LSCTT Amitabha Ceremony of 2018 Year

Speech by SYL Foundation 

President Dr. Lu Foqing

Greetings honored guests! Thank you for being here today. SYL Foundation is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, so we want to take this opportunity to report back to you, our donors and supporters, about how SYL Foundation has made a real difference in the lives of those we serve and how we plan to continue to impact people’s lives, particularly in the areas of health and education, for years to come. 

We hope you enjoy this short video illustrating the Foundation’s work while introducing the 2018 grant recipient organizations and Lotus Scholarship students.

 

Part 1: SYL Foundation’s work and Impact

Since its creation ten years ago, SYL Foundation has distributed $2,024,621 million dollars in annual grants for Health and Education programs and provided $796,665 in international disaster relief aid and scholarships. Together with an additional $212,194 in grants to address increasing threats to immigrant and refugee communities, we’ve distributed a total of $3,033,480 in furtherance of our mission to combine compassion and philanthropy with strategic grantmaking to advance quality health and education for all.

Locally and internationally, we have partnered with 61 different nonprofit organizations. Over the last 10 years, our grants helped over 100,000 people, young and old, receive medical and dental care, and connected over 25,000 students to innovative education programs.

In response to the increasing challenges for immigrants and refugees since 2017, SYL Foundation launched an Emergent Needs Fund as well as a Rapid Response Fund to help address matters such as family separation and detention, deportation defense, and basic health care access. We will continue to support programs that protect and empower immigrants and refugees in this perilous time.

“Education is the light that guides one’s civilization,” says our Founder. Research shows that education is a strong predictor of social and economic achievement. Education is also linked to intergenerational educational and economic mobility, better health, and greater civic engagement. From the start, SYL Foundation’s mission has focused on the importance of early education, high school graduation, and access to post-secondary education opportunities. The Foundation prioritizes funding to organizations serving marginalized communities and people of color, especially immigrants and refugees.

Here’s a brief message from one of our early education partners, Denise Louie Education Center.

We are grateful for the support the Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation has provided Denise Louie Education for the last few years. We serve over 600 children and families in the community. Over 80% of the children are from immigrant and refugee families. With the support of Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, we have been able to provide additional preschool support for our English Language Learners and our children with special needs. In addition, the capital support from Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation has really helped to support and expand our program, which will allow our children and families to have access to healthcare, early learning services, transportation, affordable housing, and allow them to thrive in the community.

SYL Foundation funds programs that remove barriers and promote access to educational opportunities. For instance, we support Y-We’s Academic and Career Explorations program as well as early learning programs at CISC and Hoa Mai Vietnamese bilingual preschool. These programs are culturally mindful and accessible to newly arrived immigrants and refugees. Here’s a message from one of our longtime partners, Bureau of Fearless Ideas, an outstanding organization that offers free after-school tutoring and writing workshops:

Hi, my name is Andy Herbst and I’m the Executive Director of the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas. This year was the first year with a second location that we opened at the Yesler Terrace mixed income housing development. This second location would not have been possible without the help of Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation. So, thank you so much for making this possible.

Additionally, SYL Foundation supports youth job training programs targeting ELL (English Language Learner) students at ACRS and REWA. These programs provide critical services for low-income youth to overcome the cultural and educational barriers to high school completion and post-secondary education. College Access Now(CAN)is another key partner in the Foundation’s goal to improve access to post-secondary education opportunities. Here’s Monique, one of the students who you’ve helped by supporting SYL Foundation.

Hi, my name is Monique and I’m a CAN alum. I want to say thank you so much for your support. Thanks to you all, I was able to receive the support and guidance to not only enroll in college, but graduate with a B.A. (Bachelor in Arts degree) in advertising. Not only that, but I’m now going to team my education with graduate school at Seattle University. I am only one of hundreds of students that you’ve helped support with your generosity and your partnership with CAN. So, thank you all so much.

The leaders at VFA, an organization that works to empower refugee and immigrant students, also join in to thank you all for your support:

 

Happy 10-year anniversary SYL Foundation! Thank you so much for being an advocate, ally, partner, friend, supporter, part of our community, and a leader in change. Thank you!

On the health side of the Foundation’s mission, SYL Foundation’s goal is to remove barriers to medical care so that people – no matter their socio-economic background – can live healthy productive lives. After all, “Good health is life’s true wealth,” says Living Buddha Lian Sheng. For instance, we support Project Access Northwest, an organization that provides no-cost medical and dental specialty care by recruiting doctors who donate their time, medical supplies, and facilities. We are committed to the Somali Health Board’s mission of reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes for immigrant and refugee communities. We also continue to fund MTI’s Mobile Dental Vans which bring their much needed services to patients who need them.

We support Kin On Health Care Center’s rehabilitation program, which helps seniors stay strong and healthy. We help people like Mr. Hsia recover from injury, regain strength, and return home. Here’s a message from Kin On Health Care Center:

My name is Nigel Lo, I’m the CEO of Kin On Health Care Center, I want to thank Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation for the outstanding support for many years to allow our elders to recover from their illnesses. It’s phenomenal support and I want to say thank you to all of you.

Here’s a message from another longtime partner, ICHS, a community health center that offers culturally and linguistically appropriate care no matter the person’s ability to pay.

My name is Ron Chew. I represent International Community Health Services. I want to congratulate the Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation on their 10th anniversary. They’ve been an amazing partner in terms of supporting the work that we do in providing health care services and access to thousands of immigrants and refugees in our community.

As many of you know, SYL Foundation began its Lotus scholarship program in 2015 to help immigrant and refugee students attend college. I’m pleased to introduce you to the 2018 Lotus Scholarship recipients that you are helping to turn dreams into reality. I’d like to share with you just one of the students’ journeys to America. Asha wrote this in her essay:

I was born and raised in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, but my family originally came from Ethiopia. Life was not easy in Kakuma. The whole area is a desert, and most of the time people don’t have anything to eat. We slept on mats on the ground, leaving us exposed to snakes and scorpions. Nobody had strong homes with locking doors, so thieves could easily come inside our hut to ask for money. My uncle was killed in front of my eyes when he could not give a thief the money he asked for.

Once, I was bit on my knee by a scorpion. I almost died, but I was lucky, because someone took me to the hospital. Even after taking medicine, I was not able to walk straight, but the doctors didn’t give up on me. They kept trying until I was able to move my leg. The patience and determination of the doctors inspired me deeply.

Though we didn’t have a good life, I never gave up on my education. I went to school on an empty stomach. More than once on the way to school, I was assaulted and beaten up by people who didn’t believe that girls should be allowed to attend school. Most of the girls I knew were raped and beaten if they were seen going to school. Every day when I left home, all I could think about was whether or not I would make it back safely. Some of my friends decided to drop out of school and get married off, but I knew I should stay and continue my education.

In 2015, my family found out we would have a chance to come to the United States. I started going to Franklin High School and participated in many activities, like the Youth Job Readiness Training program at ReWA. As a member of College Access Now and ReWA’s Post-Secondary Success Program, I am learning how to be prepared for college. My dream is to pursue a career in health care. When I was bit by the scorpion in Kakuma, I wasn’t sure if I would ever walk properly again. The doctors who saved my life went above and beyond to make sure I could walk. Their determination has stuck with me and drives me to pursue a healthcare education. I hope to become a nurse one day.

I am so inspired by Asha and all of the Lotus Scholarship students. Although each student has his or her own story, one common thread is the ability to triumph over adversity and the strong belief that education is the key to a better life. For these students, graduating high school and going to college fulfills not only their own dreams, but also the dreams of their entire family. Thank you, to SYL Foundation donors for supporting the education goals of these very deserving students. Regrettably, I am unable to tell you about every student and talk about every health and education program funded by SYL Foundation, but I invite you to visit our table in the back of the event hall to learn more.

This year, SYL Foundation has provided grants to 23 health and education organizations and 38 Lotus Scholarship students while continuing to work on ways to support immigrants and refugees as they face growing challenges. From the information we shared and the organizations you heard from today, it is evident how the Foundation’s work is impacting people’s lives and you, our donors, are what make it all possible.

 

Part II: Looking Forward

Education and Healthcare are the essential rungs in the ladder that lift people from poverty. SYL Foundation provides grants to organizations, which in turn serve thousands of men, women, and children here in our community and around the world. These people are closer today to living their dreams than they could ever be without your generous support. Every dollar given to an SYL Foundation grant recipient is transformed into an investment that yields a return for generations.

After learning more about the Foundation’s work and seeing the people you helped, I hope you are proud of the good work that you, Foundation supporters, help us accomplish. Please continue to donate to SYL Foundation so that we can continue to invest in the health and education of those who need it most.

We now conclude the video with these words from our founder:

Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in a maxim: Do no evil, cultivate all that is good, and purify the mind. By fully involving ourselves in performing good deeds, distracting thoughts are swept away as a result. SYL Foundation is precisely doing the work of cultivating good deeds and is doing a good job. Please continue to support SYL Foundation. 

Now the leaders from each of the 23 grantee organizations as well as the Lotus Scholarship students are standing here with me. Thank you, grant recipients, for all the inspiring work that you do. We look forward to learning from you through this partnership, and together, we can ensure that quality health and education is within reach for all. Congratulations, Lotus Scholarship Students, we are proud to support your pursuit of a college education and have high hopes that upon graduation you, in turn, will help others in need.

As we celebrate the Foundation’s 10-year anniversary, we must express our deepest gratitude to our Founder, Living Buddha Lian Sheng, without whom none of us would be gathered here today. 51 years ago (since 1967), he began wielding the power of a pen and now 267 published books later, he continues to write an essay a day. He is truly extraordinary and his writing is what inspired our commemorative gift: a symbolic pen. Do come visit our table if you haven’t received one.

 

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