San Francisco: Help Me Support Burma!
Ever since the cyclone hit Burma last week, I have felt an uneasiness that I just can't shake. I have never been to Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar), but I met Burmese refugees when I was in Thailand, and I have friends who have lived there, or are there still. It is a militaristic state in which the residents live in fear of the junta, or armed forces, and suffer violations of their human rights on a daily basis. The cyclone that hit the poor country only served to make a very bad situation a whole lot worse.
As yogis who have ties both to the Buddhist community and to humanitarian causes in general, many of us have been asking the question: What can we do to help? I spoke to my friend Gregg Butensky, who is a long-time activist for the Burmese cause, a board member of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance, and a foster dad to a young woman whom he helped relocate to Thailand. He told me of the formation of a new coalition of local Burmese organizations (that includes member organizations as varied as the International Burmese Monks Organization and the Myanmar Taxi Driver Association) to assist those in need. While the coalition does not have a website yet, Gregg and some others did put up an emergency website this past week to help point people to places where they can offer donations.
Gregg says three of the best places to give to are right here in the Bay Area: Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA), Burmese American Women's Alliance (BAWA), and the Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB). You can also contribute to Avaaz (check out the YouTube video there).
There are also three local events happening this weekend that are focused on bringing awareness to the crisis. The biggest one is a Global Day of Action For Burma rally at the UN Plaza (Market Street between 7th & 8th Streets) in San Francisco on Saturday from 3-6pm, to urge the UN to protect the cyclone victims. Also, there is an American Jewish World Service event on Saturday evening in SF called Celebrating Voices for Change in Burma and a BADA fund-raiser this Sunday in Fremont.
I hope you will join me in sending blessings and much-needed funds to our brothers and sisters in Burma. Please let us know if you have found other ways to help.