Bhikkhu Bodhi Walks to Feed the Hungry
Set in Seattle and Portland in Coming Months

Written by: Carla Prater

A group photo in front of Portland Friends of the Dharma, before the Portland walk started.

A group photo in front of Portland Friends of the Dharma, before an earlier Portland walk started.
Photos by: Courtesy of Buddhist Global Relief, Peter Terpstra, Steve Wilhelm

Northwest people are planning to walk together to raise funds for the Buddhist Global Relief organization, in Portland on Aug. 18 and in Seattle on Sept. 15.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, a well-known Theravada monastic and translator, 10 years ago founded Buddhist Global Relief to promote compassion in action by improving access to food for people around the world. BGR does this through direct food aid, education for children and women, projects supporting women’s livelihoods, and agricultural projects promoting sustainable farming.

Walking in the rain in Seattle.

Walking in the rain in Seattle.

The organization has raised more than $3.5 million for projects in more than 20 countries, including the United States. Each “Walk to Feed the Hungry” is unique, organized by people who want to support Buddhist Global Relief’s mission.

This year’s Seattle walk will launch from Volunteer Park at the top of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the same starting point for the first walk in 2011.

This grassy park is a beautiful setting for the initial gathering, which will start with a few minutes of gentle Qi Gong exercise to warm up. Then we hear a few words on the practice of generosity, and a presentation about BGR’s projects.

People from all over Seattle, representing all Buddhist traditions, will come to join us for the walk and for the picnic afterwards in the park. Bring vegetarian food to share, and enjoy the fellowship of people who are engaged in compassion in action!

Carla Prater, assistant director of Buddhist Global Relief.

Carla Prater, assistant director of Buddhist Global Relief.

We will walk no matter what the weather is, and we provide canopies in case of rain.

The Portland walk is in its second year, coordinated by Christopher Konczyk. The walkers will meet at Portland Friends of the Dharma, and words of encouragement and reflections on generosity will be shared prior to the walk.

Last year the walk was led Ajahn Sudanto, Tan Kondañño, and Rev. Genshin Rinzan Pechovnik. Buddhist communities represented included Portland Friends of the Dhamma, No Rank Zendo, Oregon Buddhist Temple, Pacific Hermitage, Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland, Maitripa College, and others.

Members of these groups are happy to bring together Portland-area Buddhist sanghas for a day of reflection, compassion, and gentle activism to support Buddhist Global Relief.

The upcoming events are to increase awareness of hunger issues, as well as Buddhist Global Relief’s work to help those in need, to strengthen community ties, and to raise money for the next group of projects.

Monks give blessings at Portland Friends of the Dharma, before the walk starts.

Monks give blessings at Portland Friends of the Dharma, before the walk starts.

The organization has supported projects that have kept girls in Cambodia off the streets and in school, even attending university! Project funds feed children in Haiti, and teach farmers in Africa and Asia how to grow healthier crops with less chemical fertilizer and more efficient application of water resources.

 Buddhist Global Relief respects the religious beliefs of those we serve, and seeks to work in harmony with people of all faiths to alleviate poverty.

Current figures on worldwide hunger are shocking. The World Food Program estimates that 815 million people are hungry, making hunger the most widespread health risk. About one in seven of the world’s inhabitants goes to bed hungry each night.

In the face of such statistics it is easy to throw up one’s hands in despair or to retreat into the quiet comfort of meditation practice.

Starting the Seattle walk, in Volunteer Park.

Starting the Seattle walk, in Volunteer Park.

But Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi challenges these responses with his own life and teachings. As a young monk in Sri Lanka he suffered, for the first time, the very real physical and mental consequences of malnutrition.  He saw how it affects the body and the mind, reducing one’s ability to concentrate on anything other than the organism’s desperate search for nutrients.

Over many years of study and teaching he developed a strong belief that many people were so desperately poor they could not attend to the message of the dharma, or take care of themselves and their families with any dignity. He determined, together with a group of his students, to begin an organization to address the many needs of those in need, no matter where they live or what religion they follow.

Online registration for the walks will be available starting in July, when full details of all walks will be on the Buddhist Global Relief website.

On the trail in Volunteer Park.

On the trail in Volunteer Park.

All checks and cash collected at the walks, and any funds raised online, will be sent directly to Buddhist Global Relief. Partly because it is mostly staffed by volunteers, the organization uses resources very efficiently, sending more than 88 percent to the projects we sponsor. See our website for details on current projects.

If you don’t want to register online you can register at the walks too! There will also be instructions on how to start your own fundraising page to share with your circle of friends, but there is no fee for walking and you don’t need to raise money or donate if you are not able to. All are welcome!

We hope you will consider attending a walk to learn more about our projects. Please visit the website for more details about the walks over the next few months. You can also contact Carla Prater, assistant director of BGR, at cprater@buddhistglobalrelief.org for more information.

Author: Carla Prater

Carla Prater retired in 2014 from Texas A&M University, where she was the associate director of the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, and senior lecturer in landscape architecture and urban planning. Her research has included work on disaster response, hurricane and tsunami evacuation, disaster recovery and mitigation planning.
Prater began her Buddhist practice with Brazos Insight Meditation Society in Texas. She completed the Dedicated Practitioners Program at Spirit Rock in 2015, and has practiced with Seattle Insight Meditation Society and Seattle Buddhist Center. Raised in Brazil she now lives in Seattle. She devotes her time to volunteer work with Buddhist Global Relief, addressing hunger around the world.