Hope through Education –India’s Hope Village:
A Turning Point for Transforming Lives

The 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) opened on March 11th, and on the evening of March 13th, BLIA New York held a forum titled Hope through Education –India’s Hope Village at Fo Guang Shan New York Temple. Speakers included Vice Secretary General America East, Venerable Yung Ku, Vice Secretary General Southeast Asia, Venerable Jue Cheng, Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Kolkata Buddhist Centre, Venerable Miao Ru, and President of BLIA-Chennai, Dr Geethakumari. The forum was chaired by Director, United Nation Affairs Committee, Mabel Lam.

The forum was conducted both in person and via live stream, with over one thousand participants. Distinguished guests included the Abbess of Fo Guang Shan New York Temple, Venerable Chueh Lin, the superintendent of Fo Guang Shan New Jersey, Venerable Manpu, the President of the BLIA-NY, Jenny Chen, and members of BLIA as well as other interested individuals.

The forum began with an introduction of the speakers by Jenny Chen, followed by opening remarks from Mabel Lam. The forum highlighted one of the many education projects initiated by BLIA in India—Hope Village. The purpose of this project is to support women's empowerment through education and to provide essential service to community members regardless of their gender, age, or faith, aiming to bring positive change and development to communities in India.

A video titled "Hope Village Initiative" was shown, illustrating how education serves as a cornerstone for transforming lives. Since 2012, under the philosophy of "to benefit society through charity," the Chennai Association of the Buddha's Light International Association has donated food, clothing, stationery, and other items in rural areas across India, along with providing educational support. The "Hope Village" project officially began in 2018.

Venerable Miao Ru noted that despite the deep-rooted divide of the caste system and impact of poverty in India, efforts in education and social support have shown the possibility of change within Hope Villages. Education in these villages is not just a transfer of knowledge but a powerful tool for instilling confidence and dignity in individuals. It makes them believe in a better tomorrow and fills their future with hope, which Venerable Miao Ru described as a gift. Besides education, BLIA also offers other support, including food, medical equipment, and teacher training, all aimed at helping vulnerable populations achieve their dreams.

Dr. Geetha, President of BLIA Chennai, emphasized that learning should not only be correct but also transformative, turning knowledge into action and extending educational opportunities to rural areas. Learning is not merely about acquiring knowledge but about applying it to improve and elevate the living standards and development of rural communities.

Venerable Yung Ku shared that Venerable Master Hsing Yun's educational efforts span five continents, including projects like Nan Hua Performing Arts Group of South Africa, Guang Ming College of the Philippines, and Tathagata's Children in Brazil, along with the establishment of charitable education foundations and initiatives like the "seeds of hope" project. Venerable Master Hsing Yun believed that while aid is essential, education and learning are even more critical. Through education, people can gain knowledge and skills to become self-reliant, escape poverty, and improve their lives.

Venerable Jue Cheng shared stories of children in Hope Villages, who, despite the lack of classrooms, find learning spaces under Bodhi trees, along stone paths, or simply on the ground. The appearance of a tuk-tuk converted into a mobile library brings smiles to their faces. Through education, children begin to dream and hope, illustrating how education can transform lives. Venerable Master Hsing Yun had suggested that instead of calling the villages that of “Untouchables,” instead they should be that of “hope,”  which brings forth a new life path for residents. In recent years, BLIA has been engaging in education work in Brazil, Africa, and the Philippines, illuminating the world with opportunities. This represents the global efforts of BLIA and its members..