her life.

The Father Jeri School begins its second academic year in just a couple of weeks. With your support, we can change the lives of many more children and expand the grade levels offered at the school so students like Cadet can proudly graduate in their own community.

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Projects for Fiscal Year 2017–18—Part 5 (conclusion)

By BGR Staff

23. U.S.: Urban Farming in Detroit

Nearly 40% of Detroit residents live below the poverty line and 21% of metro Detroiters are food insecure. Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) was established to promote a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables Detroiters consume are grown by residents within the city’s limits. The aim is not only to provide residents with seeds to increase food security but to achieve “food sovereignty,” where residents are the leaders and beneficiaries of a transformed food system, able to make decisions about the health, wealth, and future of their families and community.

The grant from BGR will support KGD’s ongoing programs. These include: (1) The Garden Resource Program, which helps increase access to healthy food by providing technical and resource support to 1,500 urban gardens and farms in Detroit, including 400 new gardens in 2017. Together these gardens will produce over 180 tons of fresh, nutritious, locally grown produce for predominately low-income families and engage more than 16,000 residents. (2) Twenty-two events including 16 educational workshops and 6 garden workdays reaching 440 residents. At these events a diverse pool of community leaders and instructors, many Garden Resource growers, will provide hands-on instruction on basic gardening, water conservation, and food preservation techniques to build the skills and confidence of urban farmers. Annually renewable project

24. Vietnam: Enhanced Homestead Food Production

This is the second year of a three-year partnership between BGR and Helen Keller International that addresses household food security for residents of Muong Lang Commune, in Son La Province, a remote mountainous region in the northwest of Vietnam. There is high malnutrition in this region, which is a contributing factor to 50% of infant and childhood deaths. The Enhanced Homestead Food Production (EHFP) program trains multi-generation families to increase year-round food production with more diversified crops to improve nutrition and thereby to improve health. In all over 100 families in 10 villages will benefit from the program (approximately 550 individuals). The grant from BGR sponsors a third of the program.

In year two, an additional ten communities will benefit from the establishment of Village Model Farms (VMF)—a community based resource for training and technical support for the roughly ten families that typically make up each small village. Within each village a community husband and wife are identified and trained as the VMF demonstration farmers. These VMFs will provide agriculture resources for the community households (i.e. seeds),  educate families on nutrient rich crops, and  provide hands on training including bio-composting, crop diversification,  sanitation and hygiene, and even marketing strategies for income generation from sale of excess food production. The family model empowers women to actively contribute to the improved health of their village.
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