In May 2006, Buddha Jyoti Himalayan Youth Club Nepal (BJHYC) started its latest social service project, Maitri Griha, or “House of Friendship,” a home for mentally disabled children in Kathmandu, Nepal. Perceiving a lack of care for this vulnerable group, BJHYC rented a house and began counseling families struggling to raise mentally handicapped children. Eventually, BJHYC invited some of the children who were living in the most challenging conditions into the center, providing them with food, shelter, and care. Thanks to renovation efforts on the first floor of the house, renting rooms out to tourists generates some income for the project.
Currently there are seven boys living at Maitri Griha. The goal is to help the children develop the skills that they need in order to be reintegrated into their homes with their families. Three boys left Maitri Griha to return to their families last year.
TO HELP: www.maitri-griha.org/en
In 1966, the Taiwanese nun and teacher Master Cheng Yen instructed thirty of her students, all local housewives, to begin saving two cents from their daily grocery money to give to the poor. This modest endeavor later became the Tzu Chi Foundation, now one of the world’s largest Buddhist charities. With over three hundred offices stretching across five continents, the Tzu Chi Foundation provides food, clothing, material necessities, medical care, and spiritual guidance to people in more than sixty-nine nations, and provides extensive aid to victims of natural disasters wherever they occur. Over the past four decades the organization has established medical missions, hospitals, schools, colleges, a large-scale bone marrow registry, and a stem-cell research center.
In recent years, the Tzu Chi Foundation has spearheaded an impressive project: recycling millions of plastic bottles from the city of Taipei’s waste stream into hundreds of thousands of polyester blankets to distribute to people in disaster zones. These blankets have reached victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Sichuan earthquake in China, and most recently those affected by the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. With the success of this “bottles-toblankets” initiative, the foundation is now beginning to manufacture clothes and bags in an effort to broaden the reach of its work in environmental and humanitarian aid.
Master Cheng Yen, who was recently recognized in the Taiwan edition of Reader’s Digest magazine as the “most trusted person in Taiwan,” teaches that suffering in this world is caused not only by material deprivation but also by spiritual poverty. The lack of compassion for others, she argues, is the root of many of the problems that are currently facing the world.
TO HELP: www.tw.tzuchi.org/en
Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonpartisan, unarmed peacekeeping organization, was conceived in 1999 during the Hague Appeal for Peace conference in the Netherlands and has since received acclaim from nine Nobel Prize Laureates, including the Dalai Lama. Praising Nonviolent Peaceforce, His Holiness noted, “The moral force and personal discipline of nonviolence offer the best, most effective long-term strategies to resolve conflicts.” The Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, also endorsed the organization, telling a public audience in 2002 that such a group is “very much needed in today’s world.” He added, “The present escalation of violence around the world is unprecedented…. We must determine how to establish a nonviolent society. When violence is met with violence one side can be temporarily subdued but much suffering results.”
Nonviolent Peaceforce trains members in third-party intervention strategies and frequently begins projects by responding directly to invitations from local community groups who are also committed to nonviolence. Once in a conflict area, their mission is to prevent further death or destruction and to protect human rights, thus creating greater opportunities for peaceful dialogue. Current projects are in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Sudan.
TO HELP: www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org
Founded in 1994 by Dr. Paula Green, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding addresses the challenges resulting from ethnic, religious, and political conflict. Since then the center has worked in over twenty countries, including the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Burma, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Rwanda. Between 2003 and 2005, Karuna Center established the Project with Tibetans-in-Exile: Leadership Training in Conflict Transformation in partnership with the Tibetan Centre for Conflict Resolution (TCCR) to address issues within the Tibetan refugee community and with their Indian neighbors. The goal of this partnership was twofold: “to creatively integrate Tibetan Buddhist approaches with Western conflict resolution methods” and to help “train young Tibetans recruited from refugee settlements throughout India to resolve conflict within their own communities.” Karuna remains committed to working with TCCR on an as-needed basis.
The continued efforts of Dr. Paula Green and her associates in international conflict transformation and reconciliation have not gone unnoticed. In April 2009, the Dalai Lama presented Dr. Green with the Unsung Heroes of Compassion award, an honor given annually by the nonprofit organization Wisdom in Action to “individuals who, through their loving kindness and service to others, have made their communities and our world a better place.”
TO HELP: www.karunacenter.org
—Reported by Monty McKeever, Anna Bernhard, and Sam Mowe