The Light of Education

Features Issue 14 Aug, 2010
Text by Jill Gocher

Upon meeting Lama Orgyan you would barely  that  know he is a monk  he looks more like a smiling Chinese Buddha, his eyes creasing into lines as he smiles, which is often. This good lama, along with his look alike brother, Rinpoche Purba Tashi have opened a school for disadvantaged children of the Himalaya, called the “Snowland Ranag Light of Education School.”

At this stage, funding comes mainly from Taiwan where generous devotees give handsomely to the  sometime Taiwan based Rinpoche for the project. So generous  in fact, that they even  insisted on buying Lama Orgyan a Pasero  to drive around in.

32 year old Lama Orgyan and his brother come from  Llhori  -  a remote village in the north of Dolpo  that is  one of those Himalayan areas  bordering Tibet.  Having had quite a tough life himself, Lama Orgyan understands the need for others to get a chance in life. His own childhood was spent minding sheep and yaks and as he was a strong child, his parents wanted him to do farm work rather than waste  his precious time studying. It was only later, after he was admitted to the monkhood, that he was able to leave Dolpo and  spend his time in study.  As a devout Buddhist he sees his mission in life is to help others who have experienced similar hardship.

The school started humbly enough, just one or two rooms in an old house, and in the past one and a half years, has grown tremendously. Now it is established in a much bigger Rana house with  enough space for playing games and a vegetable garden. Eventually Lama Orgyan hopes to establish a newer and bigger school to house even more students, but for now this is a good start.

Having been a Himalayan child himself, he aims to open the school for other disadvantaged Himalayan children. His vision is a kind of Nepali version of the well respected Dr. Graham’s School in Kalimpong, and even as the school expands,  he will continue to give preference to the children of poor parents and Himalayan orphans who have no other chance to a good and free education.

Many of the students come from Lama Orgyan’s own village, where facilities are severely limited. He is offering the children a chance in life,  and  the parents are comfortable with the knowledge that their charges will be well looked after. Even those who  arrive dirty and infested with lice and obviously malnourished start to look well scrubbed and a lot  healthier  after a few weeks of good food and dedicated care.

After their scrubbings and all comfortable in their clean new school clothes (with warm fleece jackets for weekends), they embark on their studies, a healthy mix of languages – English, Nepali and their own Tibetan as well as mathematics, science, art, and Buddhist studies.

At present the school appears to be manned by two Nepali teachers and a helper for the children. They are already learning to line up like little soldiers in the well disciplined morning devotional programme, and there is not  a smile to be seen as they seriously snap to attention, turning left, turning right and  following their orders without a hitch.

Weekends are free with two days off from study. Hours are spent watching video movies on TV, playing games in the compound, and once a month, eating special treats like momos  or maybe steaming bowls of  tenduk.

Already, the small school is bursting at the seams with 33 students ranging in age from three to fifteen, eight of them girls.  While the bulk of the children are from Dolpo, there are also three from Mustang, two from Tibet and several from the Humla/Jumla region. Although more parents are asking Orgyan to take their charges as well, he just cannot manage any more until the school expands. And that will take time.

Each child is provided with free uniforms, tuition, books and study materials, food and health care – it is really a wonderful opportunity. The saddest point about this program is that once the children are installed in the school, it is only a few lucky ones who will see their parents again for many years.  Most of the parents are too poor to even contemplate the long journey to Kathmandu and the childen would have similar difficulties getting back to their homelands. Possibly in the future, if more funding comes through, they will get a chance to visit their homes before they lose touch  with their families and culture all together.

Any enquiries, money donations, computers, medicines, can be
directed to Lama Orgyan at:
tel: 44 20 33.