Last weekend my sister finalized the paperwork for she and I to "adopt" little Lobsang Dolma through Tibetan Living Communities . Isn't she precious? Look at that sweet face and those sweet, innocent hands folded. She's five years old. I just want to go and give her big hugs. Actually, I wanted to go get her and bring her home but my sister explained to me that Lobsang lives in one of the very last truly peaceful Buddhist communities left in the world. I was trying to justify bringing her here thinking it shouldn't take that long for her to adjust to living in the Baltimore Washington area 'cause the pace is so Zen-like. Then I looked at her face again and couldn't even begin to consider doing that to here. But if we ever move to Nebraska...
Here is the story of our adopting Lobsang as written by my sister:
I recently read the book Kundun, the biography of the Dalai Lama and his four brothers and two sisters, all of whom have been engaged in the movement for Tibetan independence since the Chinese occupation of Tibet began in 1959. The hope I saw for the Tibetans—a people whose culture is on the verge of extinction--is in the children, living in exile but being raised in the traditional Tibetan way. How, I wondered, could I support that in happening? Then, quite miraculously, the Corvallis Gazette-Times ran a story ("Tibetan Store Opens for the Holidays") about a store in downtown Corvallis whose purpose is to raise money for a non-profit called Tibetan Living Communities (TLC). Among other things, TLC funds projects at the Manjushree Vidyapith Orphanage in Northeast India.
TLC is one of those wonderful examples of what a small group of dedicated and passionate people can do. Nancy Fireman of Napa, CA, is the founder along with two Tibetan monks. Her sister, Sylvia Fireman of Sweet Home, and Sylvia’s daughters Shauna Gray and Lisa Rennie of Eugene volunteered their time to staff the store for the month it was open. They had a beautiful inventory of handmade paper and journals, jewelry and scarves, prayer flags, CD's of Tibetan chants and music.
On one wall of the store they had photos of and information about children at the orphanage who needed sponsors to pay for their food, clothing, and schooling. The first time I looked at the photos there was a sweet little 7-year-old boy who caught my eye, but then I spotted Lobsang Dolma, and BAM!, I fell in love. Five of us in the family decided to go in together on the sponsorship, which makes it quite affordable, $72 a year from each of us. I love the personal connection, i.e. I'm emailing with the founder of TLC and she answers all my questions plus more. We are encouraged to write to the child we sponsor and send photos of our family, and twice a year we'll get their report cards and responses from them, translated into English by Lama Thupten, the founder and director of the orphanage.
The more I learn about the orphanage the more hope I have for the cultural and spiritual survival of the Tibetan people, through the support and education of the younger generation. And seeing what the Fireman family has created gives me hope for us humans! On the roof of the dormitory are solar panels, installation funded by TLC. Before the solar hot water system was installed, none of the children had ever had the luxury of a hot shower! Lama Thupten Phuntsok, after receiving a Ph.D. in Buddhist Philosophy from Gyumed Monastic University, taught at an Indian government school before founding the orphanage in 1998. All the children who live there are Tibetan Buddhists. They are provided a modern education, but paramount importance is given to the growth of compassion and a kind heart.Presently there are 108 orphans, including 10 physically disabled children, taught by a staff of eight. Part of the orphanage's mission is to provide for children with disabilities who would otherwise not receive an education in their remote region of India. Lama Thupten hopes to expand the facilities and staff over the next few years so as to accommodate at least 200 children. If you are interested, they have two wonderful websites with sooooo many photos: TibetanLivingCommunities.org and ManjushreeOrphanage.org.
As my sister and I were talking this morning about Lobsang Dolma, I realized that adding her to our lives has already brought us joy. There was already so much for us to be grateful for, and now there's more. Happy holidays, and a poem below, titled Pray For Peace, by Ellen Bass, is my holiday gift to you. Thanks for reading this, and for being part of our lives, Valori