Service Trek 2013
Pattie Moon arrived in Mera on October 13, flying from Kathamndu with Ngima Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa and Alex Moon. The latter two left the next day on a trek to the Khumbu via Namche, while Pattie and Ngima remained in the village to work with the monks and villagers. They stayed as guests of the Changmityang Monastery, where they worked closely with the lamas and interacted freely with all the monks. The two of them also visited the village health clinic, as well as many of the villagers’ homes. It is from all these interactions that the assessment took place and new ventures were discussed.
As part of our service, we took three 50-lb. duffle bags filled with items for the monks and village girls. These included warm winter clothing, school supplies and dental care products (toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss). All the items had been generously donated by friends in both Steamboat and Fort Collins. They were well-appreciated indeed!
As an update, it is worth noting that the local area seems to be better off than it was a few years ago. The villagers were warmly dressed and many had running hot water (through pipes that heat by the fire in the hearth), and virtually every house had a cell phone. They were gracious and hospitable and served us many cups of tea and meals. The health clinic does not have running water, but was clean and well-organized.
The Monastery showed the greatest infrastructure improvements, including: a proper hearth, supplying running hot water to the kitchen sink and spigot; a second kitchen with a two-burner gas cook top; a generator (gift from the MSP); a 4-way printer (gift from MSP); more indoor lights; a library, store room, and two more classrooms. They have also built a series of smaller stupas near the large one, and put in a new, improved outdoor toilet facility. They have more plans to put in an additional kitchen, classrooms, and to expand the facility to include an enrollment of 100 (compared to less than 50 now).
At this point, the Monastery is held back from progressing further until the hydroelectric system is in place and can accommodate an increased load of power.
In addition to the day-to-day interactions with the entire monastic community, a meeting was held with Lama Dorjee (and Ngima Sherpa) on October 14th. He first expressed his gratitude for all that the MSP has provided and was especially delighted to have discovered that the computer we gave them two and a half years ago can type and, therefore, also print in Tibetan. This, and the new printer (sent 6 months ago) enables them to make their own copies of the teachings, and not have to send away for more expensive books.
The secular education has gone well enough under the tutelage of Pasang Sherpa, educated in Kathmandu, and originally from – and currently living at home in – Mera. He teaches English, math and a little bit of science; the English is taught at three levels and math is taught in English. The students teach each other to read and write Nepali. All this is in addition to their Tibetan studies and Buddhist practices.
The Lamas feel that discipline is an issue with a secular teacher, and have sent a proposal to Sikkim for a monk to come and teach English and math, hopefully starting next school year (February, 2014). They feel that he will command more respect, and they asked that we keep supporting them with a teacher’s salary, which would now go to the new monk; I agreed. Meanwhile, we owe them for the past 6 months of the 2013 teacher’s salary: $600 US. Lama Dorjee added that having the English studies has brought them more students.
During this conversation, the topic of computers came up and it turns out that the Monastery is very interested in finding a way to educate the young monks on computers, which they know to be essential in life anymore, the same way English that is necessary.* It is also a way for the current tawas to teach themselves many other subjects, and will attract more students to the Monastery.
Several other projects were mentioned regarding the Monastery, two of them environmental issues. The wall has come under discussion again, and the lamas (and the Kempo) agree that it is better to build a stone wall than a wire fence. They envision it close to the Monastery (not encompassing the entire property, which is quite large) as a means to keep out the cows. They already have started a pile of stones, which they get from local masons as they can afford it. They would like to hire these local masons to build the wall. We did not discuss a price for the project yet.
The other environmental project is a continuation of the concrete ledge around the Monastery buildings. Those areas that do not have a ledge are eroding badly with each rainy season. The ledge would be similar to the one that surrounds the shrine building and that exists in several other places as well. They already have the gravel and sand, but need to buy the concrete to finish the monks themselves would build it as they have done before). The cost is $500.
A third project requested by Lama Dorjee, was for matching maroon winter coats for all the monks. This will be fulfilled by Pattie Moon, as a gift for the warm welcome and her extended visit at the Monastery.
*A later conversation with the Kempo from Taiwan (en route to Mera, in Kathmandu) bore out this assessment, and he pledged his support.
The whole village is abuzz about this project, a gift from “Uncle” Dawa Sherpa of Switzerland. When finished, it would provide about 45kw/hour (compared to the current 3kw), which means a stronger and more consistent power source. This not only will give better light to the homes and Monastery, but be the means by which the Monastery can incorporate computers into their lives.
Nuru Sherpa led Pattie and Ngima on a morning hike through the jungle to the spot at the bottom of the canyon, where the existing small generator building currently stands. The new, larger generator will be built a bit higher up the mountain side, in order to get in the necessary large equipment. They then followed the path uphill to the place where a reservoir will be dug, which will hold all the diverted water, before sending it steeply downhill to the new generator. Power lines will be constructed to the Monastery and village homes.
At the time of these visits, an engineer had just come to make an assessment and his report had been sent to Uncle Dawa in Switzerland. It was later discovered from the Kempo (in Kathmandu), that the amount to complete the project was well in excess of what was expected, and that it will take a year or two before funds can be gathered to finance this. Until that time, the computer program at the Monastery is on hold.
Projects: Mera Health Clinic
MSP co-shares with the Mountain Spirit-Germany group. We support a portion of the medical workers salaries. The project is managed directly by MS-Germany. Current the two healthcare workers are in place and supporting the village, seeing an average of 3 patients per day.
Projects: Scholarships for Girls
At the heart of the stay in Mera were the visits to family homes to discuss the possibility of additional girls attending the Mt. Everest English Boarding School in Salleri. Our first student scholarship, for Minga Doma, began last February. She has worked diligently and is head of her class. When I spoke with her on several occasions, both at her home and at the Monastery, Mingma Doma appears much more confident and poised than her pictures last winter indicated.
The visit to Mingma Doma’s home was attended by her mother, father* and two younger brothers. The parents are very pleased and proud of her achievements and seemed very engaged in her education, even though they themselves have little or none. They were also happy to learn that the MSP is interested in expanding the scholarships to other girls from the village, who would then attend the school with their daughter. The family currently contributes payment for part of the room and board at a Sherpa host home in Salleri.
Mingma Doma takes a variety of subjects, all taught in English (except Nepali grammar and writing of course): English, science, math, health, general knowledge and social studies. She told me that she wants to continue studying at this school, and has the desire to continue with a university education to be a doctor or nurse. For the upcoming school year, she will need a new uniform and shoes.
The second village visit was to the home of Karma and Kanchhi Sherpa, who have a 15-year old daughter, Chokpa. (She was not at the visit, as she was currently attending to the yaks in the jungle.) Chokpa had studied locally through Level 5, and her family would very much like to see her further her education. The mother, Kanchhi, has no education at all and understands how limiting this is; in fact Chokpa would be the first female in this family to be educated.
The parents were very engaged in the conversation and volunteered that they had heard that Mingma Doma is the best student at the school! Chokpa’s three older brothers (16, 17 and 18 years old) have all received some education in Kathmandu, which the somehow family paid for. (The father supports itself with the sales of yak milk and cheese.) I agreed that Chokpa would be our second student to attend the Mt. Everest Boarding School in Salleri and they agreed to pay for minor expenses.
The third village visit was to the home of Dawa Chhering and Yanglli Sherpa. They have a young daughter, Lakpa, who is only 7 years old and currently attends the local village school. There are also two younger brothers (ages 2 ½ and 1 ½) , as well as three older children from a former marriage of the father, who is a widower. The family qualifies on the basis of need, but we felt that Lakpa is too young to attend boarding school. However, we’ve, identified her as a candidate to attend the Mt. Everest Boarding School in Salleri in two more years. The family seemed satisfied with this conclusion.
The fourth visit (yes, this is still the same day and yes, we drank multiple cups of tea and ate at each house) was to Nuru’s home. He is a well-known villager to us, as he has been involved in every trek we’ve taken so far, took us to see the site of the envisioned hydroelectric plant, and also has a daughter, Dali, who has received our assistance in the past year to attend a school in Basa, several hours away. (She and her brothers all go there weekly, and stay with a host family, but it is not a credited 10+2 English boarding school.) She currently studies: English, math, science and Nepali.
Dali is 12 years old and is very obviously very bright. Her father, Nuru, supports her getting an education, even if this means the mother will have to continue to be the one who tends to the animals in the jungle (she was not at this, or any other visit, to this home). Dali wants to be a doctor or nurse and attend university in Kathmandu. We then suggested that she switch schools and attend Mt.Everest Boarding School in Salleri with Mingma Doma. Nuru was very enthusiastic; Dali was overjoyed.
They will all start in February, 2014, and room together at the same host family. It is thought that they will be able to support each other with their studies and that we might receive some financial discounts as well.
Summary and Conclusions
We have a lot of interesting and – more importantly – useful projects in place and more ready to start:
* Monastery education for over 40 young monks
* Monastery environmental project (ledge)
* Winter monastic-style jackets for each monk (about 45), a personal gift from Pattie Moon
* Health Clinic co-opted with Mountain Spirit-Germany
* Three village girls to attend the Mt. Everest Boarding School together, starting in February, 2014 (Mingma Doma, Dali, and Chokpa)
We also have a number of projects on the table for future consideration:
* Computers as part of the Monastery educational program
* Consideration of a stone wall surrounding the Monastery grounds
* Candidate for the Mt. Everest Boarding School in two years (Lakpa)