The Tibetan refugee community in Pokhara, Nepal is a beautiful place that is in need of attention. A few days ago we made a visit to see if there was anything we could do to help. We were thinking we could do our second school here, or another building of some kind but upon investigation we learned that they actually have very decent facilities for all uses including a nice old folks home. There is a very large public school nearby that all Tibetan and Nepali children attend, and there is also a school inside the monastery compound, which the settlement is built around, that monks of all ages attend. It was the monastic school that we made our first visit to. We were so impressed by the beaming, sharp minds of some of the young monks. There were three floors, with about 5 rooms on each floor and in each room about four monks were sitting together being taught by one teacher. They were the most determined, focused and funny students I have ever seen and I wish I could have stayed for a few weeks to teach them and learn from them. They were definitely wise beyond their years.
We got a lot of information and statistics about the number and ages of students and we were told that if anything they could use books and stationery but in fact their facilities were well up to snuff. We told them we could easily get hold of pens, pencils, notebooks, English books, etc. and send them over but we still wanted something more to contribute. Thats when we learned that they have a nice guest house right in the monastery compound, clean and well kept, and free for anyone who would like to stay, just a donation of your choice is asked to help support the monastery. Immediately I realized that what they needed was people from other countries coming to stay at the guest house and help teach the young monks, who range from elementary to college level and are very open to learning about anything and very serious about their education. All I can do is recommend people to this place, it is truly wonderful, and set in the most beautiful country side with Annpurna and other Himalayan peaks in view and a nice river near by. Very quiet also, I should stress that. It is about 20 minutes by bus away from the bustling lakeside of Pokhara.
Anybody interested in helping the Tibetans and their cause should seriously consider this opportunity to learn about their lives and teach them a little about what goes on in the rest of the world. They are unfortunately cut off from much of the resources that we have (in the U.S. and elsewhere) at our fingertips. Speaking of resources at your fingertips they could also use a computer teacher. They have recently put together a computer room and do have classes but could really use someone who knows what they're doing. I guarantee, my personal thumbs up, that you will get as much out of this as they will. In the short time I was there talking to them and visiting their different establishments I felt a wave of calm and clarity come over me. A truly enlightened environment that is impossible to deny.
When I was staying in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala I got to see how many young Tibetan men, around 18 to 25, spend their time and energy and I must say that is was concerning. They are confused and deeply pissed off at the desperate situation that they've ended up in and all sorts of problems plague their age group. Many are involved in taking drugs and heavy drinking and a lot of time is spent playing snooker, a modified version of pool. They don't know what else to do and I found them to be torn between a love and devotion towards their own good-hearted people and leader (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) and a frustration towards the rest of the free world. Here is an up and coming generation who have been born in exile and raised in the toughest conditions while simultaneously being taught that compassion and loving kindness are of the utmost importance and should be cultivated whenever possible. They need direction and inspiration. I met one young Tibetan, 18-years old, in Mcleod who was very interested in writing. We met several times and exchanged books, authors, poets and blog addresses. Someone like him needs to be supported and not forgotten about. Many, like him, have great potential.
So while at the refugee camp in Pokhara I asked them how their younger generation was doing and got the response that I expected. Smoking and drinking and hanging out in snooker halls wondering what to do with themselves. I brain-stormed for a long time with a few people, one was the director of the youth sports group, and came up with a simple plan of creating pen-pals with American youth. I told them about how we have resources for things like alternative books, poetry, art, music, magazines and that we could set it up so kids in America could gather some of their favorite things and compile a large package to send to the camp. In return the Tibetan kids could write letters about their lives, attempt poems (which they were all very skeptical about) and send pictures to share a little of their culture. The shipping fees could be raised as part of our NGO work.
This was one idea that received mixed reviews but I think once they see the package arrive at their doorstep and see the fun, interesting things it will bring they might warm up to the idea. Another more practical andimportant project for helping out the young Tibetans is raising money to sponsor their football (as in soccer) team to go to South India for a huge, all-Tibetan football tournament. Every year this is hosted by the Dalai Lama's sister and being that many Tibetans live in the many monastery's and surrounding communities in South India that is the chosen location. Because of this some Tibetan communities living in more Northern parts of India and Nepal have to work hard to scrounge up the money to travel the very long distance by bus. An estimated cost of $2,000.00 is needed to sponsor the 20 people who would go, including the coaches. This works out to $100 a person and the tournament starts in September. I will post this information again soon on the home page with more details. We promised to try everything we could to raise enough for them to attend.
The retirement home at the refugee camp.
One of the classrooms where the monks are taught their general education. The young man in the striped shirt is Kunga, a dedicated volunteer teacher who has been at it for one year now.
This is the building used for the general education.
The monastery for the spiritual education.
The guest house for volunteers and visitors. Operated on a donations only basis.