A New Era for IWA

Please welcome to the IWA board of directors Tara Mulay, Devon Berry and Roxanne Dault.

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IWA Board of Directors Welcomes Aaron Chivara

Our board’s latest member brings years of experience in both compassionate service and insight meditation. Aaron is a resident of the Bay Area and is graduating from medical school later this month. He has traveled extensively and has worked in developing nations’ health care.

Aarons IWA Jpeg

Aaron Chavira, MPH is a 4th year osteopathic medical student at Touro University who has planned and extended his medical schooling to build in periods of intensive mindfulness and meditation practice in Myanmar, Nepal, and Malaysia. He is has been meditating since 1999 and has been a student of the IMC lay sangha since 2006. For his MPH thesis at Dartmouth Medical School, he helped deliver public health projects in the Volta region of Ghana. He currently serves on the IMC board, facilitates the IMC Mindful Teens program, and will start residency in internal medicine in June 2015.

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IWA Organizes Two Food Sorts at Second Harvest Food Bank in March

Insight World Aid’s March, 2014 collaboration with Second Harvest Food Bank was a success! Nine Insight World Aid volunteers came together to sort food at the Second Harvest warehouse in San Carlos on March 12th. Later in the month, twelve Insight World Aid volunteers donated their time and effort at the March 26th Second Harvest food sort. Many thanks to the IWA volunteers for their hard work! Please see the short essay below about the experience and enjoy some photos taken during both sorts.


Reflections on Hunger Amidst Affluence, Musings on Coming Together Over Service 
by Paul Lindenfeld, Board Member, Insight World Aid 

After a nice Insight World Aid get-together at Cafe La Tartine in Redwood City and a chance to get to know each other, our volunteer group of about 10 people heads off to the Second Harvest food warehouse in San Carlos. We then signed in and assembled together along with about 30 other people, some volunteering with other groups and some individual or family volunteers. Rita, who is the Second Harvest volunteer coordinator and extremely passionate about the work Second Harvest does, explains that Second Harvest feeds about 250,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area monthly. Many of them are children, many are elderly. Most are members of working families that, due to the extremely high cost of housing in the Bay Area, cannot afford to put enough food on their tables after they pay their monthly rent or mortgage. At first, I feel rather fortunate that I do not think I know anyone in that situation. However, something is not right about that thought. I can feel my heart tugging at it and a soft whisper of a thought telling me that is not correct. I suspect that my self awareness is due to my meditation practice but I don’t really know as I can only live my life one way. I realize that my feeling of being fortunate is a subtle way to separate myself from the reality of hunger that many people deal with. A new realization opens like a blossom. I wonder how many people, whom I interact with but don’t know, are or have been part of the hungry 250,000? It may be the guy who cleans the bathrooms at my favorite restaurant or the person who bagged my groceries at the supermarket, working hard and trying to feed her family. It may be a friend of mine that would be too embarrassed to ever say anything to me about it. In circumstances that are different than mine but possible in one uncertain instant, it could be me. It could be any of us. “It could be me” is what feeling fortunate protects me from. Protects me from uncertainty but at the cost of unity and at the cost of seeing this life clearly. I tune back in. There is work to do. 
“Beep, beep, beep,” the small forklift chirps as it brings another massive cardboard box filled with donated food items into the sorting area. Insight World Aid/Second Harvest volunteers immediately descend upon the cache and start to fill their hard worn crates almost to the breaking point. The volunteers then lug the full crates to large sorting tables where another team of volunteers sorts the food and removes items that are damaged or too old to use. The loosely choreographed ballet continues as a platoon of runners collects the sorted food and transports them to specific quixotically labeled bins. For example, one bin was titled “All cereals less than 4 pounds, no granola bars or bulk items” and another, “Pop top cans, sized 9 to 19 oz, no fruit.” From there, the now-sorted food is packed into smaller boxes to be taken to Second Harvest and other distribution centers in a separate operation. 
It is very “in the moment” work, well suited to those who are practicing mindfulness, and the 2 hours pass quickly. After about 1/2 an hour, the mind has worked out the schema enough that it quiets and the collective nature of the work becomes more apparent. How often, in our age of computer technology and instant communication, do adults physically work side-by-side as a team, with each person doing their small, but invaluable, part? The work reminded me of a video I was shown in college biochemistry class by a rather tongue-in-cheek professor and had not thought of in years. It was from the early 70’s and featured aerial shots of bunch of costumed hippie grad students on a soccer field demonstrating protein synthesis. The flavor of the video invoked a very psychedelic marching band, working together in a rough unison. OK, so I subsequently found that video on You Tube* and the food sort really was not far out like that video at all but we were working together, we all needed each other to get the job done, and we had fun! 

* Curious about the video are you? Mention the video when you RSVP for an IWA local project and all will be revealed (or use your search engine. Hints: Stanford and 1971) !

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Join Team IWA in a Second Harvest Food Sort

Where: San Carlos, CA

When: Two dates:

Wednesday March 12th, 6:30-8:30 PM or

Wednesday March 26th, 6:30-8:30 PM

Please join us as we partner with Second Harvest, a Bay Area non-profit with the mission of ending hunger in the Bay Area.  Second Harvest provides food to 250,000 Bay Area residents monthly.  Due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area, many working families struggle with hunger as they cannot afford enough food to meet their basic needs.  Second Harvest provides them with much needed assistance.  A group of ten IWA volunteers will be working together in Second Harvest’s San Carlos warehouse to sort food that has been collected in various local food drives, such as the current Second Harvest food drive at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City.  We will be meeting for dinner and socializing beforehand. Come join us for this worthy and fun event. Please RSVP to Paul Lindenfeld at (paul at insightworldaid dot org) if you would like to volunteer.

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When You Come Back?

A Cambodian Memoir by Bonnie Goodman

We were greeted by a flock of smiling children as we stepped out of the bus onto the grounds of Wot Opot Children’s Center in Takeo, Cambodia. Within seconds, a girl named Channe took my hand, looked up into my eyes and asked, “How long you stay”?   After dinner that first night, she came back to me and inquired, “When you come back”?

It has been 8 months since I tearfully parted from the 54 “Watopotians”, and still feel enormously blessed to have spent a week with these precious children and teens. Yet, a deep yearning lingers to see and work with them again, as they have left a profound and indelible imprint in my heart. I think of these children every day, easily recalling their wide eyes, smiles and thirst for physical contact. I miss: marveling at their jewelry-making skills, tutoring them in math, discussing their feelings, watching them meditate, and gleefully joining them in disco dancing as they release the final energy from each day.

I regularly visit the Wat Opot website and the co-director’s blog, craving for ongoing updates of events and tidbits of the children’s lives. I’m committed to leaving comments after each entry, both to support the WO directors and share my admiration for their untiring efforts in parenting these children. The posting of pictures provides a glimpse of their development, as I gratefully get to examine changes in their faces.

During our final evening with the children, Channe’s question was answered:

‘We HOPE to come back to WO some day’. There is a strong likelihood that IWA will return to Cambodia for a future mission. Have no doubt; I will be the first to sign up, and enthusiastically anticipate being reunited with this loving community of children.

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Walk to Feed the Hungry

Announcing the 4TH Annual
Buddhist Global Relief
Walk to Feed the Hungry



Event: San Francisco Walk to Feed the Hungry
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
Check-in time: 11:45 am – 12:45 pm
Talk on history of Gold Mountain Monastery: 12:45 pm
Start walking: 1:00 pm
Location: Gold Mountain Monastery, Chinatown
800 Sacramento St.
San Francisco, California 94108

The purpose of the walk is to build awareness of world hunger and to raise funds for Buddhist Global Relief (BGR). BGR is a non-profit which raises money to provide relief to the poor and needy throughout the world.

Participants can join in or depart as they wish for the 3.8 mile walk. The walk wends its way though Japantown, stops at various temples, and ends up at the San Francisco Zen Center.

Register with the IWA team: www.firstgiving.com/BuddhistGlobalRelief/san-francisco. You can also donate online at this website.

A portion of the funds raised will benefit Martin de Porres House of Hospitality, a local organization which provides free food for the homeless.

For more information about Buddhist Global Relief, visit their website at BuddhistGlobalRelief.org.

For information about IWA’s participation in this event, contact JudithRoss7 at gmail dot com.


Event: Sacramento Walk to Feed the Hungry
Date: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
Check-in time: 8:15 a.m. at 15th St. and Capital Ave. near the International World Peace Rose Garden
Start walking: 9:00 am
Location: Capitol Park and downtown Sacramento

Buddhist Global Relief is sponsoring many walks to feed the hungry as part of its mission “to provide relief to the poor and needy throughout the world regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, or religion.” The Sacramento walk will take place Thursday, October 24, at 900 am (starting in Capitol Park). For more information and to register or donate please follow this link: http://www.firstgiving.com/BuddhistGlobalRelief/sacramento. For more information about the walk please visit: http://www.karunabv.org/sacramento-walk-2013.html

A portion of the proceeds will go to Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

Posted in Events, Local

Feed the Homeless in SF, a monthly event

Join us on Sunday, September 15, 2013 when we participate with the Saranaloka nuns monthly walk through the Tenderloin handing out food and coffee to the homeless.

Volunteers prepare meals consisting of sandwiches and soft fruit the night before on their own and bring them to distribute.

The group meets at 7:30 a.m. at the Starbucks at the Whitcomb Hotel at 1231 Market (between 8th and 9th). If you are interested in joining this local service mission please RSVP with our coordinator Judith Ross–JudithRoss7 at gmail dot com–who will be organizing a carpool from the Daly City Bart station.

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