Tibetan Sakya Trust
Tibetan Sakya Trust

A journey to Kurseong.... Vicky one of our sponsors travelled to India April 2016 to meet some of our students.  She self funded this trip...

My first morning in Kurseong, West Bengal started with a sense of excitement and a calm at the same time... Maybe a focus... Maybe a sense of purpose but that would be pushing it...the kids might not take to me and I'd get nothing as to how well they are doing...I'm no counsellor, all I can do is mill about and see how they are getting on. Healthy, Happy etc.
> > Jinpa collected and smiled me all the way there...windy winding down the backstreets to the monastery.. A big yellow house, really. Wee tufty yellow dogs lazied out to meet us and I was straight in to meet the big guy... Khenpo : Luckey was to join us because she said Khenpo was embarrassed by his lack of English... I'm embarrassed by the lack of mine half the time also, so we'd be fine til she got there.  We chatted about the weather and my breakfast. Jinpa went off to get our five boys together to bring me chai and biscuits and several wee faces popped up at a classroom window, I could see through the curtain. Most laughing, some trying to look away...back..look away... I was dying to get at them!
> > Our boys who have been sponsored for several years by truly good people in our Tibetan Sakya Trust...well...they have facial hair... and I’ve brought them goody bags of lolly stick heads, balloons and colouring pencils!!
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> They'd grown up !
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> > Aggggg... I give them each a postcard of a mandala pic to colour in and write to their sponsors... Each one has a title... "Energy" "Strength" etc (these were given to me...I wasn't that resourceful) they seem a bit bemused... Confused even ...but so polite and kind (I knew our kids wouldn't be brats being raised by Buddhist Monks but really...they seemed like nice guys) 
> > Jinpa helped me write their names (double barrelled and none sound like they are written) and beside each I write the postcard name and something about them to remind me of who's who.
> > So I have Bright eyes, all of them stared at me but his eyes were so twinkly, ready to laugh out loud at any chance; 
> > The Boss... He's responsible for delegating all responsibilities at the centre; 
> Medicine Man... Just completed a 3 and a half month medicine Buddha meditation, in another monastery...this is nuts, he would have had to read and learn and recite around 100 pages written in Tibetan (not his first language) scribe... Answer questions from elders on the whole shebang and perform ceremonies;
> Strong man...a well built young fella who did a lot of the cooking
> Cookies/Info man. He over fed me biccies and got out untold photo albums.
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> > These pics were amazing. Khenpo had set up this Monastery 17 years ago in a different rented place. He'd taken in ten children off the street or from single parents who could not cope any more... I saw their little faces beside him in these pictures...in their Street clothes and my heart just simply broke. They were stern looking, frightened even and totally bedraggled. I recognised nearly all of them. This man didn't have a big set up that he invited them to join back then.  I don't know if he'd even a track record of making better the lives of poverty (I mean poverty) stricken children before he ventured out with these wee boys.
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> They were tiny... Too tiny. Him in the middle of them smiling.  I can't imagine what he was thinking at the time. 
> > And now here they were each one still with him and so absolutely gorgeous, gentle and confident souls. Info Man was so happy showing me pics of himself when he was 6... He was laughing and now in his deep voice, when he thought he was someone else in the pics and I corrected him.
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> > I think Khenpo couldn't hear the calls he was getting over my big laugh and some visitors arrived (they make appointments or just show up all day... Looking for advice, blessings, inspiration or support) so he suggested I take a look round the place. Another boy of about 14 took me round.  We started at the bottom...the old part of the house. The little ones had dorms here. Two concrete corridors with 3 double bunks in each. No carpets. A photo of what must be a little sister cellotaped to one of them. Little blankets folded up at the ends of their beds and boxes stacked floor to ceiling at the end of one of rooms.  The showers and toilets were also cement and a gutter ran down the middle of the hall outside. I asked about this and the young man told me that it often flooded in the wet season so this helped sort it out.
> > The dorms above were bigger, warmer in look and feel and in the newer extension... Cosy...The boy told me that older boys had serious studies and need to concentrate so they were 2 or 3 to a room. One room had a pc and printer..Jinpa slept beside this room, in the TV/ lounge on the couch. He loved this he said. 
> > I was disheartened at the small boys' sleeping quarters and after tea with Khenpo I said I would leave them all to get on with their studies.
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> > He said no problem to my idea of having a picnic for the boys and I would go shopping with two big boys in the town for juice and crisps and buns.
> > He said he would see me tomorrow..
> > And tomorrow he did... At half nine he was at my door ringing the bell. Him and Medicine Man... They'd been to cast their votes (the place was mental with cars everywhere...big pilgrimage that I thought was going on was election day)
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> > I grabbed the goodie bags, match the Disney Princesses pairs game, Lisa my cousin had donated and the packs of mini snickers and bounties i'd managed not to eat...
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> > It was Sunday...the boys' day off.  Two or three little heads poked up over the yellow wall and by the time I'd dodged the poodles they were about 20 wee faces staring over at me. One toothy grinny little chap calling the rest of them outside.
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> > I said good mornin' to all of them, popped into the outside kitchen and did the same there... Strong Man and a simply beautiful boy starting a cabbage and potato curry...(their tribute to their Belfast visitor no doubt!) These boys are around 15 and 18 and they are cooking dhal and curry with rice for 46 people plus visitors.  They prepare three meals a day plus teas. 
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> > The little ones mimicked me .. Just trying to understand what I was saying and repeating my accent. And yeah a little bit cheeky which is always a great sign.
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> > I said hello to Khenpo and had more chai with him. We chatted about a fair few things and I really knew I loved him.  Why not..he seemed to love everyone else.
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> > I was let loose on the boys!! I gathered them to together as another lot of visitors came for Khenpos advice. A lovely family who'd travelled two days to see him for an hour. They would have lunch there as all visitors are offered meals if it's around those times.
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> > I didn't know how this would pan out. None of the younger children speak any English...just copied me it seemed. So I got the matching Princesses cards and showed one (wee Grinny) in my big exaggerated way of doing things, how to play. 
> > More and more follow us to a corner of the little yard and honestly had the best time... all of them crowding round and leaning over each other to match up these Princesses and little mermaids. The middle boys asked if they could take a turn and because they had only just joined they couldn't match any so the wee ones laughed away. We'd a great time and they kept the cards they thought they'd won and off we went to set up the windmill and races and I tricked Grinny into closing his eyes for a big surprise and stuck the groucho marks glasses in him. Honestly, i had the best time with these funny, individual little boys and the bigger ones having such a laugh. When I got out the prit stick they though it was lip balm. I showed them some cutting latterns and 3 d cards C had taught me and they went nuts for them! The big ones loved them and showed the little ones straight away. Some of these boys are in their 20s and they were so happy to learn something new even if I'd messed up showing them twice. Please bear in mind..these boys speak and read two languages apart from their mother tongue... They are hugely intelligent.  They seemed genuinely happy fiddling about with these new ideas from a little Granny from Belfast and teaching them on. 
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> > After curried cabbage and potatoes with Khenpo and Luckey, Luckey said the boys would show me how they make their darmas... Decorative Offerings to Bhudda, made from butter, wax and colouring. We went to the prayer room and four of the big boys set about these in wood and on models (like playdo..)made from wheat.
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> > They'd prepared the coloured pieces from early morning... It was amazing. Such skill.  So bright and they rolled tiny pieces with right fingers and thumb, only and built these up on the wood or wheat models until they became they most stunning pieces ... Flowers and birds... Patterns, made up as they went along.  Smaller boys joined us in the prayer room(some played table football in another room) and they drew with the pencils donated...
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> > Well my heart... I can hardly write this. 
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> > Just to be there... Surrounded by them. Not one them asked or told to do anything and they just picked out things to draw...items from the prayer room and our Grinny traced an amazing Winnie the pooh which he insisted was Kungfu Panda... They signed and dated them and I told them that if they have sponsors I will send them on to them...so they drew some more and signed and dated them.  
> > Seeing them so happy...encouraging each other to do well. Laughing and praising each other... Hugging each other in congratulations when they completed something... It was pure love. Completely pure joy for each other. No jealousy because one got noticed and the other didn't.  Not one of them seemed disheartened if his drawing wasn't as artistic as others... 
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> > Tears burst out of my eyes. It kept happening! I wasn't sad.. I wasn't feeling sorry for the boys.  I was simply...totally overwhelmed by this love.  I completely felt connected to myself..to them.. Feeling the love they poured into their art and into each other...into me! a (strange and )total stranger  There was pure love in that room and I was part of it and it will never leave me... Thank you, boys.
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> > When we'd settled down and I was leaving I saw the little ones in their dorms... The lights were on and being full of their wee bodies jumping from bunk to bunk wrestling each other it seemed such a better place to be.  My natural feeling was to buy them rugs and cover the walls but they do what they can there and with the new extension, Khenpo managed to move the bigger boys up out of the bunks and into a space they can actually fit themselves and their books into.  I suppose he could have left the lower dorms empty or waited until more of his extension was complete (all work from local volunteers...so it's done as and when they can fit it in) but what of new arrivals? Are they better together in the Monastery room with no wall paper or living in extreme poverty?
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> > Khenpo started this Monastery alone..completely.. In a rented house...two years later, having procured this Monastery, he hired an English teacher, As this was the only thing he couldn't teach them sufficiently, to this day and with 45 children now to care for, that English teacher is still the only member of staff and he was off in Calcutta getting an eye operation as he is half blind these days. 
> > Khenpo has taught them the rest... How to look after themselves and each other... To clean themselves and their living environment, to cook and to care for each other.  He has taught them to read and write... In Tibetan... He has taught them the scriptures, ceremonies, their manners and conduct.  He may have taught the older ones how to drive. To cut each other's hair.  He is strict and loving to them. Approachable and a perfectionist. He wants each boy to be an all-rounder. Studies and practicals and ceromonials.
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> > Each of the older ones is now a teacher of the middle ones and the middle ones teach the little ones... Around 6 and 7 years old. Six months ago he found himself with a new intake of 12 little boys. The Boss had travelled to Northern India to answer letters and meet people who had been caring for several children with no parents and when he was there more were brought to him. A phone call with Khenpo and he brought them all home. Their little heads totally lice ridden and at first they cried a bit ..who wouldn't..but now 6 months down the line they were reciting Tibetan mantras, learning teamwork and cleanliness and generally monkeying around, laughing and making fun of a weird white woman with a funny accent... Noi noi.
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> On leaving the boys Info man showed me the lolly stick heads he'd drawn on... One was him and one was me... We kept each other. I will keep him forever. And there I was worried about my gift when I had arrived.
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