Rockin’ and Rollin’ in the Climate Movement

Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni

Last week the People’s Climate Train rolled across the country carrying 170 people to the People’s Climate March and about 200 Buddhist practitioners gathered to “Prepare the Heart to March” at New York Insight Meditation Center the day before the largest environmental action in human history. Both these events offer a glimpse into the diversity, determination and rapid growth of the climate movement.

Passengers on the People's Climate Train rolled through spectacular landscapes from coast to coast and participated in 50 workshops on climate

Passengers on the People’s Climate Train rolled through spectacular landscapes from coast to coast and participated in 50 workshops on climate

At 9:17 pm on September 18th, after a four-day trip across the continent, the People’s Climate Train rolled into New York’s Penn Station to the cheers of well-wishers and climate activists who turned up in numbers to welcome their fellow marchers to the Big City. The train brought climate activists and concerned citizens into New York for the People’s Climate March, to take place on September 21st.

The People’s Climate Train came into being because a few of us in the San Francisco Bay Area wished to bring as many people as possible from the West Coast to the march without racking up the carbon footprint of numerous flights to get there. We also quickly realized that by traveling together by train across the country, we could use our time to prepare ourselves, learn from each other, and develop fruitful relationships. The project exceeded our wildest dreams as people with amazing skills and experience signed up for the train and then created and participated in four days of workshops held from early morning to late at night.

Leonard Higgins 1

Workshops on the People's Climate Train

Workshops on the People’s Climate Train

Workshop themes ranged from political strategies like “Putting a Tax on Carbon,” “Divestment,” and “Money in Politics,” to reports on direct action in “Utah Tar Sands and Beyond” and “Indigenous Struggles against Keystone XL,” to skills training such as “Non-violent Direct Action 101″ and “Buddhist Meditation.” Inspiration and leadership were featured in workshops like “The Work that Reconnects” and the “Faith Leadership Panel,” while creative expression was explored in “Community Circle: Music and Poetry” and “Artful Activism and Art Station.”

The Faith Leadership Panel included voices from more than ten different faith groups. The indigenous elders on board spoke to us with a profound depth and great heart about our true place in the natural world and the imperative to connect to Spirit.

Young activists inspired everyone with the power and clarity of their messages. The diversity of cultures and ages among us —which ranged from the 20’s to the 80’s—revealed the growth in diversity of the climate movement.

All along the way, people met the Climate Train at station stops, with full-scale rallies in a few cities. There were even people waiting  in fields and meadows to wave and cheer us on as we passed.

3rd graders meet the climate train in Glenwood Springs

The Citizen Climate Lobby and a class of 3rd graders met the train in Glenwood Springs, CO

Denver Rally

An enthusiastic rally in Denver

We all meet on this one issue: our care about the future of humanity and all beings on Earth. We are reaching across boundaries and stretching beyond our personal limitations to heed the urgent call to action.

Besides helping with the People’s Climate Train, I joined the national table for People of Faith at the People’s Climate March, the purpose of which was to mobilize people of every faith in the country. Preparations included months of weekly conference calls led by Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Green Faith. I was awed by the diversity and commitment of the faith leaders participating in this group. At first, it seemed as if we Buddhists were slow to respond, but in the end we showed up and rocked.

About 200 people gathered at New York Insight Meditation Center on the Saturday morning before the march. We heard inspiring words from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi on transforming our fear into saṃvega— the sense of urgency— and our desire into fearless compassion. David Loy encouraged a shift in our relationship to the body, self, and the Earth. Ayya Santacitta brought attention to the reality and immediacy of climate chaos, stressing that there is nowhere to hide. Rev. T.K. Nakagaki compared our pollution of the planet by nuclear waste to a house without a toilet, where waste accumulates here, there, and everywhere. Wes Nisker brought humor and lightness with his take on the mystery of our cosmological reality. Thanissara read from her profound poem, The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra.  And I reported on the Climate Train and encouraged investigation into the Pledge to Mobilize.

As a final touch, musicians from the People’s Climate Train joined us and rocked New York Insight with original songs from the train and our own rendition of “Sing for the Climate,” which is quickly becoming the anthem of the climate movement worldwide. In the space of three hours, we laughed, we cried and we got ready to march.

The next morning, on Sunday, September 21st, we saw just how concerned and committed people in the US and around the world are about taking quick and decisive action on climate change. Along with nearly 400,000 people marching in New York City, more than 2,600 other events took place in 162 countries. It is good to remember that for every person who participated, there were ten or more who would have liked to have been there but couldn’t. It is also good to recognize how diverse this movement has become, and how strong, diverse and unified the representation is from people of faith.

This is not the end. It is really just the beginning. We need to keep the pressure on to get the binding agreements for sharp reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions that are necessary. We need to do all we can to ensure that our government leaders follow through. We take this action on behalf of everyone that Buddhist Global Relief supports, many of whom are on the front lines of climate chaos, for all children and for all living beings. And, we need everyone’s help to do it.

 

 

Marching Toward A New Climate Future

Charles W. Elliott

BGR at Peoples Climate March

 

This past Sunday, Buddhist Global Relief joined 400,000 others at the People’s Climate March in New York to demand swift action to halt the threat of global climate change. The streets were filled with marchers as far as the eye could see with young and old, rich and poor, of all races and religions, joined by their common humanity.

Buddhist Global Relief was part of an Interfaith contingent of thousands that packed 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues so tightly there was barely room to breathe. Joining us were more than twenty other Buddhist groups in the common cause of compassion and concern for the world.

BGR Peoples Climate March

We marched in the face of the recent onslaught of bad environmental news – the threat of the West Antarctic ice sheet irreversibly melting, 2014 on track to be one of the hottest in recorded history. Yet this was a march of hope. There would be little point in being in the streets were it not for our common belief that we can yet change the course of events.

New BGR Climate March7696

Our presence in New York was a walk in solidarity with those who will be first and most badly harmed by the consequences of climate change: the poor and indigenous populations who did not benefit from the wealth generated in the economies most responsible for the burning of fossil fuels, and who played little or no role in the causes of climate change. We walked in witness to the extinction of species from the changes wrought by rising temperatures and seas.[1] We walked to recognize the impacts of sea level rise that will swamp coasts and destroy both natural habitat and human infrastructure. And acknowledging the threats posed by climate change to food security for the world’s most vulnerable, BGR’s march banner reminded the world: “The World’s Food Supply Depends on a Stable Climate.”

The scientific community predicts that food production will be harmed by rising temperatures, increased air pollution, ocean acidification, and other climate-change induced factors.

The recent Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states: “Under scenarios of high levels of warming, leading to local mean temperature increases of 3-4 oC or higher, models based on current agricultural systems suggest large negative impacts on agricultural productivity and substantial risks to global food production and security.” (Chapter 7. Food Security and Food Production Systems, p. 3).  The IPCC reported one study showing a global food price increase of 19% due to the impacts of temperature and precipitation trends on food supply.

Here, in the United States, according to the most recent (2014) report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,  “Climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past 40 years and are projected to increase over the next 25 years. By mid-century and beyond, these impacts will be increasingly negative on most crops and livestock.” Agriculture-damaging impacts of climate change in the United States include:

  • Many agricultural regions will experience declines in crop and livestock production from increased stress due to weeds, diseases, insect pests, and other climate change induced stresses;
  • Current loss and degradation of critical agricultural soil and water assets due to increasing extremes in precipitation will continue to challenge both rainfed and irrigated agriculture unless innovative conservation methods are implemented.
  • The rising incidence of weather extremes will have increasingly negative impacts on crop and livestock productivity because critical thresholds are already being exceeded.
  • Drought frequency and severity are projected to increase in the future over much of the United States, particularly under higher emissions scenarios. These droughts will be occurring at a time when crop water requirements also are increasing due to rising temperatures. With increasing demand and competition for freshwater supplies, the water needed for these crops might be increasingly limited. Long droughts can cause crop failures.
  • Fruits that require long winter chilling periods will experience declines. Many varieties of fruits require between 400 and 1,800 cumulative hours below 45°F each winter to produce abundant yields the following summer and fall. By late this century, under higher emissions scenarios, winter temperatures in many important fruit-producing regions such as the Northeast will be too consistently warm to meet these requirements.

As we said in a previous post on climate change, “Our agriculture is fundamentally based on the stable global climate humanity has enjoyed for thousands of years.  That is now disappearing and the evidence is right in front of us.”

New BGR Climate March7700

 

400,000 people in the street sends an excellent message, but marching alone won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most powerful protest signs at the march said, “The greatest threat to the planet is the idea that someone else will save it.” That’s why the tag line for the march was “To change everything, we need everyone.”  It has been wisely said that “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” The writer Ken Wilber echoes this wisdom: “Therefore, if you have seen, you simply must speak out. Speak out with compassion, or speak out with angry wisdom, or speak out with skillful means, but speak out you must.”

We urge all of you to take action, help others understand what is at stake, and speak truth to power wherever it may be.

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[1] The scientific consensus in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report‘s Summary for Policymakers  is that: “Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change” and “There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5°C (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.”

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 6 (of 6)

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is the last of a six-part series giving brief summaries of the BGR projects approved at the board’s annual projects meeting on May 4th. The first five parts of this series described the nineteen international projects approved by the board. This final post describes the four U.S. projects that were approved. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, along with Jessie Benjamin, David Liu, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ, who all helped prepare the material used in this series.

 20. Detroit: Building Oases in a Food Desert      NEW

Detroit is known as a “food desert” where residents have to travel twice as far to the nearest grocery store than the closest fast food or convenience store. Keep Growing Detroit aims to promote food sovereignty in the venerable “motor city,” so that more fresh fruits and vegetables will be available to Detroiters, grown by residents themselves within city limits. The organization also aspires to foster healthy relationships between people and the food they eat, to increase knowledge of food and farming, to cultivate community connections, and to nurture leadership skills among Detroiters.

BGR will be entering upon a first-time partnership with Keep Growing Detroit, supporting a project that seeks to expand options for local food production by making available resources and education opportunities. The two objectives of the project are: (1) to support 1500 family, community, school and market gardens by distributing garden resources, and (2) to host 25 classes reaching 500 residents and provide information about basic gardening, farm and business planning, hoophouse construction, cooking and food preservation. BGR funding will go toward the purchase of seeds, plants, a greenhouse, and cooking and teaching supplies.

21. New York City: Reaching Youth Starved for Meaning

The Reciprocity Foundation was established in 2006 to address the plight of homeless youth in New York City. In 2012, when they found that the homeless students were arriving hungry and unable to focus, the RF team started a vegetarian meal program  called “Starved for Meaning.” Meals, prepared collectively and served “family-style,” with a moment of gratitude before the meal, fulfilled the students’ hunger for community, dialogue, and meaning. Last year, with the help of BGR funds, the number of meals doubled and there was an increase in the number of youth coming to the center for food. In a questionnaire about the program, 100 percent of the youth said that their life improved as a result of the meals, they felt a greater sense of belonging, and they felt more optimistic about their life. Over the next year, BGR funding will help the Reciprocity Foundation to increase the capacity of the vegetarian meal program for homeless youth in NYC and expand the food program to reach young people living on the streets. Annually renewable project.

22. New York City: Community Garden Plots in the Bronx

URI_Greenhouse 1

The Urban Community Food Project (UCFP) was started in 2011 as an initiative of the Urban Rebuilding Initiative. Its mission is to build a sustainable food system throughout New York in order to fight poverty and resultant food insecurity. UCFP’s farms are located in the 16th Congressional District of the US, an area that has the lowest median income and the highest rates of unemployment and incarceration in the nation. UCFP works with at-risk youth, young adults, and formerly incarcerated men in local neighborhoods to convert urban spaces into food production sites. The food grown on these sites is donated to neighborhood food pantries and homeless shelters.

The BGR grant will help the Food Project to fulfill its goals for 2014–15, which include: (1) developing four inner-city farms that will produce 5,000 pounds of produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens; (2) introducing a new fitness program called “good food and fitness go hand in hand”; and (3) offering regular workshops on sustainability, urban farming, green technology, and civic action. Annually renewable project.

 23. Home Gardens for Low-Income Families in Santa Clara 

Valley Verde-Children in Garden

Surveys indicate that one-quarter of Latino and black communities in Santa Clara County, California, live in poverty. Since 2009, the need to serve hungry children has increased 35 percent.  Valley Verde seeks to increase self-sufficiency and healthy eating across Santa Clara County by cultivating organic gardening skills and leadership among low-income immigrants and people of color. By helping to develop organic home vegetable gardens, it aims to create productive, healthy, and sustainable communities.  To date, Valley Verde has enabled 140 families, including more than 400 children, to cultivate home vegetable gardens.

Over the next year, by cultivating organic gardening skills,Valley Verde plans to increase self-sufficiency, reduce food insecurity, and develop income tools for up to ninety low and very low residents in San Jose and Gilroy. The team will also pilot a seed germination project among 7-10 experienced gardeners. BGR funds will go to purchase seedlings, materials for raised beds, starting kits, and irrigation equipment for this program. Annually renewable project.

Concluded

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 5 (of 6)

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

15. Rwanda and Malawi: Training in Organic Agriculture

Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula is a U.S.–based organization that disseminates a system of organic agriculture called Grow Biointensive. BGR is providing a second grant to Ecology Action for a two-year project that has been training farmers from Rwanda in the Grow Biointensive method.  The expected outcome is improvement in the health of malnourished children, increase in the diversity and quantity of household food, and better knowledge of health and care-giving. Farmers should also be able to increase their earnings through sale of surplus produce on the market.

In this second year, two master trainers will train a minimum of four Community Resource Persons (CRP) for Rwanda, who will then train individuals and their communities. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 could receive training directly, and an additional 1,500 to 2,000 trained by CRP and community members. The project includes a third year of support for trainers in Malawi, who hope to spread Grow Biointensive to other parts of the country, with a special focus on widows and their families. Year two of a two-year project.

16. Sri Lanka: Empowering Young Women

CENWOR (Centre for Women’s Research), founded in 1984, aims to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in Sri Lanka. One of its major missions has been providing girls from poor families with education and vocational training. For the fourth time, BGR will be sponsoring a year-long project with CENWOR intended to remedy inadequacies in the public education system that result in a high dropout rates for girls. The project will locate ten girls not attending school at any level, determine the reason, and provide them with the support they need to return to school.

CENWOR will also locate fifty girls who dropped out of their final years of high school and provide them with vocational training that will enable them to find employment. CENWOR will also offer the women complementary courses in English, basic IT, personality development, and gender issues. Annually renewable project.

17. Vietnam: Meals for Hospital Patients

Vietnam_Red Cross_IMG_5965In Vietnam, the price of hospital stay does not include food.  Already challenged by the hospital expenses, most patients and their families are hard pressed to buy food.  With a grant from BGR, the Tam Binh chapter of the Red Cross of Vietnam, in collaboration with the local government, has stepped forward to feed poor patients in need. The BGR grant suffices to provide two meals a day to  patients throughout the year. This is one of BGR’s initial projects, which will now enter its sixth year. Annually renewable project.  

18. Vietnam: Scholarships for Poor Children

For the past five years, BGR has been sponsoring scholarships to students in elementary and middle schools in both the Cam Duong and the Tam Binh areas of Vietnam. The scholarships are given by the Red Cross of Vietnam to 150 students in each of the two school districts. These are children from the poorest families who achieve good grades and display good conduct. Without this aid, these students would not have the means to continue studies at the primary and middle school levels. The scholarship provides each student with an enrollment kit that includes the annual enrollment fee, educational materials, and basic health care during the school year. Annually renewable project.

19. Vietnam: System of Rice Intensification

This project, renewed for the fourth time, is conducted in partnership with the International Cooperation Center of Thai Nguyen University. The program expands training in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to village farmers in three villages of Vo Nhai district, Thai Nguyen province. SRI results in increased yields with smaller inputs of water and fertilizer. Annually renewable project.

To be continued

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 4 (of 6)

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

12. India: System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Badlao Foundation aims to empower people for social transformation and help them achieve self-reliance and gender justice. The organization promotes an equitable social structure and helps women and other socially disadvantaged peoples to claim their rights. Last year BGR completed the second year of a three-year partnership with Badlao to improve the economic status of 150 marginalized families in the Deoghar district of Jharkhand state, one of the most impoverished districts in the country.

The grant for the third year will enable Badlao to extend the program to an additional 50 families, for a total of 200 beneficiary families. The project aims to improve the economic status and financial independence of women, 88% of whom are moderately to severely malnourished. The selected farmers will be taught how to improve their livelihoods by making more effective use of their land. A women farmers’ association (Mahila Sabha) will be established to sell produce and manage finances.  Regular meetings for the beneficiary families will cover agricultural training as well as rights and responsibilities, gender issues, and the importance of education and health. Year three of a three-year project made possible by a generous grant from the India Charitable Trust.

13. India: A Girls’ Hostel and Women’s Community Center 

 Bodhicitta Foundation is a socially engaged charity established in 2001 by the Australian Buddhist nun, Ayya Yeshe, to help Dalits (scheduled classes) and slum dwellers in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, a two-year partnership between BGR and Bodhicitta culminated in the establishment of a women’s vocational training and community center in Nagpur, one of the largest cities in the state.

Now Bodhicitta plans to create a girls’ hostel for thirty girls aged 14–20, who will be trained as social and health workers or to qualify in a vocation. The girls will be selected from Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, from rural Maharashtra, and from the urban slums of Nagpur—ten from each region. They will be trained for three years, after which they will return to their villages with the skills to empower other young girls, create their own businesses, and pass on their knowledge. In this way, thirty girls will become agents of change and establish institutions that will benefit hundreds of girls and women in the future.Such a project is especially important in India because investing in girls’ education can alleviate poverty and the ignorance that oppresses poor girls and women.

The  BGR grant will also go to support the women’s job training and community center. At the center, the women will receive education, loans, and business training to empower them to start their own businesses and gain income that will directly increase the well-being of their children, families, and communities, lifting them out of poverty. The community center creates space for awareness-raising, health workshops, counseling, career guidance, and quality education that is currently lacking in the difficult environment of a large industrial slum. Year one of a three-year project.

14. India: Enhanced Food Security for Women Farmers

This is the third year of a three-year partnership with Oxfam India on a project being implemented in 13 villages in the Tehri Gharwal district of the Uttarakhand region. The project is designed to benefit over 6500 people in 1200 households of small and marginal farmers. Its focus is on enhancing food security for women farmers by building a sustainable production system that can prove resilient in the face of a changing climate. The project strengthens integrated farming systems; increases the use of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI); and teaches non-pesticidal sustainable agriculture.

This third year of the program will see the formation of a farmer’s field school; build the capacities of village-level resource persons; offer further training on low-input sustainable agriculture and forest, water, and soil conservation; and create links with the government to spread new information.

To be continued

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 3 (of 6)

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

8. Ethiopia: System of Crop Intensification (SCI)

Sofia 1-2Last year, BGR entered into a partnership with Oxfam America on a project to improve food production in the Meki-Ziway area of the Central Rift Valley in Ethiopia, a region affected by increased costs of farming, excessive use of pesticides and water, and decreasing water levels.

The project aims to meet these challenges by applying the System of Crop Intensification (SCI) to such crops as tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, and potatoes. SCI draws on the methods that have already proved successful in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), extending them to other crops. SCI emphasizes growing bigger, healthier root systems, and enhancing soil fertility. The method should increase vegetable production while reducing water use and reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Producing more while reducing costs will increase income and enhance household nutritional security among the Ethiopian farmers of the Meki-Ziway area. This second year of the two-year project will focus on building the capacity of local partners to continue SCI training. It will also organize workshops to share knowledge with other regions and develop manuals and videos to make the methods more widely available to Ethiopian farmers. Year two of a two-year project.

9. Haiti: System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

20131203_160353Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with nearly 90% of Haitians in the countryside living in poverty and two-thirds in extreme poverty. Haiti was once self-sufficient in rice, a staple in the national diet, but rice production has sagged and it now imports over 80% of its rice. To increase the output and income of rice farmers in Haiti, Oxfam America is promoting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a method of cultivation which lowers inputs but results in rice plants that are more resistant to climate extremes, pests, and diseases. Yields can increase by 50%-150% within one or two cropping seasons.

Last year BGR teamed up with Oxfam America on a two-year project to enhance the use of SRI in Haiti. The first-year of the BGR grant enabled the training in SRI to be extended to thirty additional farmers, both women and men, for a total of 300. In the second year, the grant will extend the training to still more farmers. It will also establish financial support for farmers, improve a local processing mill, and train youth to use cultivation and harvesting machinery. Year two of a two-year project.

10. Haiti: Meals for Hungry Kids

girl and boyThe U.S.-based What If? Foundation is dedicated to improving the lot of poor children in Haiti. WIF has worked in close partnership with members of the impoverished Ti Plas Kazo community of Port-au-Prince to sustain the the Lamanjay free meals program, which was started in 2000. The urgency of the program increased sharply following the terrible earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January 2010. Every weekday, in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood, over a thousand children (and a few adults) line up at the distribution center to receive a plate of hot, nutritious food. The community served by Lamanjay includes mostly children who still live in nearby tents with unemployed parents or guardians who cannot provide the children with sufficient, nutritious food.  Other children walk miles to attend. For most of these children, the food they receive at the food program is their only meal of the day. The grant from BGR will sponsor meals provided by Lamanjay between June 2014 and June 2015. The goal is to ensure that, as they struggle to rebuild their lives, thousands of hungry children and some adults in Port-au-Prince have access to hot, nutritious meals. An annual renewable program.

11. Haiti: Helping Kids Go To School

The What If? Foundation supports 184 young people through the School Scholarships program for the 2013-2014 academic year. Scholarships currently cover the cost of tuition, and occasionally assist with other costs, but generally families have to  pay for such fees as transportation, books, and uniforms.

A grant from BGR will provide scholarships for 38 elementary school students and 30 high school students. Reports indicate that 96% of the high school and elementary students sponsored by the What If? Foundation over the past three years graduated or advanced to the next grade level. This high pass rate is the direct result of the support the students receive from the Education Team in Haiti. An annually renewable program.

To be continued

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 2

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

3. Cambodia: System of Rice Intensification
Rachana is a Cambodian organization dedicated to improving the socio-economic well-being of poor and vulnerable communities in Cambodia. Rachana promotes the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an ecologically sensitive agricultural methodology that increases yields of rice from an average of 2 tons to 4.75 tons per hectare. BGR has already partnered with Rachana over the past three years in spreading the use of SRI, with highly favorable results. The program has enabled farmers to feed their own families better and obtain a surplus to sell on the market. As a result, SRI has substantially boosted family incomes. The annually renewable program will promote SRI in eight villages, five old ones and three new ones.

4. Cambodia: Giving Girls Access to Education
Since 2009, BGR has been partnering with U.S.-based Lotus Outreach International in support of its life-transforming Girls Access To Education (GATE) program, intended to ensure that girls remain in school. In Cambodia the education of girls is considered unnecessary, but LOI and BGR promote a new perspective. To encourage families to keep their girls in school, Lotus Outreach provides 50 kg of rice monthly during the school year to the families of poor girls in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey. Students enrolled in the GATE program are more likely to stay in school, lowering their likelihood of returning to exploitative labor. In 2013, 90% of GATE scholarship recipients passed their exams and advanced to the next level.

With support from BGR, Lotus Outreach has extended rice support to GATE graduates who enroll in college or university programs. These graduates, who have risen up from poverty to enter university, are called GATEways scholars. The grant from BGR will provide rice support to 52 impoverished families of the poorest girls in the GATE program and to 89 university students enrolled in the GATEways scholarship program. With continued scholarship support, these young women will rank among the exclusive 1% of Cambodia’s female population to receive a college education. An annually renewable program.

5. Cambodia: Helping Women Escape the Sex Trade
Driven by desperate poverty, with no other opportunities in sight, many girls in Cambodia find themselves compelled to turn to the sex trade to support themselves and their families. Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program offers these women and their children a light in the dark. By teaching them basic literacy, health education, life skills, and vocational training, the program helps young women escape exploitation while discovering their own strength, self-worth, and competency. The renewed grant from BGR will provide non-formal education, vocational training, and life skills to approximately 30 sex workers and their children. Daughters of sex workers receive scholarship packages so they can return to school. Many of these women and children will learn to read and write for the first time in their lives. An annually renewable program.

6. China: Orphans Without Walls       NEW
In the rural mountainous areas of China with minority populations, 25–40 percent of students drop out before completing nine years of compulsory education. These children will not be able to enroll in high school and have no chance of entering university. Girls are more at risk of dropping out early, as nomadic and agricultural families prefer girls to stay home to help with household work. Children who grow up without one or both parents are especially at risk of dropping out .

The Hong Kong-based Shambala Foundation (unrelated to the U.S. Shambala centers), founded in 2006, is seeking to redress this problem in the western province of Qinghai with its Children of Shambala Qinghai (CoS Qinghai) programs. In 2010 CoS Qinghai began implementing a long-term poverty-alleviation program called Orphanage Without Walls (OWW). One of the main reasons poor children in backward areas drop out is the high cost of continuing in school. Even compulsory education, which is meant to be free, is costly for poor families owing to incidental fees. If students are able to attend academic high school or vocational school the cost per student becomes prohibitive for poor families.

With a grant from BGR, Shambala Foundation will provide a new set of clothes, shoes, school supplies, and child-friendly books directly to 60 children. These subsidies reduce each family’s burden of paying for their child’s education-related costs. The overall goal is for each child to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Shambala Foundation works with each child so they can attend school for as long as possible and eventually find their first paid jobs.

7. Côte d’Ivoire: Enhanced Homestead Food Production
Last year, BGR entered into a partnership with Helen Keller International on a three-year expansion of its innovative Enhanced Homestead Food Production program in Côte d’Ivoire’s Bouaké District (Gbèkè Region), an especially poor district where families struggle with food security and lack access to food markets. Teams teach the Enhanced Homestead Food Production model to community gardening groups comprised mostly of women.

The project is designed to increase the availability and quantity of micronutrient-rich vegetables. A key component of the program is growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a food rich in micronutrients, especially vitamin A, essential to preventing blindness. The project improves gardening practices, irrigation systems, and income generation. It also provides instruction in nutrition and hygiene to young mothers. Women farmers learn marketing strategies for selling their crops. Successful small-scale irrigation systems will be applied not only to programs in Côte d’Ivoire but throughout the region, especially to areas vulnerable to climate change. Year two of a three-year program.

(To be continued)