San Diego Teens Start Walk to Feed the Hungry

By Sharon Sasaki

Sangha Teens are 6th-8th graders at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego, which belongs to the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism, the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan. Typically, our group helps with temple fundraisers (like our bazaar snack booth) and attends social mixers with sister Shin Buddhist temples. While seeking a form of community service to participate in this year, we stumbled upon an article in the newsletter of our Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), Wheel of Dharma. Reading about the "Walk to Feed the Hungry" fundraisers supported by sister temples in San Francisco, New York, and San Jose, we were inspired to start a walk ourselves. This was the community service activity we'd been looking for!

In our privileged, sheltered lives in Southern California, we experience stress and pain, but we never have to worry about clean water, food, or the ability to go to school. Watching videos on the Buddhist Global Relief website, we learned about caring, compassionate groups and people around the world that would benefit from a fundraising walk.

Why did we choose Buddhist Global Relief? With many people around the world hungry and in need, “doing something” as Buddhists was important to us. A walk was a perfect choice, an outdoor event for all ages and families. After reviewing photos of walks in other cities, we were a little concerned about scale, since our group comprised a total of ten youth. But we decided to forge ahead anyway. Small or large, we knew we could do something to make a difference!

We settled on April 30th in Liberty Station Park in San Diego. To publicize the event, we posted flyers and a sign-up sheet at the temple, made announcements during services, and e-mailed temple members. We made signs on neon poster boards so onlookers could understand our purpose, and our high school student organizer, Hailey Sasaki, produced T-shirts commemorating the event.

Perfect weather shined the day of our walk, so our 27 intrepid participants were off to a great start. We started witha Dharma talk by our Minister’s Assistant, Laverne Imori. Laverne inspired us, helping us realize how lucky we were to be able to participate. Perhaps the young students would later think about this day as their start as engaged Buddhists. Our route was a 1.5 mile loop around the park. Since it was a lovely day, we had a great time walking and chatting while holding our signs. After the walk, we relaxed and enjoyed pizza and refreshments together. Best of all, with the support of our wonderful Sangha, we raised $987.86 for Buddhist Global Relief.

Here are some comments from participants:

The Walk to Feed the Hungry was a great experience. It was fun to hang out with people from the temple, and to know that we were doing it for a good cause, too.
Ava Yamamoto, age 12

The Walk to Feed the Hungry that the Sangha Teens organized was a fun, inspirational experience. It definitely made me think more about people who are not as fortunate as most, and motivated me to try to help those in need more often.
Zoe Yamamoto, age 14

The Sangha Teens never cease to amaze us! Once they decided to do the walk, their organization, attention to detail, and thoughtfulness came through with each aspect on the day of the event. The signs, smiling faces, positive energy, and camaraderie in the air was infectious to everyone who participated. All of their hard work fell into place and it was nice that strangers took notice and gave encouragement. The amount of money raised was a wonderful end result! Congratulations on a job well done!
Roy and Karen Okuhara

Congratulations to the Sangha Teens for researching and organizing such a fun and productive event! I hope we can do this again and involve more people from the Sangha. It was a fun day. Way to go!!!
Laverne Imori

Thank you, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist Global Relief, for your incredible efforts and support!

Sharon Sasaki is the daughter of a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist minister, Rev. LaVerne Senyo Sasaki, who is now minister emeritus of the Buddhist Churches of America. She has been teaching and helping with the Buddhist Temple of San Diego's Dharma School program for the last 20 years, and has been the Sangha Teens advisor for the last few years, participating with her two daughters.

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