Buddhist Global Relief: Overcoming Adversity, One Step at a Time

By Buddhistdoor International Naushin Ahmed
Buddhistdoor Global | 2014-09-26 |
Rina Long from Cambodia received monetary and educational aid from BGR and Lotus Outreach Int. She was in poverty and lacked job skills until the aid allowed her to resume high school. From Lotus Outreach International.Rina Long from Cambodia received monetary and educational aid from BGR and Lotus Outreach Int. She was in poverty and lacked job skills until the aid allowed her to resume high school. From Lotus Outreach International.
Bhikkhu Bodhi joins the People's Climate March. From BGR Facebook page.Bhikkhu Bodhi joins the People's Climate March. From BGR Facebook page.
I am so happy to be working in my home village. Here, I can be a role model and will help the children and families here to value education and stay in school as long as they can.” - Chantha Luen, scholarship recipient, Cambodia (Buddhist Global Relief

The scholarship scheme implemented by Lotus Outreach and Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) provides primary and secondary education scholarships to meritorious female students in Cambodia. BGR has made such scholarships available in countries with high poverty levels and drop out rates for children, especially female students, and currently has scholarships running in Vietnam and Haiti as well as Cambodia. Sacks of rice are also given to the students’ families. Initiated in 2009, this scheme allowed Chantha Luen to pursue high school and later on, with the help of a GATEways scholarship, to train as a teacher. After graduation, Luen decided to return to her hometown area and teach the Row Lueh community (in Svery Check district). Such stories truly exemplify the goals of BGR and Lotus Outreach—battling hunger around the world, food sustainability, and promoting welfare and education for women.
BGR is the mastermind behind many such schemes. And who is the mastermind behind BGR itself? The erudite Bhikkhu Bodhi. In 2007, the American Theravada Buddhist monk wrote an essay that outlined how American Buddhism’s limited focus had led to the disregard of the “active dimension of Buddhist compassion expressed through programs of social engagement.” Moved by his essay, several of his students got together and after much discussion and networking, finalized their goals—and Buddhist Global Relief was born.
In the seven years since its conception, BGR has expanded from its initial formation in greater New York to provide worldwide relief. Countries like Haiti, India, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam have all received BGR aid in the form of food, education, agricultural development, and livelihood projects for women. Extensive projects also run in America, where BGR has its headquarters in Sparta, New Jersey.
One of the most popular projects is the “Walk to Feed the Hungry.” The first steps of this project were taken in 2010 to raise funds for BGR’s larger goals. The annual Walk to Feed the Hungry is currently taking place in the United States, and 3,717 people have already made donations. Other countries such as Cambodia, India, and England have held their own walks to raise funds. (See Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s interview with reporter Danny Fisher about the project.)
An example of the thinking behind the creation of BGR came in 2004 when the formidable South Asian tsunami hit, affecting people in many Asian countries. In a 2011 article on Buddhadharma, Andrea Miller addresses Bhikkhu Bodhi’s great efforts to help Sri Lanka: donations from friends amounted to US$160,000. What is important is that when he was searching for non-profit organizations, Bhikkhu Bodhi noticed the lack of Buddhist relief institutions. This was no doubt a factor in his comment in the 2007 essay which led to the formation of BGR.
Buddhist Global Relief’s ongoing projects show the dedication and outreach of the organization. “Moanoghar,” an institute providing shelter and education for children in Bangladesh, houses more than 1,250 children, providing them with highly subsidized education and life-skills training. BGR is now in partnership with Moanoghar to build a sustainable educational system, which can generate income for maintenance and support the children. (Read our content editor John Cannon’s experience at Moanoghar on his recent visit to Bangladesh.)
The “Orphans Without Walls” (OWW) initiative in rural China was created in 2010 by Children of Shambala Qinghai (CoS Qinghai). One of the long-term poverty alleviation plan’s schemes is to provide children with supplies to continue school (25–40 per cent of students drop out before completing nine years of compulsory education—see Buddhist Global Relief’s projects page). These include basic items to which the children might not have access: clothes, shoes, books, and other supplies. A grant from BGR allows CoS Qinghai to provide this supply package to 60 children.
The projects initiated and supplemented by BGR have had a global impact—Bhikkhu Bodhi’s thoughts from the United States have resonated with like-minded people all over the world, Buddhist or not, to help those in need. Executive Director Kim Behan told Buddhadharma, “I hope it’s like we throw a stone into the water and the circles keep expanding.” Slowly and steadily, Buddhist Global Relief has created ripples which continue to bring hope and relief to thousands worldwide.
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