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September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

I started attending Ven. Lobsang's lectures in 2000 and was inspired by his stories about growing up and attending a monastery in India. He was clearly figuring out how to be in the US, bringing the dharma to people, affiliated and not affiliated with Buddhism, to help them lead happier lives, while bringing about positive change in the lives of desperately disadvantaged children in India. Jhamtse International was born from this vision. One of the wonderful things about JI is that it's volunteer-run, and the administrative costs are low to non-existent -- donations directly benefit those in need, and even small donations have a huge impact. It's inspiring to hear how a small amount of money has radically transformed the lives of children who had no hope to rise out of a life of poverty. And the kids at Jhamtse Gatsal are not only as bright as their peers anywhere, but they are learning and living the lessons of the power of love and compassion directly. It's an amazing organization doing much good in the world.

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The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the community gatherings we have each week, supporting each other as we learn about Buddhism.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

let more people know about what fantastic, successful venture this, and the change it's bringing to the world.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

seeing the results -- the complete reversal of child's life from hopelessness to possibility.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

committed, inspiring, and down-to-earth folks who care deeply about each other.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

transform the world through the practice of love, wisdom, and compassion.

Ways to make it better...

I had even more time to commit.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

spreading the word and reaching more people.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

In the summers of 2006 and 2007 I traveled to the very remote part of India that is Arunachal Pradesh. Here, in the Himalayan mountains on the border of Bhutan and Tibet, is a small school that was started by Tibetan monks to serve the region's impoverished people. Teaching children of subsistence farmers ensures new possibilities for the region's future, and empowers the young people. Increasing the service to cover basic health care for the mountain population, which is otherwise grossly under-served, admits a ray of hope and health to an area where treatable illnesses often claim the lives of its citizens. This is a worthy cause to support. I have seen first hand what good the school does, and they deserve all the help they can get.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

This organization has proven that is through action that we can change the world. To see children arrive at the school, tattered, undernourished and scared, and a year later, see them rosy cheeked, happy and playful, speaks for itself.

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How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

I joined Jhamtse many years ago as a participant in weekly Buddhist study meetings. Lobsang Phuntsok, our teacher, wanted to start a school educate the poorest, most deprived children in the area of northeast India from which he came. It was a long road but now Jhamtse Gatsal is bringing love, medical care and educating many children in the area as well as helping the adult community. The connection with the children is very deep, rich and personal. One can volunteer at the school and communicate with a blog which makes one's involvement immediate and personal. I have sponsored a child for several years and plan to visit the school in the next year or two. One can be involved in many ways; even though far away I assist with secretarial duties.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Through the blog I have come to know the teachers and staff. Through photos and letters I see my sponsored child grow, learn to write me letters. I see the children become healthy, smile, do well on exams and have hope for the future.

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How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

I have been a drama teacher for fourteen years now at the International School of Geneva. I heard about Jhamste Gatsal for the first time from my Indian friend who visited the school once. He introduced me to the Llama Lobsang at the helicopter airport of Tawang when I visited Arunachal Pradesh last spring. I had a nice conversation with the Llama, but at that moment I did not think that I would end up working there. It became clear for me only when I talked to a couple who worked at Jhamste and traveled with me in the helicopter. I heard such wonderful things about the school, and that they might also need a drama teacher for the summer. Back in Geneva, I wrote to the Llama to see if he was interested. He was. I came in July to spend a month at Jhamste, teaching theater and putting on productions of Cinderella and The Ugly Duckling. Upon arrival at the school, I was extremely touched when I was greeted with such a warm welcome. Even with my past career as an actress, I’ve never felt so welcomed and so special. What’s more, this feeling didn’t fade during my entire time at the school. The continual feeling of warmth and love was incomparable. I’ve never felt a stronger desire to be part of a community. For me, Jhamste is “heaven on earth.” I get tears in my eyes when I think back! I will definitely spend most of my post-retirement years at the school. I encourage everyone around me to go there and to experience this peaceful and joyful place. From the children of Jhamste, I have learned (and hope to keep learning) many important things: love, compassion, and caring. I’ve never been surrounded by these feelings in such an intense way. I am so thankful to the Llama and the children for the feelings of welcome and love that they have given me, and I am reassured that they are awaiting my return. Happiness, that’s Jhamste Gatsal! I feel blessed to have experienced it!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

The children have an incredible desire to learn and curiosity to discover new things. Performing came easily: learning two plays in one month and singing new songs with enthusiasm, joy and great sense of humour.

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How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

Although I've never traveled to Jhamtse Gatsal, I've heard about it many times at our Tibetan Buddhist group in Worcester, MA. Our teacher, Venerable Lobsang Phuntsok, is also the founder of Jhamtse Gatsal. At the school he founded, the central Buddhist principles of love and compassion are lived on a daily basis. The before and after pictures of the children served tell the story. Youngsters who look scared, underfed, and unclean are transformed into healthy, content youth. You can tell from the photos and descriptions of adult visitors that the children are prospering spiritually in addition to educationally and physically. My real exposure is to teacher, Lobsang. He is a humble, humorous man who lives and speaks of love and compassion on a daily basis. Any activity sponsored by him is deserving of support and endorsement. Barry Walsh

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

in many teachings and workshops by its founder, Venerable Lobsang Phuntsok...

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How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

I'm grateful to have an opportunity to sponsor three children at Jhamtse International. Through the help of volunteers and donors they are sheltered, educated and most of all loved. Their story provides me a deep sense of community and profound joy.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the children's well-being.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Receiving letters from the children, seeing the progression of bathhouse construction.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Venerable Lobsang Phuntsok and the members of Jhamtse Buddhist Center.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

help more children by providing the care, education, and the love they need. Jhamtse can build more auxiliary buildings, technology outlets, hire more teachers and most of all, more mothers for children.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 27, 2010

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September 27, 2010

I came to Jhamtse Gatsal when it was just a dream of a spirited and dedicated monk (my teacher), Venerable Lobsang Phuntsok. Some six or seven years ago, after the weekly teaching at one of the five Buddhist centers, he asked sangha members if they wanted to stay and hear about his idea of a school for the orphaned and impoverished children in a very remote area in India, where he spent his childhood years before he was sent to a monastery to study. And so, started the journey of Jhamtse Gatsal (a Garden of Love and Compassion in Tibetan), now in its fifth year of operation. Today, the school houses 75 children who once would not have known what being a child meant because they had to learn to fend for themselves and their families from the moment they could stand on their feet. These children are a living example of the difference that a nurtured childhood and an education based on love and compassion can make. The smiles on their faces are the return on the investment that we are making on their future. I have been involved with Jhamtse International in one way or another over the years, but this summer I decided to volunteer one day of my workweek to serve this community and help it grow. In turn, it has given meaning to my regular job where I was struggling to find purpose. Now my job has become a means to an end!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the sheer joy in the lives of the children, the dedication of the school Principal, staff and ama-las (house mothers), and the commitment of the volunteers here in the US.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

bring as much awareness as possible to the incredible work that is being done in India, and help the organization grow and become sustainable.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the ability to think beyond myself and give back a little of what life has so generously given me.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

beyond words. Their dedication and commitment to their work is inspiring! It got me to take a pay cut, just so I could count myself among them :)

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

become sustainable and be a model for other such schools in the area and around the world. We need more of the kind!

Ways to make it better...

there weren't as many financial worries to think about every step of the way.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

creating a wider network of friends and supporters, growth, and sustainability.

One thing I'd also say is that...

Take a moment and go to the Gatsal blog (http://jhamtse.net/blog/) and read what the children and the community have to say. You won't regret it!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 11, 2010

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September 11, 2010

Hi. This is going to be reallllly long. Apologies in advance. But bear with me if you can: I knew Lobsang Phuntsok (the Buddhist monk who founded Jhamtse International and Jhamtse Gatsal) because my mom was attending his teachings in Massachusetts. I've always been interested in "community service" and issues of development, so went over with him to visit the school in the summer of 2008, after graduating 12th grade. In my (way, way too) short visit (10 days), I basically fell immediately and absolutely and entirely in love with all the kids, with the incredible work it is doing in their lives and for the villages of the region as a whole, and with its entire mission and vision and passion and spirit. Long moved by stories of international poverty (particularly the stunning disparity between how life-savingly far a dollar could go oversees and the comparative frivolity of things I spend money on at home), I was initially blown away by the radical difference in the lives of the kids before and after coming to Jhamtse Gatsal. While there are a lot of really wonderful and valuable things about life in the villages, things to honor and preserve and learn from, there is also some pretty remarkable and heart-wrenching poverty, and a lot of resultant suffering from unnecessary and premature loss. Jhamtse Gatsal turns life around for the children--the worst of the worst off--who are selected to live there. They receive food, clean water, health care, and the chance to enjoy childhood without worry about (or responsibility for) daily survival resting so heavily on their shoulders. And above and beyond the physical benefits of life at Jhamtse Gatsal, the community has a really striking and distinctive energy about it, which is impossible to enunciate completely in words, and would be even more impossible to mandate or institutionalize, but it’s the kind of thing that can be inspired, and that you can catch from someone similarly ‘infected’ with it. There’s a higher purpose behind the work getting done at Gatsal: the teachers don’t do this work because of the salary, but because they care so deeply about the children, and believe so whole-heartedly in the importance of creating this home in which they can explore and grow. They really are like a family, not just living and learning together but taking care of each other in a way I haven’t seen so pervasively in any other community. You can see it in the way the kids help out with the chores, not as a “duty” or “work” separate from life itself, but almost instinctively. They understand—though not on an intellectual level—the interdependence of life there: that everyone must chip in, in order to sustain this community that in turn sustains each of them. You can see the community’s spirit also in how the older kids take care of the younger ones, with such a sense of love and so much care, like brothers and sisters; and you can see that modeled in how the teachers and amalas (house mothers) care for the kids like they’re their own, with an unconditional love, faith in their potential, and determination to help them learn (and learn always with them) how to be better, more understanding human beings. These are the tenants the school is founded on: not merely a sanctuary from poverty, suffering, and despair, but a mountaintop set aside for love, connection, and joy to grow. Seeing the intensity of the generosity and caring and compassion taking root and flowering in these children, in an isolated community founded on these principles and lead by teachers dedicated to them, is how I know now that they absolutely are possible to teach, and every kid inherently imbued with their potential. Another thing that’s become clear to me over the last few years of visiting the school, and watching the children grow, is how much Jhamtse Gatsal and its mission are not just about the children it most directly “serves.” It revolutionizes their lives, certainly, but since my initial impression I’ve come to realize that these children are not the end recipients of Jhamtse Gatsal’s work, but the vehicles. In the long-term-big-picture, they’re going to be the ones to go back to their villages and be the change-bringers of their generation. At Gatsal, they’re not only learning the tools to be able to do that, but the motivation to want to. How they interact with each other—helping with the laundry and tucking their younger siblings in—is a smaller-scale manifestation of the same internal compassion for others which has motivated any positive change in the world, throughout history, on any scale. A number of the kids have discussed with me some of the problems they’ve experienced in the villages, and Lobsang recounts that often they come back from their vacations asking the really difficult questions: like why their brother doesn’t have food to eat every night when they do, or why their friend can’t come to Gatsal also. They face the disparity between first-world security and third-world uncertainty—which we know exists but are often pretty removed from—on a daily basis. Children dying from diarrhea and dehydration are just across the street. Young as they are, they see this need and their privilege and already exhibit a desire to “give back,” or rather “pay forward,” the gifts that they’re so aware of having been granted. I have trouble describing my involvement with Gatsal in terms of a benefactor-beneficiary relationship, as I feel like is typically how these kinds of projects are conceptualized. But really I feel like so much the lucky one, to get to know (and have learned so much from and been so inspired by) all of the people working so hard there, with such dedication and commitment to this higher purpose. I’ve mentioned already how the amalas, teachers, and staff are all Amazing, and such crucial, pivotal parts of the school’s infectious energy. But this article wouldn’t be complete without discussing the incredible, and unfaltering, and so, so, so vital contribution of the children of Jhamtse Gatsal. Without them and their remarkable, indescribable energy, Jhamtse Gatsal would be a mere shell of the vibrant, unique, inspiring example of community that it is now. All of the older children (some as old as 15 or 16), having lived for the last four years in this place as it’s developed and defined itself , have come to embody its principles so fully. They, now, as much as the amalas and teachers, set the tone and example. Jhamtse Gatsal would neither be possible, infrastructure-wise, if it were not for the relentless energy the students pour into its care; nor would it have the unique spirit that it does, without the incredible generosity and compassion embodied and exhibited by the students who have been absorbing and internalizing it for the last four years. The 75 students currently at Jhamtse Gatsal are not beneficiaries of the work my friends and I are doing here at Vassar to raise money for the school, but rather they are our partners in this bigger, broader mission: to cultivate and spread love and compassion, in all the different corners of the world in which we happen to live.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

listening to four of the sixth graders articulately and insightfully describe a trip they made with a few teachers and a team of local nurses to give immunizations to people in a nearby village.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

There's nothing I can think of for this one. I can think of no more personal, direct example of work being done, with such broad impact, which better exemplifies one of my favorite quotes: "there is no them, there are only facets of us." -John Green

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

all of the incredible and amazing people I've met, both at Gatsal and in Massachusetts (and with whom it's brought me together here at Vassar).

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

so passionate, and doing this work because they really believe in its importance. Have such, such wonderful, pure, inspired and inspiring hearts.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

build all the necessary family house buildings and classroom infrastructure to allow Jhamtse Gatsal to grow to its full capacity: and once that was operating stably, we could expand to replicate the Gatsal model in more locations

Ways to make it better...

I could be two places at once. But I don't know if laws of nature really belong in this category. It would probably get pretty messy trying to fuss with them, anyway.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

fundraising, communication, and figuring out how to balance the overwhelming magnitude of need in the surrounding villages with our limited budget and rates of growth that can keep Gatsal operating sustainably.

One thing I'd also say is that...

I'm really the luckiest person I can think of to be able to help make this work possible.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

September 8, 2010

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September 8, 2010

In 2006 a friend asked if I would like to sponsor a child in children's community for orphaned and disadvantaged children in India. Later I met the head of Jhamtse International, Ven. Lobsang, and having learned of my background in business and board development asked me to assist the JI board in their strategic and financial planning. Since that time I served on the Board and traveled to the community in India twice. It has been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, travelling to one of the most remote parts of India in the Himalayas (near Bhutan), setting up an accounting system for the community and assisting in work and planning there. Also visiting with our sponsored child Mani who is now 8 years old. Lobsang is untiring in his devotion to this community and it has been a pleasure and deeply fulfilling contributing to this effort.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Seeing the children who have come from the worst conditions becoming healthy and happy is enough, but also I am grateful for the opportunity to help provide a more effective organizational framework so that JI and the Gatsal community can grow and prosper

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

JI needs to gain greater visibility beyond it's immediate friends and supporters to further advance it's goals.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Working with a group of truly remarkable people in the US and India, and seeing the lives of children radically changed.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

some of the most dedicated and loving people you would want to know. Working with limited resources, the work for these children has been life-changing for the staff, volunteers and the children.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Jhamtse Gatsal is being developed as a model to replicate in the region and beyond. It is not just an orphanage but is unique in it's structure and philosophy, a community that serves the children, but is a vibrant educational center for the region.

Ways to make it better...

Of course, if we had more financial resources,but also we need better communications between the Gatsal community and the outside world to enable JI to better convey the remarkable nature of what is happening there.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

getting the story out to as many as possible.This is not only about one of thousands of efforts to help children worldwide,but a unique model that could assist the success of other communities in overcoming poverty.

One thing I'd also say is that...

the vision and mission of Jhamtse International and the children's community in India will transform the way we think about bringing children and communities out of poverty. It is a unique example of the call to "think globally, act locally".

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2003

September 7, 2010

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September 7, 2010

I've been one of the fortunate few to have had the opportunity to spend 4 months as a volunteer at Gatsal, the Jhamtse-supported community in the remote Himalayas of far eastern India. I went there, hoping I could share a few of my own talents, to contribute to the good that the community is accomplishing in the surrounding region, and left feeling like I'd gained so much more from the experience than I could ever give. That's just the kind of love and learning everyone there has to share! They are already accomplishing so much good, and have the passion to do so much more!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

witnessing first-hand how kids from dire situations, if given enough love & support, and opportunity for education, can be the very ones to break the cycle of poverty in their own villages. I've seen the excitement that they have for giving back!

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

find more people to support the fantastic work that they are doing.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

really seeing love and compassion in action, and real change brought about by the purest motives.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Amazing! Passionate! Talented! Kind! Generous! Selfless!

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

do what it's doing on a much grander scale: help people to help themselves and their own communities, while preserving traditional cultural values.

Ways to make it better...

I could have stayed longer? If I had the financial means to contribute more to the cause myself?

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

finding enough support and spreading the word about the good that is happening.

One thing I'd also say is that...

this is one of the most well-run organizations I've come across, where everyone is a volunteer, and in it for the right reasons.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

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