FMVSO Chairman David Brown and Trustee Grainne and her 23 year old nephew Cian spent 3 weeks at Manjushree this month.
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.