A Call for Help

from the Program of Understanding and Love in Southern Vietnam September18, 2003

Respected Thay, respected bhikshus, bhikshunis and friends of the Sangha of Interbeing,

This letter calling for your help comes from the remote villages of the mountainous region of Southern Vietnam, famous for its tea and coffee plantations. Every year in the dry season, tea plants stop growing and the poorest tea-pickers have a hard time surviving. So from March to June, the most destitute have to go to big cities and find manual labor. In July they return happily to the plantations, hoping to pick tea to earn their living.

This year, before they had time to rejoice at the sight of the abundant growth of green tea leaves, news came of the falling price of tea leaves. The price fell from 2200 VN dong per kilogram to 500 dong/kilo. Owners of small plots of tea plants and tea pickers looked up at the sky and exclaimed: “O God! The world is coming to an end!’’

There are young people, fifteen to twenty-four years old, from the poorest, most remote villages in Central Vietnam who come to pick tea in order to have enough money to eat and to send to their aging parents and young siblings. Most of them live in the store houses of the tea-plantation owners. When the owners cannot sell their tea leaves they no longer employ these young men and women, who are then forced to go to the cities to find other ways of making a living, sometimes illicitly.

Owners of small plantations who, in the past could live on the harvest of tea leaves, now also have to leave their homes and go to big cities to find any work available. It is not easy to find a healthy or honest job. Every day they try to buy rice on credit for their family but when they are in too much debt, all the rice shops refuse to sell to them. We are calling for help from people of goodwill who can afford to give $10, which will buy fifty kilograms of rice, enough to feed five persons for one month. There are more than 2000 families going hungry because of falling tea prices but if we can find sponsors for 500 families it will be of immense help.

In three remote mountainous districts you are already supporting 966 children in twenty-four schools and daycare centers. Because they are under five years old, 586 of the 966 have a meal at noon. The remaining 380 children of six and seven years old, go home hungry because we do not have enough money to feed them all. We hope some sponsors will send funds to feed all the children a noon meal. We send our love and respect to Thay and to all the good friends who are supporting us.

Please send your donation to the Committee for Hungry People, P.O. Box 182, Hartland-FourCorners, VT 05049 USA. Checks should be made out to the Unified Buddhist Church and earmarked: Committee for Hungry People.

TOUCHING AND HELPING PROGRAMS IN VIETNAM SPONSORSHIP FORM

Name:_________________________

E-mail:_________________________

Phone:_________________________

Address:_________________________

I wish to sponsor (please circle and fill in appropriate lines):

For $6 a month or $72 a year a preschool toddler in a daycare center or a 5-y-o child in kindergarten to receive 2 cups of milk and lunch every day at school ____boy(s) ____girl(s), a young college student ____boy(s) ____girl(s) or a destitute elderly or handicapped person ____male(s) ____female(s).

For $25 a month or $300 a year a teacher(s) who goes to remote rural areas to teach children in kindergarten through grade school levels (ages 5-12), a teenager(s) to receive vocational training in traditional Vietnamese crafts woodworking, embroidery, or tailoring, carpentry, mechanics and electricity  ____boy(s) ____girl(s).

Donation amount ____(specified by you) sponsor development programs in rural areas to build schools, build bridges, plant trees, dig wells and make roads, support victims of monsoon floods and tragedies to receive medical support and food and blankets.

Please make your check payable to Unified Buddhist Church. All money will be given to the persons who need help. No charge is deducted for administrative costs. Please send to or for more information contact Touching and Helping Committees at:

Europe: Plum Village, 13 Martineau, 33580, Dieulivol, France. East Coast USA: Green Mountain Dharma Center, Box 182, Hartland-Four-Corners, VT 05049 West Coast USA: Deer Park Monastery, 2499 Melru Lane, Escondido, CA 92026

You are helping many people to lessen their hunger, to feel the love of humanity and to improve their lives. This act will continue its way to strengthen hope, understanding, and compassion in each of us. Our way of living and relating to the world in the present is the base for social changes. We look forward to receiving support from you.

A lotus for you, Sister Chan Khong and the Touching and Helping Committees

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