2008 Year End Report

HEARTH YEAR END REPORT-2008

OVERVIEW

2008 has been a fruitful, expansive year for Hearth. Slowly, brick by brick, we are building a structure to serve families that is both sustainable and creative. As is the case with all other businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, the economic downturn has had a considerable affect on Hearth’s finances. Yet Hearth is designed to weather these sorts of storms. Due to our extremely low overhead and volunteer base, we can remain in operation even during lean times.

When Jacqueline opened up her computer to check on Hearth classes January 1 she was greeted by an email from Thailand congratulating her on receiving the UN Outstanding Women in Buddhism award for her work teaching Buddhism to mothers through the book, Buddha Mom and through Hearth classes. This award is the first formal recognition of mothering as a spiritual practice in Buddhism. Jacqueline felt it was important to go to the ceremony in Thailand to represent mothers. At the event she spoke to other women Buddhist teachers from around the world about the need to include mothers in the deep spiritual perspective as an essential element of the 4 fold sangha. Since receiving this award Hearth has gained considerable credibility and Jacqueline has been asked to speak about mothering as a spiritual practice at other Buddhist conferences.

HEARTH CLASSES

Throughout 2008 we have been continuously holding online classes. Our curriculum continues to grow and the online curriculum which is already written is constantly being edited. Each time a class is taught Jacqueline edits the material to reflect changes in her understanding and to clarify the teachings. Besides the already established classes; The Shrine Room-creating a home based meditation practice, the 3 refuges, the 5 precepts and a class on Buddha’s advice about relationships (from the Sigolavada sutta), Hearth has added two new classes this year.

The first new class is on the Buddhist perspective on death and dying for families. In just one week four different students shared personal issues relating to death that were coming up in their families. When the Universe speaks this loudly one cannot help but listen. Jacqueline sent out an email message asking if anyone would be interested in a class on death and dying. Much to her surprise over 10 people signed up the first day the message was sent out. Jacqueline went on to research and write this series on death for families which includes lessons on facing our mortality, midwifing a dying loved one, Buddhist perspectives on death and dying, grieving, talking with children about death, parents preparing for our own death, funeral options and deathlessness. Needless to say this was an extremely challenging series to write. It required condensing reams of information into usable chunks. At the end of the series the participants expressed a greater comfort talking about death and with death itself.

The other new series developed in 2008 was the Everyday Practices for Busy Parents series. This series is designed to be an entry-level class and is not exclusively Buddhist. It covers practices such as generosity, gratitude, contentment, letting go, love, listening, mindfulness, self-love, meditation and sharing our spiritual values with our family. The first run of this series consisted mostly of long time students. A questionnaire has been sent out in order to see where this class is working and where it needs changing. On the whole, students have reported back that the class has made their life, and the life of their families, more easeful.

OTHER HEARTH HAPPENINGS

As well as the online classes Hearth has hosted two workshops in 2008, one in LA and one in Sonoma. These workshops were a series of six of the everyday practice classes held as a meditation and discussion group. The Sonoma group continues to meet once a month to explore spiritual issues and the LA group dissipated when the leader moved out of town. Hearth charged $20 per person a session for these evening gatherings.

In March Jacqueline went to Thailand to receive the Outstanding Women in Buddhism award and met many Bikkhunis, Bhikksunis and lay practitioners from Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Europe and Australia, as well as from other countries around the world who are serving and elevating the standing of Buddhist women. Stemming from this award ceremony an article on mothering as a spiritual practice was published in the outlook section of the Bangkok Post, the foremost Thai newspaper. It opened up the discussion of respect for women in general and mothers in particular. This trip also led a Chinese and Thai translation of Buddha Mom, which is currently in the works, and to Jacqueline joining the Alliance for Bhikkhuni Board as their vice president.

At the end of august Jacqueline was asked to represent the work of Hearth at a conference on Women in Buddhism that was being held in Denver, Colorado. She presented a paper on the unique needs and opportunities of mothering as a spiritual path. Her theme was taking seriously the validity of mothering as a spiritual path and how respect for mothers impacts the lives of women in both the West and in the East.

HEARTH STAFF

Hearth has been gifted with an increase in its volunteer staff. Wendy Myers and Heather Thornton continue to bless Hearth with their services. All the new Volunteers asked to join our team after taking classes in a heartfelt desire to give back. Our volunteers include;

Wendy Myers- Wendy is the Webmaster for Hearth Foundation. As a member of the first class offered through Hearth, Wendy has remained committed not only to the continuance of her studies with the Hearth Foundation, and has taken every class offered, but is also committed to Hearth’s mission. Wendy received her Bachelors degree in Management Science and Economics from Lycoming College. Wendy lives with her husband and two children in Pennsylvania.

Heather Thornton-Heather is the class registrar and loves her job connecting with moms all over the world. Heather was a member of the first class Jacqueline offered and has remained at the Hearth Foundation to help others on their path. She currently lives in Texas with her husband and son Alex. Heather left her business career eight years ago to raise and homeschool Alex.

Destiny Masters-Destiny handles community outreach for the Hearth Foundation. She has been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for over 3 years and has always embraced a spiritual path. As the mother of five, with three still at home, Destiny understands the importance of spirituality in parenting and the challenges parents face daily. Destiny lives in Florida with her husband, children, horses and other animals.

Aleesha Stephenson-Aleesha is taking the reins of the Hearth newsletter. She comes to us with unique talents and skills. As the publisher of her own e-magazine, Timeless Spirit, she is adept at creating and distributing information over the internet. We are fortunate to have her joining us this year.

Tiffany Meetz-Tiffany has started our program of reviewing Buddhist children’s books and contributed a number of reviews for our website as well as writing an article for our newsletter. Tiffany has a baby and toddler and lives with her husband in North Carolina.

Barbara Couture-Barbara is a single mother of nine adopted special needs children. She has taken all of the classes Hearth offers and has been a teaching assistant for Hearth classes. Barbara has been studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism for many years and has a high degree of understanding of Buddhism as well as deep compassion which makes her uniquely suited to teach Hearth class on Death and the family.

HEARTH NEWSLETTER

Hearth has been making many changes in its newsletter. It is a creative process that continues into 2009. For over 5 years the Hearth newsletter (originally the buddhamom newsletter) simply consisted of Jacqueline’s monthly dharma sharing. We are now developing a number of new sections:

Jacqueline’s dharma talk-this is the original form of the newsletter in which Jacqueline shares her insights.

Monthly reflections- In this section Jacqueline’s students write about their insights on topics pertaining to each month’s topics. The topics are as follows:

  • January: Beginner’s mind

  • February: Love

  • March: Transformation

  • April: Service

  • May: Joy

  • June: Meditation

  • July: Interdependence

  • August: abundance

  • September: Learning/growing

  • October: Death

  • November: Gratitude

  • December: Generosity

Each month one essay is included. All Hearth students and past students are welcome to write on these topics.

We also have a new section on upcoming events and classes and one on announcements. These are new and in the process of being developed. We are considering different ways to format and send out the monthly newsletter. This is a project for 2009.

VISIONS FOR 2009

In 2009 Hearth intends to develop and expand its newsletter, its community outreach and its business procedures. Up to this point we have been developing programs and working out the kinks in these programs. We are now preparing to offer Hearth services to a larger audience. In order to do this we need to tighten up the business end of Hearth. The Hearth Foundation was created two years ago by Irving Kramer while he was dying. It is a basic structure that is sorely in need of development. We have been scrambling to create Hearth programs and to understand the basics of running a non-profit. Irving Kramer assigned Jacqueline Kramer as president and Gregory Kramer as secretary of the Hearth board as a temporary measure. It is now time for Hearth to develop its board of directors and firm up the business end of the organization so that it may continue to grow. We are looking at possible board members among our staff and thinking about Hearth becoming an independent non-profit with its own church status rather than remaining an integrated auxiliary of Metta. As an integrated auxiliary of the Metta foundation we enjoy some protection but not the freedom we need to grow. We are blessed to have Hearth members who are skilled at setting up non-profits looking into this for us. We are also exploring the possibility of charging for Hearth classes. This would be on a sliding scale and no one would be turned away for lack of money.

Hearth may or may not create new class programs in 2009, depending upon what needs arise. The main concern for 2009 is tightening up what we already have, living as leanly as we can and becoming clearer and stronger so that we may fully enter the world with confidence.

CONCLUSION

It has been a productive and exciting year for Hearth. We continue to attract students from all over the world and we continue to expand our reach and credibility. Thus far Hearth has been growing organically, through word of mouth. We do not advertise and have done very little outreach. As the word about Hearth programs is spreading and as Jacqueline is extending the reach of the Hearth mission, through Buddha Mom, which is now being translated to Chinese and Thai, and through talks and workshops, Hearth needs to prepare its infrastructure to accommodate more students. To do this we need to tighten up the business, financial, corporate end of Hearth. 2009 will be about achieving non-profit independence, developing our board of directors and building the Hearth team. As we focus on the business aspects we keep in the forefront of our minds the Hearth mission to offer these teachings to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.