Buddhist Global Relief gives “the gift of life” by fighting hunger throughout the world
by Wendy Webber
With the Buddha’s statements that “hunger is the worst kind of illness” and “the gift of food is the gift of life” as a starting point, Buddhist Global Relief’s (BGR) mission is to combat chronic hunger and malnutrition around the world. BGR’s programs are as diverse as the locations they work in because they are not just working on the immediate need with direct food aid, but on programs that develop long-term ecological and economic sustainability based in local culture and traditions.
In Bangladesh, BGR is teaching extremely poor women how to effectively utilize communal farming plots. In Cambodia, BGR gives grants to farmers that allow them to adopt System of Rice Intensification methods. Recently, they began a new feeding and education program in Cameroon that is starting with stocking a new kitchen at a primary school for children from low-income families. In Jamaica, BRG helps a program that plants food producing trees, providing both food and jobs. To address the food desert in Detroit, Michigan, BGR is working on a project that aims to make the majority of fruits and vegetables Detroiters consume grown by residents within city limits.
In Haiti, BRG is partnered with Art Creation Foundation (ACF) in Jacmel, which provides art instruction, tutoring, medical care, daily food and water, and educational expenses for students. Before BRG joined the partnership ACF had been operating with only 50% of its needed expenses for its food program, which had caused drastic reductions of their food services program. The result was that children were not benefiting from their other programs either because they were hungry or because they were not showing up at all. The reduction in food services put children in greater danger of being sent to an orphanage or becoming a restavek—a form of modern-day slavery by which children serve as domestic slaves.
Before joining the program, many children would go days without eating and never knew when their next meal would come. One 10-year-old in the program, Jovin, says that now that he doesn’t worry about where his next meal will come from he is able to focus on school. Yelva, an 8-year-old participant, only ate when she was able to convince neighbors to give her food or after a long day working for food vendors for their scraps at the end of the day. Now she eats every day at ACF and says she doesn’t have to beg or be disrespected by people.
BGR has a vision of a world without debilitating poverty in which the basic requirements for a meaningful life–food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and education are in place for all. Because when these basics are fulfilled people are free to pursue that which makes their life meaningful and gives it value whatever that means for them.
Buddhist Global Relief received an $8000 grant from Foundation Beyond Belief in 2016