Photo/IllutrationMember monks of the Otera Oyatsu Club group set up donation boxes at the Great Buddha Hall of Todaiji temple in Nara. (Takumi Okada)

NARA--Spurred by tragedy, Buddhist monks are sharing offerings from worshippers with single mothers and other needy households as part of an anti-poverty drive.

Based in Tawaramoto, Nara Prefecture, a nonprofit organization called Otera Oyatsu Club set up collection boxes at the Great Buddha Hall of Todaiji temple here, hoping to prompt the hordes of visitors to think about the issue of poverty.

Collected contributions will be used to cover the costs of sending offerings from worshippers to financially struggling families.

Otera Oyatsu Club was established in 2014 in part by Seiro Matsushima, 43, chief priest of Anyoji, a temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism in Tawaramoto.

Matsushima was moved to help poor people after the bodies of a mother in her 20s and her 3-year-old son were found in their apartment in Osaka several months after their deaths in 2013.

The mother left a note, apparently written for her son, that said, “I’m sorry you could not eat your fill.”

Matsushima began working with other monks to deliver snacks, fruits, everyday items and other articles donated by worshippers to single mothers and others suffering from poverty.

Currently, 1,250 temples and 450 other organizations are collaborating in the project. They currently send offerings to 10,000 needy children a month, according to group officials.

Otera Oyatsu Club decided to install collection boxes at Todaiji because many tourists from abroad visit the temple.

“I would like those from overseas to realize that poverty has not been eliminated in the advanced nation of Japan,” Matsushima said.

Explanations in English, Chinese and Korean were set up around the donation boxes.

“When thinking about how to address the issue of poverty, people should proceed with efforts they can do by themselves,” Matsushima said.