Biographies

Board Members

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Chairperson
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk from New York City, born in 1944. He obtained a BA in philosophy from Brooklyn College and a PhD in philosophy from Claremont Graduate School. After completing his university studies he traveled to Sri Lanka, where he received novice ordination in 1972 and full ordination in 1973, both under the leading Sri Lankan scholar-monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya (1896-1998). From 1984 to 2002 he was the editor for the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy, where he lived for ten years with the senior German monk, Ven. Nyanaponika Thera (1901-1994), at the Forest Hermitage. He returned to the U.S. in 2002. He currently lives and teaches at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York. Ven. Bodhi has many important publications to his credit, either as author, translator, or editor. These include The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya, 1995), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya, 2000), In the Buddha’s Words (2005), and The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya, 2012).

W. David Braughton, Vice-Chairperson and Treasurer
David is Chief Operating Officer of LifeStream Behavior Center, where he is in charge of the $45 million agency’s support divisions and integrated health care clinics. Previously, he served as president/CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, a large, multi-service agency bringing help, hope and healing to individuals and families facing serious life challenges resulting from abuse, sexual assault, depression, suicide, financial distress, mental illness or general life problems. David has worked for over 35 years in human services related to a range of human needs including refugee resettlement, employment and youth services. He has a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago.

Daniel Blake
Brooklyn-based jazz artist Dan Blake has led a wide-ranging career that includes significant work with artists like Anthony Braxton and Grammy-winning jazz-pop star Esperanza Spalding, as well as a range of award-winning jazz albums and multi-media compositions. Inspired by the teachings and call to compassionate action of Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, he has produced the Concert To Feed The Hungry for BGR since 2010. For Dan, a practitioner of Vipassana meditation for over a decade, the concert represents an opportunity to form a sustainable alliance between artistic and spiritual communities who share a common vision of ending hunger and poverty around the world.

George Clapp
George has worked for over 30 years as a telecommunications engineer in data communications and high-speed networking.  He assists with the information technology (IT) tasks of BGR.

Charles Elliot
Charles is an attorney with 30 years of experience in public interest litigation on behalf of municipal governments, environmental organizations, and victims of environmental pollution. He is a member of the Easton (PA) Environmental Advisory Council, the regional Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and Chairman of the City of Easton Planning Commission. He is also a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Human Rights Watch, the Pennsylvania steering committee of Clean Water Action, Inc., and other non-profit organizations. He received his J.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Diploma in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from the Academy on Human Rights, Washington College of Law of American University. He serves as a Trustee of the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, Washington, NJ.

Patricia Price
Patti has over 35 years experience with domestic and foreign educational and human service organizations. She earned a BA from the University of Miami and a M. Ed. from Lehigh University. Her interest in international affairs and the plight of disadvantaged/displaced people originated at the U. of Miami through interaction with Cuban and Vietnamese students. A post-college position as an academic advisor at an embassy in Washington, D.C., and later at the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in Kingston, Jamaica, added to her commitment to helping people in need. Her work has included fundraising at three US colleges and 11 years with CARE International raising funds and awareness for programs empowering and assisting women and children in developing countries with a focus on Sub-Sahara Africa. It was during this time she became acquainted with Bhikkhu Bodhi and was invited to be a founding member of BGR. She has been the Director of Planned Giving at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, since 2008. Patti has served as a member of the boards at Temple Covenant of Peace and the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children in Easton, PA, and continues in committee roles with both. Currently she is on the Board of the Eastern PA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops on charitable giving. Her most enjoyable volunteer role is with the Easton Farmers Market.

Michael Roehm
Michael was the facilitator of the Sutta Study Group at the Washington Buddhist Vihara for over 14 years. His Buddhist affiliations and activities have focused on both the Theravada and (Korean and Soto) Zen traditions. A former monk in Sri Lanka and Korea, where he was a student of Zen Master Kusan Sunim, he was also a founding member of the Washington Buddhist Vihara and Bhavana Society, and a cofounder of Lotus Lantern International Buddhist Center (Seoul, Korea) and the Buddhist Fellowship of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA. He is a Practicing Member in the Mountain and Rivers Order of Zen Mountain Monastery. Having retired from American University in 2011, he is now a volunteer facilitator in the Alternatives to Violence Program at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown. He lives in Williamsport, MD.

Sylvie Sun
Sylvie has been practicing Chinese Chan Buddhism since 1989, as a student and disciple of the late Master Sheng Yen. She has been a volunteer with Dharma Drum Mountain and Chan Meditation Center in Elmhurst, NY, for more than twenty years. She has led the coordination of countless fundraising events and special programs, trained other volunteers, and helped to organize ties between the local chapters. Sylvie is always happy to share her experiences in Buddhist practice, social activism, and community life.

Directors

Executive Director

Thomas Spies, Executive Director
Tom Spies was born and grew up in Boonton, NJ, USA. He received his Bachelors degree in Economics with an Accounting concentration from Rutgers University in 1983, and earned his Certified Public Accounting license in 1985. Tom has worked in the finance and accounting field for 33 years, his most recent position being CFO for CSI Management Group, a Human Resource Outsourcing firm in Wayne, NJ. Tom has been a Buddhist practitioner since 2002. Prior to becoming Executive Director, Tom held the position as Treasurer of Buddhist Global Relief from 2008 until 2016. Tom is the father of two and currently resides with his wife Dana in Lee, MA.

Programs Director

Kim Behan
Kim graduated with a Masters degree in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado in Boulder and worked as a software engineer with Bell Laboratories and its affiliates for more than 28 years. During her career, she was involved in the design and implementation of voice telephony and data applications. She retired from her work to devote her full effort towards helping the poor and underprivileged people of the world. Since 2005, Kim has been involved with fundraising to provide critical rice support to the “poorest of the poor” in the remote villages of Vietnam. She has also implemented programs to provide financial assistance to poor and handicapped children in various rural school districts. To broaden the scope and mission of her work, in May 2007, she and her sister, Dr. Bui Kim Hai, co-founded Wellness Global Foundation (WGF), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides medical and educational assistance to the impoverished people of Vietnam. She is a founding member of Buddhist Global Relief and during its first year served as Board member and Chair of the Hunger Relief Committee and then as Executive Director until July 2016. In that capacity, Kim managed operations, hunger projects, donor relations and fundraising efforts for Buddhist Global Relief. Kim is currently the Programs Director for BGR.

Assistant Director and Recording Secretary

Carla Prater
Carla is a native of Southern California, transplanted to Brazil by missionary parents at the age of 12. She remained there for the next twenty years, and returned to school shortly after returning to the US in 1987, earning a Master’s in Urban Planning (1993) and a Ph.D. in Political Science (1999), both from Texas A&M University. During her time in graduate school, she began working as a researcher at the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center at Texas A&M, from which she retired in 2014. She now lives in Seattle and sees her work with BGR as vital to her practice.

Our Projects

BGR projects are designed to provide direct food aid to people afflicted by hunger and malnutrition, to promote ecologically sustainable agriculture, to support the education of girls and women, and to give women an opportunity to start right livelihood projects to support their families. This is a selection of nine of our current 29 projects. Please select "Current Projects" from the menu on the left to see them all.