Keeping Orphans Out of Slavery

When I was in Asia in April, I was inspired to start an educational foundation. I founded a school in Nepal 25 years ago, the Trungram International Academy, which teaches over 400 students a year, and I wanted to extend that opportunity to more children. I spoke to some people about becoming founders of this new enterprise, and returned to the US.

Then the first earthquake hit Nepal.

Immediately in its aftermath, I started Buddhist Relief Services. There was no time to find founding donors. This was an emergency and support came from the heart. Volunteers joined from across the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and, of course, Nepal. We bought and distributed food. We gathered medicine and medical personnel from around Asia and helped them reach remote areas that other aid wasn't reaching. We are working on shelter for people whose homes are buried under the mountainside. And now we are thinking about the orphans.

Photo courtesy of BRS

In a disaster zone there are short-term problems, mid-term problems and long-term problems. The people who are trapped under the earthquake debris are heartbreaking. You only have a short amount of time to save them--you either find them, or you lose them. The opportunity to help ends in a week or two. But there is still an opportunity to save a million lives: the lives of children who have lost their homes and one or both parents, and are now utterly vulnerable.

It is not uncommon to find human traffickers taking advantage of chaotic situations. Very often, they sneak into disaster zones and pose as the children's distant relatives. They then bring the children to India or other countries, forcing them into prostitution, slavery or even taking the children's organs for sale. Sadly, those children who do escape the traffickers usually end up as beggars and street children. And those children who are not educated are most at risk.

I am trying to help.

Photo courtesy of BRS

One practical solution is to work with the local governments, to send the children to local schools. Through this new educational foundation, we can build and staff homes. These will not be religious centers, although the children will be taught compassion, respect, tolerance--the training needed to be good human beings. They will be homes, just like other children have. We provide food, clothing, and a place to live. Most importantly, we provide loving care.

I arrive in Nepal today to begin meeting with people about this. There are more than a million children that need to be saved.