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.
Bio to come
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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