Travelling In Northern India and Nepal and visiting some Manjushree Vidyapith family members, March 2018 – Gráinne Purkis Trustee Member FMVSO.
On my previous FMVSO field trip visit to Manjushree Vidypith School and Orphanage (MVSO) in March 2017 I had the pleasure of meeting both well renowned Kundalini Yoga teachers Gurmukh and her husband Gurushabd. I had heard about them from Lama Thupten Phuntsok on many’s an occasion as they had been sponsoring some of MV’s children and teachers to partake in The Annual International Yoga Festival (IYF) in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand over a number of years. It was during this field trip, having attended some early morning yoga classes with the children at MVSO, that I decided upon invitation to join this year’s group from MVSO to attend the IYF for my first time.
I recently started a small company based on Wellbeing teaching Mindful Meditation to school children. In the west of Ireland I wished to qualify as a Kundalini Yoga teacher in order to offer this as part of the wellbeing program - uniting both body and mind in learning and practice. There was a 3 week Kundalini Yoga Teacher’s Training Level 1 course on offer straight after the week long International Yoga Festival and so I registered for that. Along with two of our MV young teachers.
I had the most wonderful experience sharing time and new learning with 22 of our MVSO class 7 and 8 students along with 3 teachers and one of our senior pupils studying in Delhi at the IYF. I travelled from Ireland to Delhi at the end of February, met the party from MVSO at Majnu Ka Tilla (Old Tibetan Colony) on the 31st February. They had made the long 3 day trip by tsumo and train from Tawang to Delhi and were so excited if not pretty well exhausted by the time we met in Delhi before taking the final overnight leg of the journey by small private bus to Rishikesh. We ate a late evening dinner together with some senior MVSO students who had come to Delhi to meet up during their University holiday period. The excitement of such a gathering between older and younger family members with some teachers away from the safety and familiarity of home (Manjushree) was palpable. We were very excited to be ‘out in the world’ together and this was the very first trip away from home for many of our younger pupils. Such a valuable introduction to life beyond the mountainous Himalayan region.
I have travelled to Tawang for 11 years to be with our Manjushree family in the capacity of FMVSO trustee, Science and poetry teacher, carer, mother and friend and this was the first time that I got to travel elsewhere in India. I also travelled onto Nepal with Thupten Tsering senior Delhi pupil to visit 10 of our young teenaged female student nuns in Katmandu. I also had need to visit one older teenage pupil Rinchin who is deaf and dumb studying traditional Tibetan Thangka design and
painting at Tsering Art School, Shechen Institute, Katmandu. The young nuns and Rinchin are not simply only coping but are thriving in their studies and new lives in Katmandu these past two years. They appeared to be very healthy and happy. Two of the nuns had not settled into monastery life and were missing home so went back to Manjushree a year ago. Two other young sisters from Manjushree took their place and said that they were very happy of the opportunity to study in Nepal and that they were going to stay for the duration of their studies. All nuns are making plans to travel home to Tawang on a family visit later in 2019.
The highlight of the trip for me was that I had the opportunity to train in Kundalini yoga teacher training with two Manjushree teachers, Nima and Pasang. These two wonderful young lady teachers were only but young teenaged pupils at Manjushree when I first visited in 2007. Being present on equal footing with these two well educated and well-adjusted young school teachers was such an honour and pleasure. I am happy to report that we all three passed our level 1 training. We now very much look forwards to delivering Kundalini yoga classes to all children at Manjushree Vidyapith in the not so distant future.
The sense of achievement through the nurturing and giving of FMVSO’s involvement with Lama Thupten’s vision for these children was particularly satisfying also - ‘Vibrate the cosmos, the cosmos shall clear the path’ words of the great Yogi Bhajan comes to mind in remembering the joy I felt during this the most unusual and wonderful trips of all times.
Thank you to all of FMVSO’s loyal donors over these many years who have helped this home and family become what it has become to date.
FMVSO Trustee Di Gallagher and her husband Leo have recently returned from a 2 week stay at Manjushree. The journey was as always challenging, but this time, after particularly heavy summer monsoon rains, the road was the worst we have known it.
Foundation Day on 30th October was very special this year - for the first time, the past pupils (all post-graduates) were entirely responsible for the organisation and execution of the celebrations. They did a magnificent job! 15 of the 29 Manjushree students who have now graduated attended the special day - they are all fine young people and set an excellent example for their younger brothers and sisters.
November is a good time to visit - most days the sky was brilliant blue and the sun hot in the middle of the day. By late afternoon, the temperature dropped drastically as the sun dipped behind the western mountains. There was some snow on the tops and on one day we had a very heavy hailstorm turning the ground white and delighting the children. The power and internet were, as ever, unreliable! However, now that there is some 3G/4G in Tawang area, it is a little easier to communicate with the outside world.
The children were looking strong and healthy and were, as always, extremely well-mannered and keen to learn from the visitors. Just chatting with them is valuable as a good grasp of English is going to be valuable to them in the future. As well as spending time with the children, Di and Leo had constructive discussions with Lama Thupten and Headmaster Amar about funding requirements and strategy.
It is always hard to say goodbye but this time was particularly poignant as it is likely to be Di's last visit - the altitude, the challenges of the journey, and 'age' are finally getting the better of her - she will of course continue to manage the administration of FMVSO and will be in touch with teachers and students via Whats App!
For some months there has been much press coverage, and speculation and excitement in Arunachal Pradesh, about the proposed visit of His Holiness Dalai Lama to Tawang. The original planned date was in March. His amended scheduled arrival was further delayed, heavy rain preventing the helicopter taking off from Guwahati in Assam, then on the long road journey up into the Himalayas, snow causing more problems. From 8-10 April, 50,000 people gathered in Tawang to hear the Dalai Lama’s teachings, Buddhists from Bhutan and Myanmar as well as local tribes-people, many of whom had walked for days to reach Tawang. The Dalai Lama has a special affection for Tawang and has visited before – he has shown a particular interest in Manjushree Vidyapith and on this visit to Tawang he stopped there to meet the children.
FMVSO Chairman David Brown and Trustee Grainne and her 23 year old nephew Cian spent 3 weeks at Manjushree this month. Although the road north from Assam has greatly improved (plenty of black top now), on nearing Sela Pass at 14,000 snow and ice made driving very difficult. Lobsang, the Manjushree driver, put on the chains and kept going until just over the pass where blown snow had blocked the road with huge drifts resulting in traffic chaos. This road is the only one going north and the army attempt to keep it open year round. The Manjushree jeep finally got through after several hours and eventually arrived at the orphanage in the early evening, 5 hours later than planned.
The majority of the children up to age 14 were away in their home villages for the winter break so just the seniors were there to greet the visitors. As the school was not due to open for a week, David and Grainne had time to acclimatize then to help the seniors with revision for their upcoming exams. They were also able to participate in meditation sessions, and joined the children doing Kundalini yoga led by two Gurus from US.
Once classes started, David and Grainne were both kept busy teaching science, as well as tutoring and mentoring the older students. Grainne taught English Poetry to the 13-15 year olds with the theme ‘Where I see myself 10 years from now’ – a very valuable exercise. She also taught the children a new song to sing at Assembly. They had regularly been singing ‘Morning has Broken’ which Grainne and her daughter taught them on their last visit – they were delighted to have a new song ‘No Coming, No Going’.
The Manjushree Principal and teachers look to FMVSO for advice and guidance on Health and Safety, in particular Child Protection, issues. Grainne has put a lot of work into outline policies regarding behaviour of visitors, staff, or older to younger children, and safety issues concerning the internet, Facebook in particular.
Some of the Manjushree boys who have chosen to become monks were at home from their Monastery in South India for a holiday. They are part of a long-term succession strategy where some of them would hope to return to Manjushree to assist in teaching and administration. Three Manjushree ex-students who have graduated are now running the administration of the school and orphanage and working full time as teachers. Four more have recently gained government jobs at the hospital in Tawang. Grainne and David were able to meet with others in Delhi, Guwahati and Bomdila, either completing their further education or already in full-time employment. Two of the oldest are married and have children. These are young people whom FMVSO has watched, encouraged and funded through their further education – it is a joy to see their success.
Unusually there was snow at Manjushree this March – the children had fun – especially the monks who have not been to their mountain home or seen snow for several years. There were sunny days too – enough to burn ears and noses. The power supply was, as ever, intermittent and internet access virtually non-existent. Solar panels installed by a UK Friend of Manjushree last year have proved very successful, providing power to a computer and projector in the 'smart room' allowing off-line material to be used for teaching purposes. They also give power to the Headmaster’s/Administrator’s office. It is getting warmer in Tawang now and there should be a month or so of good weather before the monsoon sets in. In preparation for the monsoon season Grainne purchased 50 pairs of Wellington boots for the young kids and 100 pairs of socks and handkerchiefs with safety pins for snotty noses!!!
At the end of the trip, Grainne and Cian spent a few days with Manjushree senior students studying in Delhi Universities, re-inforcing the already well established links with them. FMVSO sees its role as offering emotional family support as well as funding the students through Further Education.
As ever, the visit was heart-warming and rewarding as well as giving re-assurance to David and Grainne that donations from UK Friends of Manjushree are being wisely and well spent.
One of our handicapped students recently made the news when he entered a National art competition. Lobsang lost both his hands in an accident but he draws beautifully – he has been one of my star art pupils for several years. He reached the final of the competition and was invited to Delhi where, much to his delight, he won a prize and met the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. We are all very proud of his achievement.
On October 30th Manjushree celebrated Foundation Day – it is 18 years since Lama Thupten Phuntsok started to build the home and school for the needy children of Tawang district NE India. In those 18 years he has helped hundreds of children. The students of the early days at Manjushree completed secondary education and moved away, most have graduated, some of them have gone on to do further studies and some of them are now in paid employment – and some have come back to their Manjushree home to serve, teaching and caring, whilst undertaking further studies themselves.
Foundation Day this year was a low key affair, this is how one of our post-grads described it “Foundation day this year was little different than other years. It wasn't celebrated grandly. There was special breakfast and lunch for everyone.. The kids and the teachers with lama sir had a small get together. Everyone expressed their experiences, their feelings. It was also kind of a thanks giving. Everyone’s eyes were wet.. we all got very emotional.. overall it was a warm lovely day.. everyone all the over the world were remembered and missed that day..”
Another 6 Manjushree students have graduated from colleges in Delhi and South India. Namgay is now a fully qualified nurse and is looking to gain experience in hospital in India before looking to applying to come to UK. Thupten hopes to pursue a career in law and is doing further studies in Delhi. The other four girls are all in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh state, studying for Masters degrees and Bachelor of Education. They realise that they now have to at least partially support themselves so take on tutoring jobs.
The students of Manjushree continue to do well in their studies. In the last academic year, the Manjushree class 9 students now attending the local secondary school took the top 6 places in their year group. Class 9 is equivalent to our class 10 – first year of the 2 year GCSE and the students are now working hard to achieve good results in the big exams next year.
6 more students have completed their ‘Leaving Certificate’ – equivalent to our ‘A’ level exams. The top girl student has gone to Mangalore to study for a Nursing degree, the two boys have gone to college in Assam, and the remaining 3 girls have gone to study General Nursing (similar to our HCA).
News from Tawang
Since 2012 there have been protests, under the banner of Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF) against proposed hydroelectric projects. These have been peaceful up to now but last week a protest rally in Tawang got out of hand and 2 people were shot.
The army were called in and bans on public gatherings imposed.
Indian newspaper reports say that the government has decided not to go ahead with the planned hydroelectric projects in the district without consulting residents, and the monks, some of whom have been protesting against the dams.
On April 13th, Myanmar was shaken by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. The tremor was felt at Manjushree; the buildings shook and everyone rushed outside but there was no structural damage and no-one hurt.
While I was at Manjushree we had discussed emergency procedures in case of earthquake or fire and hopefully this helped to reduce panic and keep order. When the earthquake happened, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were staying at Assam’s Kaziranga National Park before going on to Bhutan. They would certainly have felt the tremor.
In mid-April, Northeast India experienced incessant torrential rains resulting in floods and landslips.
On April 22nd, fifteen labourers and a supervisor were killed after a landslide buried their camp near a private hotel construction site at Phamla in Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang district.
Phamla is just half a mile from Manjushree
In this mountainous area everything is built on terraces and landslips are common.
Happily, I had news from the orphanage that all were safe and well, the walls held up and apart from the sodden ground, you wouldn’t know anything had happened. Extensive works on retaining walls had obviously paid off.
Report on Di’s visit to Manjushree
There was still some snow when we went over Sela Pass on 14th March. The long road up from Assam gets just a little better each time we visit. There are good stretches of blacktop now but there is still a lot of bone-shaking rock-and-roll on the dusty, rocky, rutted, dirt road bits.
This visit was an extra special one. FMVSO celebrated its 10th birthday in February, and this year my husband Leo accompanied me for the first time.
As always all the children were assembled to welcome us home. There were many new faces as this was the start of the new academic year. The younger children had not been long back from their holidays and the school term had just started. Leo and I got stuck in straight away, teaching English and General Knowledge to 12 to 15 year olds; their English is good enough for them to understand us without an interpreter. Every afternoon we had ‘Art Club’; the children are very keen to draw and paint, and they produced some wonderful pieces of work for the exhibition and competition. Leo and I also organised Story Writing competitions which were a great success.
The new academic building is in full use now; a great improvement on the old tin huts although more equipment and books are still needed.
Our friend, Andrew, from UK has installed solar power units on the roof of the hall, and the academic buildings and these are helping to get round the eternal problem of the frequent power cuts.
Winter damage to power cables affects the whole area and power was off most days for several hours, sometimes for 24 hours. It was cold, and this year there was cloud and rain most days. This did not however dampen the enthusiasm or the smiles of the children.
Leo and I spent 4 weeks at Manjushree. It was, as always, a wonderfully rewarding and fulfilling experience. Lama Thupten, his staff and children understand and appreciate FMVSO’s involvement and support, and they all send love and thanks to the many friends in UK.
It is getting very cold in the mountains now and life is getting more challenging.
The younger children will soon be finishing their examinations then all those who have aunties or grannies to care for them will be going to their home villages for the coldest months of the year. The older students will be preparing for their 10th grade and 12th grade (GCSE and A Level) exams which they take next Spring.
In Delhi the Manjushree students have completed their semester exams and have a short vacation while they await their results. In Mangalore and Bangalore too, the students have done exams and are now on holiday. Some or our girls have gone to spend their vacation with their monk brothers at Gyudmed Monastery and School, near Hunsur in South India.
FMVSO Chairman David Brown has recently returned from his annual visit to Manjushree. He spent two weeks living at the orphanage and working with the children. He taught science to classes 6, 7 and 8 (children aged 11-14), and took some of the older children for extra science coaching. He even took over the extra-curricular art sessions that Di normally oversees!
In November the air in the mountains is cool yet the sun can be very hot. David had some lovely warm and sunny days; on other days it was cloudy, damp and very cold. As usual the electricity was off a lot of the time so often there was no lighting in the classrooms. The internet was not working much of the time.
The new building is impressive but it is still rather bare inside due to lack of funds for books and equipment. The science labs are empty but FMVSO have sent funds to purchase equipment ready for next term. The local Indian army commander has donated 3 new computers with Microsoft software and Antivirus installed. Lama Thupten said he would be very happy for FMVSO to take out material, eg videos, to teach outside the school curriculum books, which tend to be quite narrow in content. He would welcome the opening of the children’s minds to the wider world by opening up subject content. FMVSO will be looking to encourage and support the use of technology in the classroom each time Trustees visit.
Big celebrations at Manjushree
The long awaited new Academic Building is finally finished
Dr Kazuko and her friends attended the grand inauguration
Until now the classrooms were located in huts constructed from recycled pallets with a tin roof. When it rained on the tin roof the noise made it impossible to teach and, with no sound proofing between the classrooms, with noisy little ones next door it was often difficult for the older children to hear their teacher. It was always cold in the old classrooms too, with concrete floors and draughty doors and windows.
Now the children have classrooms well-suited to gaining a good education. Teaching methods, however, are still book-based and delivered on a chalk board.
It is the start of the new academic year in colleges in India and our Manjushree students are returning refreshed after their vacation. Some managed to take part time jobs during the holidays and others returned to Manjushree to help with teaching and caring.
Of the 4 Manjushree students who completed XII grade examinations in the spring, 3 passed all subjects first time. The last student had to re-take one subject and I am happy to say she has now passed the re-take.
2 of the girls gained admission to colleges in Mangalore, 1 reading LAW and the other JOURNALISM. The 3rd girl has applied to study nursing and the boy is taking a BA in college in Tamil Nadu.
Good news from Manjushree, as reported to me by one of the teachers:
There was a competition held by the District Commissioner. There were two categories one was to draw a logo for the Tawang website and the other was to write an essay on Tawang as a smart city. Many schools took part and our school took all the First three positions in painting and also some got consolation prizes painting. In the essay competition our school got the third position (Jambey from class Viii ) The children will be getting their prizes on independece day that is on 15th August, presented by the District Commissioner of Tawang district at the parade ground.
Another of our class IX students gained second position in a public speaking competition in monpa dialect held in tawang where again various schools participated.
This is good news indeed - our students are competing against hundreds of other children from the mainstream schools of the area.
FMVSO is proud to be part of these successes - Trustee Di teaches Art and English on her regular visits to Manjushree!
Gráinne Purkis Visit April 2015
Trustee Grainne Purkis returned from Manjushree at the end of April. She spent 4 weeks there with her 18 year old daughter Roisin, both fully integrated in the daily life of the school and orphanage. (Roisin's account of her visit is included in 'Visit Report' section). Grainne was trained as a science teacher so took the older pupils for science. Roisin also took classes and both of them spent all their time and energy working with the children. As always Grainne was greeted with open arms and Roisin was quickly adopted as one of the family.
Roads and Weather
Since her last visit in 2012, Grainne noticed quite a lot of improvement in the roads. The biggest improvement was the long stretch of road in Assam, day 1 of the drive up to Tawang, allowing the use of a car than 4x4.
The climb up from Tezpur from Bhulakpong is still treacherous especially during the wet season. The road is very twisty and the area is also fog prone. Grainne’s jeep was involved in a minor accident on the way down due to wet roads and oncoming erratic drivers but luckily the MV driver handled the situation very well! Stretches of the road from Tezpur to Tawang are still in need of major repair and further construction. There are major road works going on at Sela Pass (BRO are building a whole new section of the road). Smaller sections of the road, no more than 3km at a time have been tarred and smoothed which makes for good driving in various areas leading into or out of small villages along the way. However, the landslides continue to happen; bumpy, muddy or indeed snowy roads make for a challenging journey and MV’s vehicles are heavily taxed going up and down from Tawang to Guwahati.
Grainne felt that the weather pattern had changed for the spring period. She experienced many wet, and thick, heavy cloudy days which bring with them a coldness which seeps into the bones. She also experienced 3 electrical storms, one of which busted the wifi box and wiped out line internet connection. There were also a good few days of intense heat during daylight hours (Róisín and Grainne both suffered from head and nose sunburn on the first sunny day - it happened so quickly!).
There are now 221 children living at Manjushree, 89 of them boys, and 132 girls, most of them are orphans. 23 of the children are physically or mentally disabled.
Also under Lama Thupten’s care are 22 students attending university or college, 3 students being sponsored in school elsewhere, and 7 young men undertaking monk training in South India.
The number of day scholars has grown considerably. There are now 40 boys and 49 girls attending school daily. The education provided at Manjushree is excellent and Lama Thupten is constantly being asked to take in more children as day pupils. He carefully selects the most needy cases – children from poor families, single parent families, or children with some form of handicap.
With the growing number of pupils, staff numbers have also risen. There are 14 teachers of whom 3 are Manjushree ex pupils. They are working voluntarily as junior teachers whilst pursuing further studies by correspondence. As with any institution there is a large team of non-teaching staff – cooks, drivers, hostel wardens, cleaners and the 2 resident physiotherapists. All play a large part in the lives of the children. Despite the growth in numbers there is still a strong sense of family at Manjushree, with Lama Thupten Phuntsok at its head.
From March 2015, class 9 (15 year olds - class 10 in UK) has been incorporated into the MV school program. Lama Thupten’s dream is eventually to educate his children all the way through to XII grade (leaving cert./A level). The new academic building will provide enough classroom space but more senior teachers will need to be employed to satisfy government requirements. Senior Science and Senior Maths teaching posts have been advertised; interviews will take place in May.
The new school is well on target for the inauguration later this year. Works are at the decorative stage... builders rendering plaster on the classroom walls and halls, polishing and fitting marble floors and worktops, painters painting rooms, and Tibetan traditional painters carrying out ornamental Tibetan painting works at prominent locations in the building. The carpenters are very busy making necessary classroom furniture and window frames. The large wall to the front of the new school building has been well built adding a strong safety feature to the front area where children will gather to play.
Practical science equipment as well as computers will be needed to equip the new school building – FMVSO will be looking to raising funds for this project.
Class XII exam results are out and all the students passed in all subjects except one failure in one subject. The students will now be applying for college or university places.
Building works are able to speed up in the few weeks’ window between the frosts, cold and snow – and the start of the monsoon rains.
The New School is currently the priority.
Work on the Stupa (HH Dalai Lama’s projected site for world peace) is progressing well. The work is being supervised by Kandala, HH Dalai Lama’s oracle.
The extended kitchen and the extra staff/teacher accommodation building space above the kitchen are slowly being constructed.
Grainne noted that all students at Manjushree who are free from study duties participate each day in building works. Both girls and boys are very engaged in lending a hand and are willingly working hard. The university students on holiday from Delhi will join them in June to help with the building work. Lama Thupten in particular spoke highly to Grainne about the girls and their relentless input at the stupa and school works. He is very touched by their serious show of commitment to helping to build their home and their school.
Food and Water
A detailed list of current food expenditure was supplied and FMVSO has budgeted to cover most of the food cost. The food is plain and there is not much variety but the children have plenty to eat and they are generally healthy.
Provision of safe water is being much improved. FMVSO have funded the purchase and installation of new water pipes to bring water from unpolluted source. New large water storage tanks have been installed.
FMVSO have funded a reserve store of food which will feed the children for 3 months. This is rotated – used and replaced.
The recent earthquake highlighted the value of the reserve food and water store. It is located in the new academic building, the building is strongly constructed to, as far as possible, withstand major damage from earthquake.
Computers, Internet and Electricity
The electricity power cuts are many and frequent - daily in fact, so nothing has changed much in that regard. The generator seems to be working well. However, it only generates enough power for the children’s study hall and kitchen. There is nothing that MV can do; they do not wish to upset the electricity board as they get electricity supplied to them at a very good rate (heavily discounted being a charitable ongoing concern).
The wifi was recently rendered useless due to an electrical storm. The one working computer is often unusable as the landline was also damaged. Even after it was fixed broadband speed is extremely slow and continued electricity dips and surges are still causing great frustration with regard to internet access.
FMVSO trustees keep in touch with Lama Thupten and the students through Facebook and e-mail whenever possible. The staff and students can access the internet in Tawang market but its a mile or so walk uphill, and not always reliable internet there either.
April 29th 2015
Today I made contact with Manjushree. I am very happy to report that the orphanage has not been affected by the earthquake centred on Nepal, and all is well. I spoke with the Administrator, Tsering, who is one of our post graduates now working full time back in her old home, in an Indian Government funded post.
Tsering thanks us all for our concern and says "we are all fine here" - all the staff and children appreciate the interest and support of the many friends in the UK and she says "...that is very sweet or our well wishers ...." (I had told her how worried everyone was about all at Manjushree).
Lama Thupten has been away but returns home tomorrow - the children will all be so happy to see him.
April 27th 2015
Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Nepal has been very much in our thoughts.
Many of our FMVSO supporters have called me to ask if Manjushree has been affected.
I have had news today that they felt tremors at the orphanage, but nothing serious.
The students in Delhi e-mailed on saturday to report that they had suffered fairly serious tremors but there was no structural damage and none of them were hurt.
Any further news will be published on the website.
Trustee Di Gallagher and her husband Leo have just returned from a very wonderful adventure in South India. As always the trip was self-funded. The purpose of the visit was to spend time with the Manjushree students at college and those training to be monks at the Hunsur monastery. FMVSO is fully funding all the Manjushree students who have gone on to further education.
Di and Leo flew to Delhi, then on to Bangalore where they were met by Lama Thupten Phuntsok, one of post-grads who is working in Bangalore, and one of our first year college students. Two more students joined the party for a very useful meeting and a happy evening together. Lama Thupten spent a week with Di and Leo; they were able to give him a bit of a holiday - much needed in his extremely busy life. They went from Bangalore to the Hunsur Monastery where Lama Thupten had spent much of his early life. They stayed there for two days and spent many happy hours with the 7 Manjushree boys who have chosen monkhood as their path in life.
There are 6 Manjushree girls at university in Mangalore on India's southwest coast. Namge is the senior student and she is in her 3rd year of nursing training and she has now been joined by a second nursing student. 2 more girls are studying for BA degrees, the other 2 are taking Journalism and fashion design. The live in fairly basic hostels and have very little breathing space from their studies. The are delightful young people with a great attitude towards their studies. They were so happy to join Di and Leo at a simple Indian beach resort for a couple of days - a little seaside holiday for them.
On the return journey, Di and Leo met with the all 6 Manjushree students who are at university in Delhi. The senior student, Thupten, takes his responsibility very seriously and also acts as Lama Thupten's agent in Delhi. When the internet is bad in Tawang (a lot of the time!) Thupten makes any necessary communication with sponsors - including FMVSO.
Lama Thupten is now on his way home to Manjushree after dealing with various business matters in Delhi and Assam. He will be purchasing water pipes (funded by FMVSO) to put in a new supply from a safe source - polluted water is a continual problem.
Trustee Grainne Purkis is busy making preparations for her next visit to Manjushree in March.
Tawang has had its first snowfall of the season. It has been bitterly cold for the last month. Most of the Manjushree children have gone to their home villages - it is so hard to keep everyone warm at the orphanage. The seniors continue with their studies, the 10th graders and 12th graders will be taking their exams in March - these are equivalent to the UK GCSE and A level.
There was great excitement in Tawang when Richard Gere arrived to attend a seminar on “Challenges facing the Himalayan region” The seminar was organized by the Department of Karmik & Adhyatmik Affairs (DoKA) in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation. Eminent Buddhist scholars from various countries along with local intellectuals attended.
Richard Gere visited Manjushree and enjoyed interacting with the children.
Trustees David Brown and Di Gallager have just returned from a 4 week stay at Manjushree. We were blessed with bright blue days and only a little snow on the high pass! We found the children in good health and in good heart. There have been huge developements since we were there last year; the place is still a bit of a building site, but the new Academic building is magnificent and almost complete. It is hoped that it will be in use by this time next year.
As always, living, working, playing and just being with the children was a beautifully heartwarming and fulfilling experience.
We held our half-yearly Trustees meeting whilst at Manjushree and invited Lama Thupten Phuntsok and Headmaster Amar Gurung to join us.. We all felt that the meeting was extremely valuable, further reinforcing the deep trust and understanding between FMVSO and MV.
As usual it has been a wet summer at Manjushree. The monsoon lasts nearly 6 months and it rains most days.
10 more of our Manjushree students completed their secondary education in the spring this year.
This summer, they applied for admission to college.
2 of the boys achieved A grade results in most subjects and they are now at top Delhi universities.
1 of the girls was accepted for nursing in Mangalore.
2 further girls are in Mangalore studying journalism and textiles, and 2 boys are in Bangalore.
The final 3 boys are at college in Bomdila, just half a day’s drive from Manjushree. We are particularly proud of our most handicapped boy, who had to have both arms amputated from the shoulder when gangrene set in after he was badly burnt by live electric wires. He has made the remarkable achievement of getting admission to college along with his peers. He is extraordinarily able but his 2 ‘brothers’ are with him to assist when needed.