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Community Outreach

Shinnyo‑en was founded on the profound belief that we all share this world together and that our lives are interconnected. Understanding that we cannot find true peace and happiness for ourselves without genuinely caring for others, the founders of Shinnyo‑en placed generosity, service, and care at the heart of its spiritual practice. Shinnyo‑en has cultivated strong philanthropic roots in many local communities, initiating and supporting a wide variety of efforts to promote health, happiness, and the wellbeing of all. One concrete step at a time, the Shinnyo‑en community is working to build a future of hope.

Her Holiness, standing beneath a temporary awning, wearing an orange volunteer vest over her jacket, offers a bowl of soup to a man who reaches out to accept it.

Today Shinnyo‑en’s community outreach activities range from local to global efforts. Members of Shinnyo‑en and the organization itself engage in this work in three ways: through direct involvement in initiating, organizing, and carrying out community service as volunteers; by establishing and funding affiliated organizations that focus on specialized areas of need; and by providing financial assistance to a broad range of nonprofit organizations through grants and donations to support the work of groups whose goals and values Shinnyo‑en shares.

“Single drops of water accumulate to create rivers that flow into vast oceans. In the same way, our individual acts of goodness have the potential to merge into a huge current.”

—Her Holiness Shinso Ito

Three people work at a table preparing items for an activity.

Direct Involvement

Given the great diversity of communities and their needs, members of Shinnyo‑en engage in service within their immediate communities in many different ways. Examples of member-led community service work includes sewing masks for high risk migrant workers during the COVID pandemic, organizing donation drives for refugee and disaster relief efforts, speaking at interfaith conferences and gatherings on the role of spirituality in addressing climate change, and many more. Some Shinnyo‑en centers in the U.S. have formed traditional taiko drumming groups that perform at cultural events or as part of local observances of holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The spirit of service is expressed in a great variety of ways throughout all the diverse Shinnyo‑en communities.

On a city street in the predawn darkness, a gray-haired man sweeps trash into a neat pile near a curb.

Cleaning Public Spaces

The longest-running form of community service organized by Shinnyo‑en members are early-morning cleaning programs, which began in 1971. Typically taking place just before dawn, local Shinnyo‑en neighborhood clean-ups have been organized at more than 5,500 locations around the world.

A doctor in an orange vest uses a stethoscope to examine a child held in the arms of a woman at an outdoor clinic.

Volunteer Led Disaster Relief

Shinnyo‑en manages two volunteer led disaster relief organizations that have been active since the 1990s in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Shinnyo‑en Relief Volunteers (SeRV) is a volunteer relief network originally established in response to the devastating Great Hanshin earthquake that struck Japan in 1995. Since then, SeRV has dispatched volunteer aid workers on more than 65 occasions, responding to disasters in Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal. Univers is a group of Shinnyo‑en disaster-relief volunteers also established after the Great Hanshin earthquake. Univers volunteers visit the homes of disaster victims in Japan, particularly senior citizens, to provide the warmth of companionship and much needed psychological support in the wake of the traumatic experience of having survived a disaster.

Her Holiness sits, smiling, with a diverse group of children as they participate in an activity.

Affiliated Organizations

Shinnyo‑en also supports a number of nonprofit organizations founded within the tradition, but which are now independently operated, to implement special initiatives in partnership with local nonprofits.

A young man and woman work together to carry a sapling in a bucket in an outdoor, urban greenspace; other young people carrying saplings follow behind.
Photo by Bruce Cox at the 2013 National Service-Learning Conference, courtesy of the National Youth Leadership Council.

Financial Assistance

Shinnyo‑en also partners with a broad range of unaffiliated nonprofits and governmental agencies, both locally and globally, that share goals and values in common with Shinnyo‑en, supporting their work through grants and donations.

A few of the independent projects that Shinnyo‑en has helped to fund include providing school supplies to children in Cambodia, providing books to libraries in India, building and funding a nursery school in Sri Lanka, removing unexploded landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Laos, and aiding the restoration and preservation of ruins at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Aid from Shinnyo‑en also supports a number of United Nations, World Health Organization, and World Food Program initiatives throughout the world, such as UNESCO’s World Terakoya Movement that provides literacy and numeracy programs to women and children worldwide, a UNICEF women and children’s health initiative focused on clean water, sanitation, and basic health care in the central Afghanistan province of Bamiyan, and the UNHCR’s primary education program for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

Over the years, Shinnyo‑en has offered financial assistance to groups such as:

  • Association Aide a L’enfance en Difficultes
  • Butterflies
  • Childline
  • Eyemate Association
  • Forest Environment Network
  • Friends without a Border, Japan
  • Indian Japan Maitri Association
  • INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage)
  • Japan Association for Refugees
  • Japan National Assembly of Disabled People’s International
  • Japan Red Cross
  • Japan Rescue Association
  • Japan Society for Preservation of Birds
  • KnK (Children without Borders)
  • Kyoto Society of Japanese Culture
  • The Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan
  • Minqin Buddhist Association
  • SAORI Global
  • School of Kyoto Expressions
  • Sophia University Angkor Wat Restoration Program
  • Terra Renaissance
  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
  • UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
  • UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund)
  • WFP (World Food Program)
  • WHP (World Health Program)
  • WWF (World Wildlife Fund)