Jhamtse International is the most satisfying and fulfilling nonprofit I have been involved with. Their work in supporting a school and village for the most at-risk children is brave, generous and path-setting. The Children's Village in remote Arunachal Pradesh, India, provides home, family, the best education and nutrition to children who would otherwise not have any of these things. The school is path-setting in that all involved predicate all that is done on the basis of love and compassion, and the children blossom in that environment. Everyone who has experienced this amazing place is marked for life by the experience.
Jhamtse International supports a school, home and childrens' community for the most at-risk children in the outermost reaches of a far northeastern state, Arunachal Pradesh, in India. Our school, Jhamtse Gatsal (Garden of Love and Compassion n Tibetan) is in India, but on the border of both Bhutan and Tibet (China). The state is primarily populated by the Monpa people, Tibetan heritage, speaking a dialect of Tibet. As a result, the whole state is contested as Chinese territory. The region is remote, very poor, and both nomadic and agrarian. Children often cannot go to school, even where there may be a state school (of questionable quality). The children we take into our community are either orphans, or parents are too poor to care for them, or at risk for many other reasons. There is inadequate food, no health care, and no chance to be children. These children would have a very short life expectancy, largely due to inadequate nutrition and preventable diseases. When they come to Jhamtse Gatsal, they get a family, home, more love and attention than one could imagine, three nutritious meals per day, health care and the best possible education in Tibetan, Hindi and English. The children blossom and excel, they become open, welcoming and caring. The love at Gatsal is palpable -- one never hears squabbling, the children don't argue or fight, the teachers and staff (and visitors) feel that they are part of something magical, a special ideal world. The children and the community are becoming a demonstration and learning center for the surrounding villages. The Dalai Lama was so impressed, when he visited, that he became a sponsor and made us pledge to keep up the work, saying "Good, good, you must keep and grow your efforts." We take responsibiltiy for the lives, education and welfare of the children and staff at Gatsal, where they will learn about community and how to be citizens of the world, and how to give back. We support their education from kindergarten through university, if they wish to go on. Jerry Zadow
Being a part of Jhamtse Club truly changed my perspective on life and interactions between people from different cultures. I've donated to and been a part of charities and organizations that haven't been that satisfying because they felt so distant from the everyday people they were helping. Not so with Jhamtse Gatsal. From the first day I got involved, I was seeing pictures, and hearing the first-hand stories of the kids and the school and the villages. It was so personal. I felt connected to them. Eventually, people in the club wrote letters to the kids at Jhamtse, and I wrote one, too. When I say that they'd read them and written back, it made me so happy because Jhamtse Gatsal really is a community. Being a part of it has made me more optimistic and purposeful. It also feels so good to know that every dollar raised is going straight to the school, its upkeep, and its expansion to include more kids. This place really is a gem, a truly beautiful garden of love and compassion. -Danielle
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
I'm sorry that none of the paragraph breaks showed up in that... =/
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!