BGR's Walk Season is Here
By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
The season has arrived for BGR’s annual Walk to Feed the Hungry. The first walk of the season already took place this past weekend, on September 16th, in San Jose. The Connecticut walk will be held on September 24th, four walks on September 30th, another four walks in October, and the last walk in Houston on November 4th. A schedule of the walks can be found on our website here. This past April, just recently made known to us, the Sangha Teens of the Jodo Shin Buddhist temple in San Diego organized a walk on their own. An article about that walk will be found just below in this newsletter.
These Walks to Feed the Hungry are the backbone of BGR’s fundraising. Without the funds brought in by these walks, we would be nothing but a name. We wouldn’t be providing substantial midday meals to schoolchildren in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Jamaica, and Haiti—meals that keep them in school and help them to focus on their studies. We wouldn’t be able to promote ecologically sustainable agriculture in Cambodia, Haiti, Malawi, India, Kenya, and Sudan, or foster neighborhood gardens in Detroit. We wouldn’t be offering rice scholarships to Cambodian girls from the poorest sectors so they can finish high school and even attend college, or support girls in India from the former “Untouchable” community who are being trained as social workers and community leaders. Almost everything we do is made possible by the funds brought in by these walks.
These walks are a worldwide expression of compassion. They demonstrate compassion in action, compassion aimed at uplifting those living at the edge of despair and giving them a chance to live with real hope, with a brighter future. The walks can also be seen as a rejoinder to the ethnic, racial, and nationalist hatred that has been spreading like a dangerous wildfire both in the U.S. and around the world, causing so much hurt, damage, and even death. The walks represent an affirmation of human unity and solidarity. They are a clear statement that despite our superficial differences, all of us at our core are members of a single extended family, and as such we must be deeply concerned with the well-being of all, especially those among us who struggle with severe deprivation. No one should lack adequate nutrition and other basic amenities needed for a fulfilling life. Yet hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity haunt close to a billion people, and we aim to do our part to cleanse this stain on humanity’s soul.
BGR takes a multifaceted approach to the problem of global hunger. Delivering direct food aid is only one aspect of our mission. What we primarily seek are long-term, stable, and sustainable solutions, measures that tackle the problem at its roots. The most potent cause of chronic hunger is not scarcity of food resources but poverty, and thus the most effective antidote to hunger is lifting people out of poverty—or better, giving them the means to lift themselves.
What we have also learned is that a sustaining cause of poverty in many traditional cultures is the subordinate status of girls and women. Thus, to unravel the interwoven problems of poverty and chronic hunger, many of our projects are designed to provide girls with the chance to attend school, and to stay in school for as long as opportunity allows. Then, when they become educated adult women, they will be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to lift their families and communities up from poverty.
We also support women in their struggle to provide for their families. Since, in the traditional world, many of the small-scale farmers (probably a majority) are women, many of our projects are designed to teach them ecological methods of agriculture—methods that simultaneously improve their standards of living and counter climate change, which is largely driven by the resource-intensive industrial model of agriculture.
While I urge our readers to become a part of our mission by joining a walk, I must also point out that it is not sufficient merely to walk. The purpose of the walk is to generate donations. It is these donations that keep BGR going. So please bring forth a heart of generosity and great compassion and donate to support your walk. If you cannot walk yourself, you can donate to support others on a walk or donate directly to BGR.
If there is no event listed near you, you can start a walk in your hometown—as the teens of the San Diego Buddhist Temple did. All you need to do is discuss the idea with a few friends, draw up plans, and then contact various Buddhist groups in your area. This was done by the New Buddha Way, a group in England, which has held an annual BGR walk in Surrey over the past few years.
As the idea of a walk spreads and inspires enthusiasm, you’ll find your walk expands in scale and draws in more and more people, who resonate with the idea of demonstrating compassion in action. Alternatively, you can hold a "Day of Mindfulness" or a Dharma talk at your local temple or meditation center to raise funds and share knowledge about the work of Buddhist Global Relief.
The Buddha said, “The gift of food is the gift of life.” By walking, you’ll be giving the gift of life to vulnerable people throughout the world. May you all rejoice in the power of the good!