A View of the Himalayan Children’s Home (Jomsom, Nepal), by Michelle Bissanti

A View of the Himalayan Children’s Home (Jomsom, Nepal), by Michelle Bissanti

I was invited by the POGW Board to join the June 2014 trip to Nepal to evaluate the program in place for the children at the Himalayan Children’s Home in Jomsom, Nepal.  Not only was it an exquisite opportunity to travel with precious teachers and fellow dharma students to sacred sites within a country so deeply nestled in the dharma, but also it was an opportunity to develop my skills as an educator, and to nurture and deepen my commitment to develop these practices with children.

Geshe Sonam in front of the school that he founded in Jomsom Nepal

Geshe Sonam in front of the school that he founded in Jomsom Nepal

I was invited by the POGW Board to join the June 2014 trip to Nepal to evaluate the program in place for the children at the Himalayan Children’s Home in Jomsom, Nepal.  Not only was it an exquisite opportunity to travel with precious teachers and fellow dharma students to sacred sites within a country so deeply nestled in the dharma, but also it was an opportunity to develop my skills as an educator, and to nurture and deepen my commitment to develop these practices with children.

An ancient statue of Padmasambhava marks one of the spots where he is said to have passed on his way to Tibet in the 8th Century

An ancient statue of Padmasambhava marks one of the spots where he is said to have passed on his way to Tibet in the 8th Century

Walking along the same mountain paths, beside the same caves and through the same river valley that Padmasambhava traveled was wondrous. Hiking through the Kaligandaki river bed, and up its steep side to discover an ancient site of stupas and a hermitage that held a stunning statue of Padmasambhava, sheets of Tibetan text and offerings made by countless beings dedicated to the dharma, broke ones heart wide open to the preciousness of the land, culture, people, and the beauty of the dharma.  The land pulsates with the dharma.  Geshe Sonam led us through villages, sacred sites, ancient monasteries, nunneries, to the home of his teacher and to the village that he grew up in, so gently and sweetly sharing this precious, rugged, sacred world with us.  Receiving precious teachings, witnessing the dedication of the water project, and listening to the people of Pangling express their commitment to fulfill the shared mission working alongside the POGW foundation, made it clear that our hearts are aligned, that together we are committed to honor and nurture the dharma, and support the culture and traditions of the Tibetan people.

The 26 children who’s education is being supported by donors through the POGW Foundation

The 26 children who’s education is being supported by donors through the POGW Foundation

My eyes and heart were closely set on the program in place at the Himalayan Children’s Home.  Geshe Sonam’s vision is manifesting beautifully with the support of the POGW foundation and currently there are 26 children sponsored.  They live together at the hostel and attend the nearby Dhaulagiri School.  Geshe Sonam instructs them in Tibetan culture, language, and practices and oversees their education.  The program in place is sound and developing beautifully under the dedication and tremendous effort of Geshe Sonam.

As an educator, parent, and dharma student committed to supporting these teachings, especially to the children growing up in this world, it was most moving to witness the sweet relationship the children shared with one another and with Geshe Sonam.  I was immediately struck by the sense of comfort, care, and family that was shared by every child within the hostel.  It was evident that they felt safe, deeply cared for, and dedicated to their place within their sweet community.  There was a sense of deep respect for one another. The older children graciously care for the younger, helping them get ready for school, making sure they have their school supplies, and helping as they make their way to school and throughout their day. They share the responsibility of washing dishes and cleaning up after meals, and share in all the day to day tasks that come with living together under one roof.

Children in Jomsom receiving gifts from Boston (including a “New Englad Revolution” soccer ball)

Children in Jomsom receiving gifts from Boston (including a “New Englad Revolution” soccer ball)

The children so graciously accepted the gifts that were brought to them by members of our group and were so eager to share their studies, artwork, games, meals, and home with us. Their smiles were endless and they so willingly accepted us into their life. They took such pride and care in their schoolwork and were eager to show us what they were learning and working on. It was a precious opportunity to meet the parents and families of the children. Making the connection and nurturing the relationship of trust and understanding was so important.  The parents spoke so beautifully from their hearts about their appreciation for the work that the POGW is doing in support of their children, and the great comfort they feel knowing that the commitment is ongoing.

A key element of the mission of the Mustang Cultural Education Center, which oversees the Himalayan Children’s Home, is to preserve their indigenous culture.  While their world, resources, and educational opportunities are so different from that of many western children, their lives are rich beyond measure with the opportunity that is available to them to learn about their culture and live together alongside Geshe Sonam.

River Rocks from the Kaligandaki river, chosen by students for a school assignment

River Rocks from the Kaligandaki river, chosen by students for a school assignment

Sitting outside the entrance to their “classroom” or “meeting space” was a collection of sculptures made out of river rocks from the Kaligandaki River. One of their activities was to gather rocks that they were drawn to and to sculpt or display them in their own way. The children carefully chose their rocks and created such simple, beautiful natural art pieces. This method of using ones environment and drawing upon inspiration from nature reminds me of the Reggio Emilia approach and philosophy that is incorporated in different educational institutions in the United States and Europe, which values using the natural world. Geshe Sonam and the Mustang Cultural Center strive to preserve not only their culture, but to use their environment and community as a primary resource.  One of my favorite moments was an afternoon when we visited the children in the hostel. The children were enjoying some free time after school and we naturally became involved in playtime. From a game of tag through the courtyard, to hand clapping games, to song and dance, the children delighted to involve us in their play. It was experiential, imaginative and reflected the simple, childhood joy of interacting together!

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I look forward to traveling again to this precious place, and am committed to the efforts of the Mustang Cultural Center and The POGW, to preserve the Tibetan culture, Bon teachings, and to support the children and families living in this area.  Details of the program in place at the Himalayan Children’s Home and the day-to-day life of the children can be found in the attached educational evaluation.

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2018-06-01T14:12:30+00:00