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.

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