When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May 2008, it took the lives of nearly 150,000 people and left at least a million homeless. While relief organizations waited at the country’s borders to deliver aid, the Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB) was already there. Working with partners in Rangoon, the San Francisco–based foundation provided immediate relief in the form of food, water, construction, and equipment to thousands in need.
But FPB is not an emergency-relief organization. Founded in 1999 as the Burmese People’s Relief Group by Hal Nathan, who left the world of finance for “work with more heart,” FPB is, according to its website, “dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to Burmese people of all ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs” and “provides direct assistance to communities that have been severely affected by injustice.” FPB’s programs focus on child protection and safety; women’s empowerment; community development; and health outreach, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. to help:www.foundationburma.org
In the fall of 2007, the American Buddhist scholar and monk Bhikkhu Bodhi published an essay in Buddhadharma magazine in which he called for a greater level of social engagement among American Buddhist communities. In response, Bodhi’s students formed Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), and within a short period of time were on the ground providing food aid in several developing countries.
In its relatively short history, BGR has become known for its integrity and efficiency as it combats hunger in impoverished Asian communities. With these good qualities, BGR just may have a chance to meet its long-term goal: “To combat all manifestations of poverty that detract from the inherent dignity of human life.” to help: www.buddhistglobalrelief.org
In the spring of 1998, a Canadian scholar named Jeff Watt agreed to begin providing content to a young website exhibiting less than one thousand Tibetan-Buddhist thangka paintings. Twelve years later,Himalayan Art Resources has grown into a comprehensive virtual museum and educational database containing over 35,000 images— paintings, statues, and textiles from all major religions and indigenous traditions influenced by Himalayan culture. By making this art publicly available for viewing on the Internet, Watt and his small staff participate in an important way in the crucial effort to preserve Himalayan culture. to help: www.himalayanart.org
Founded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in 1993, Lotus Outreach was initially established to provide educational sponsorships to Tibetan refugee children within communities in India. Since then, they have expanded both the reach and scope of their work and now provide education, health care, rehabilitation, and protection to vulnerable children in many areas throughout both India and Cambodia, including victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery. The organization is entirely made up of volunteers, from their international board of directors to clinicians and educators in the gritty streets of cities such as Phnom Pen and Delhi. to help: www.lotusoutreach.org
In Sidhpur, a small town on the border of the Himalayas, in Himachel Pradesh, India, a rabies outbreak recently killed three people, including a four-year-old girl. In response to the tragedy, the local government organized a mass killing of all the town’s stray dogs. The dogs were shot, beaten, and stoned to death. Yet, just a couple of hours away in Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama, a nonprofit organization called Piyara Kutta—“Beloved Dog” in Hindi—has done good work in finding more humane solutions to such problems. In the two years since it has been up and running, the small charity has opened a clinic, vaccinated and spayed over 3,000 dogs, and built a shelter for those animals who are unable to fend for themselves—mostly sick dogs or old work animals such as donkeys who have become useless to their owners and are often simply released into the streets where they slowly starve. According to Arvind Sharma, Piyara Kutta’s director, there are only five vets in all of Himachal Pradesh, and they mostly specialize in cattle, not cats or dogs.
Piyara Kutta used to come to small towns like Sidhpur to spay the street dogs and give them shots, but in the last year they’ve had to make the choice to focus their limited resources and manpower on building a kennel in Dharamsala. They could come again. Spaying a dog costs fourteen dollars (U.S.). A rabies shot costs one dollar, a full set of shots, fourteen. to help: www.piyarakutta.org