Lekshey came from Vajra Vidya Institute in India and was sent to Namo Buddha to supervise the construction of the Thrangu Tashi Yangtse monastery.
In 2002, Rinpoche sent Lekshey to SMD as a nyerpa to be the plant manager and buyer. The post was going to last for two to three years, but Rinpoche was pleased with his work, so Lekshey was kept on. Besides the work at SMD, Lekshey often has monastery work to do. A big job is the annual 10 day Mani Puja the monastery hosts at SMD in Boudha. The monastery feeds everybody. On the last day, up to 3,000 people attend.
Before the earthquakes, he used to go to the Tibetan border to buy. Although the goods are available in the city, prices are high and quality is low. So, with a little bit of hard work to get to the border, he could get cheap quality goods. Nowadays, he can’t go because the road is too dangerous.
“There were many difficulties at the beginning because I had no experience, but I believe that the heart will rise to deal with any sort of challenge if we keep Rinpoche’s teachings in mind.”
Tashi Gyatso became a monk when he was 15. He began his life as a monk at Thrangu Monastery, in the time-honoured way, memorizing prayers and playing ritual instruments.
After a Kunrig retreat, Rinpoche sent him to Namo Buddha Monastery for two years, where he helped to build the lhakang (shrine hall) and then, for one year afterwards, he worked as the nyerpa for Namo Buddha Monastery. His work was satisfactory, so he was sent to Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery and after a year and a half there, he was sent back to Namo Buddha as nyerpa.
In 2006, Rinpoche moved him to SMD to be nyerpa so he could learn and grow further. It was difficult at first, but slowly it became easier, especially when he saw that SMD is a home for Himalayan kids, and that the support staff (amalas and palas i.e. mothers and fathers) do the things parents do, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and serving food. He notes that there is love here and that SMD kids here are more kind and compassionate.
Tashi Gyatso feels blessed to have been at SMD for the past 11 years and wishes that the school can keep running so Himalayan children can have a good future.
Wangchuk Rapten Lama has been SMD’s senior medical officer for over nine years. He also organizes many camps*—dental, medical, hearing and vision care—in remote areas.
Born in Chhekampar Village in the Tsum Valley, where there is never enough food, Wangchuk’s parents brought him to Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery when he was seven years old (Himalayan villagers put their children into robes to assure the child’s survival and access to education).
When he was 13, Wangchuk’s mum died. If there had been medical care available, she may have lived. When his interest in medicine crystalized, he got permission from Rinpoche to take paramedic training. He continues to seek extra training whenever possible.
In the 2015 earthquakes, Thrangu Rinpoche’s monks and nuns brought help into the mountains. Wangchuk made 29 helicopter missions. The health post in Chhekampar was flattened but the government had no plans to rebuild it, so Wangchuk did. He turned the new health post over to the Health Ministry six months later.
*Funding for camps and heli missions is separate from SMD Funding. SMD Clinic has three full time health workers. The clinic needs about $15,000 USD/year for vaccinations, hospitalizations, medicines and equipment.
Niraj joined the SMD family in the summer of 2005. As Registrar, he is one of the three Senior Administrators. He handles all the accounting for SMD, including salaries and Nepal government annual tax audits.
He came to us through his elder brother Rajesh, Thrangu Rinpoche’s statue maker. The Chitrakars are a Newar family. The Newars were the first inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and are famed as statue makers, carvers and thangka painters. Most Newars are Buddhist, and in the olden days, they sustained a lively trade with Tibet. It was the Newars who began the tradition of painting thangkas (religious scrolls).
An accomplished musician himself, Niraj enjoys organizing debates and talent shows at SMD. He started ‘SMD Idol’ where SMDers have to compete in all three languages: Tibetan, Nepali and English. Niraj was an integral part of ‘sPlat’, a musical put on at SMD under the aegis of Jodi Tweed and her NGO, Hope Alliance, which was the beginning of the Hope Alliance and SMD partnership. Hope Alliance funded Niraj’s trip to Australia, where Niraj gained some management training. He serves on the Nepal board of Hope Alliance (Rewa Alliance in Nepal) and has helped to start Hope Alliance teacher training at SMD.
“It’s a privilege to work in Rinpoche’s School. It has given me an opportunity to add a few drops of Dharma in my daily work. Lastly I’d like to say if you want to do anything, then do it from your heart. If you can’t, then take a break.”
Shirley Blair has given service to SMD School for 20 years. Together with the School’s Principal, she oversees all aspects of school operations in her role as Director.
Years ago, Rinpoche gave the following instruction to her…to “make the school as good a school as you can.” Shirley’s primary responsibility as such is the direction of the school—children, staff and physical campus. She sources funds, materiel and training, recruits volunteers and manages ongoing education past Class 10.
Daily tasks include community, donor and partner relations, writing for the website, Facebook and print media, producing slide shows, formulating proposals, making presentations, and public speaking. She also travels to arrange scholarships and to fundraise, as all of SMD’s funding comes from overseas, from 26 different countries. Other tasks include legal work, writing the management plan, job descriptions and contracts. Counselling and mental health fall under the purview of the Director as well, but hygiene, nutrition and health care are now well managed by the school clinic.
Shirley also manages the Senior Programme—ongoing education for students past Class 10. Whether students stay in Nepal or go overseas, they need counselling. Their families can’t help and teachers do not see it within their role to prepare students to go overseas. Assistance with writing scholarship applications and applying for visas is an essential part of the job.
Wangchuk Tenzin was admitted into SMD in 1995. Four years later he joined the monastery. He graduated from Class 10 after a stint as an administrator’s assistant where he got a ‘bird’s eye view’ of how a boarding school operates—somewhat differently than a monastery!
Wangchuk and another SMDer were selected to attend a human rights workshop for marginalized people in Dharamsala, co-sponsored by the Red Cross Nordic United World College and the school system established in India for refugees.
After finishing Class 10, Wangchuk gave service in various capacities, first at the monastery and then at SMD. He completed the Ngondro (foundation practices) Retreat before he joined Thrangu Rinpoche’s shedra (University of Higher Buddhist Studies) in 2008. During his shedra studies, Wangchuk had a ‘gap year’ which he spent travelling with Rinpoche as an attendant.
As a shedra graduate—a scholar—Wangchuk Tenzin has expert knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings. He takes every opportunity to fulfill Rinpoche’s aim in keeping the lamp of the Buddha’s teachings alight in the hearts and minds of the children at SMD.
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