We Are Building American Buddhism

Soji Zen Center

2325 West Marshall Road
Lansdowne, PA 19050
Telephone: (917) 856-5659
Website: www.sojizencenter.com
Attn: Jules Shuzen Harris Sensei

Description of Organization

Soji Zen Center draws members and participants from a four state area of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, from all walks of life, and with a mix of Asian, African-American and Caucasian participants. The center has historically provided outreach initiatives that respond to community needs, including running meditation groups at a facility for individuals with dual addictions, a federal detention center, and homeless groups.

Grant(s) Awarded

The Foundation made a grant of $5,000 in 2009, which has been used to support Soji Zen Center's Outreach Program, bringing the practice of meditation to at-risk groups in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and developing a program model which will provide meditation training to staff members of nonprofit programs who work with under-served clients.

Results / Update

Soji Zen Center’s Pathfinders Project, funded by the Lenz Foundation, brought the practice of meditation to six at-risk groups in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The two-year project operated from May 15, 2009 through April 30, 2011. The project served five sites through Resources for Human Development, a non-profit human service provider, and reached 5 staff and 80 at-risk individuals. In addition, the project benefited over 50 prisoners at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center.

The Pathfinder Project officially began in May, 2009. During the two year initiative, members of Soji Zen Center, under the guidance of Jules Shuzen Harris, Ed.D., Sensei, brought the practice of meditation to six underserved and at-risk groups in the region1. The basic design of the program was for Soji volunteers to provide training in meditation to staff members of nonprofit agencies who sojo zen work with underserved clients. Once trained, the agency staff members were expected to lead meditation instruction and meditation groups for clients on an ongoing basis. The ultimate goal of the initiative was to reduce suffering among at-risk individuals through a sustainable program of mindfulness meditation.

By establishing different programs at five different sites and analyzing the results of each program, the Pathfinders Project provided evidence that offering meditation to high-risk groups is beneficial when the organization itself has sufficient staff and consumer stability, when management is committed to the project, and when the Soji project design provides for pre-project assessment and planning. Future Soji projects with high-risk groups will also require, on a weekly basis, experienced meditators to teach and model meditation facilitation. Soji Zen Center is grateful for the support of the Lenz Foundation, which has allowed the Center to more effectively bring meditation to at-risk individuals.

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