At Global Family Travels, we are blessed to partner with many incredible people and organizations who do good deeds in their communities around the world. In June 2016, I had the opportunity to take my own two children to Dehradun, India to visit one of our partners, Lama Tenzin Choegyal, a very special person and Buddhist monk, who is doing some amazing work to provide young children an education and a home to live in. Lama Tenzin’s generosity and dedication to educating girls is astonishing and deserves a spotlight.
Lama Tenzin, or as we call him "Lama T," founded an orphanage in Dehradun called the Children’s Educational Development Society (CED House) in 2000, which provides education to abandoned youth whom he has rescued from the Dolpo region of Nepal, a remote village high in the Himalayas. In Dolpo, Lama T witnessed young girls working in hardship at their family homes, and they were being deprived of an education. In some cases, the girls had been shunned by society, because they had a slight malformation (cleft palate, or club foot) and the local oracle (spiritual leader) told their parents not to care for them because it would supposedly bring “harm” to their families.
Since his initial visit to Dolpo, Lama T has brought back 28 children to Dehradun - mostly girls - to provide them education and shelter. Some of the older children who have been with him for years are now in their mid-20’s, and are helping to run the CED House and plan to go back to return to Dolpo to volunteer and give back for a short duration.
Lama T also established a Girl’s Institute for Technology (GIFT) providing an academic environment for disadvantaged and disabled girls to develop practical computer and business skills. Recently, he set out to start a music school for girls called Sound of Soul (SOS) where the children will have Music Therapy, Music Appreciation, and Applied Music (lessons) available to them.
Lama T met us at the airport in Dehradun, a charming city in the foothills of the Himalaya and less than an hour flight from Delhi. We immediately stopped to buy loaves of bread to feed the monkeys en route to the CED House. We were greeted at the house by 25 of the children and a few staff members living there. Lama T explained to us that two of the oldest children from the CED house now in their 20’s were in Hyderabad at an internship which he had helped to secure for them after graduating from University.
What happened next was an amazing gift for all of us! We were introduced to an eight-month-old little girl named Aarti. Baby Aarti is a second born Indian girl and her mother, Anandi, was about to give her child to Lama T to raise her at the orphanage. Her husband and their father had abandoned them. Lama T told Anandi that he would only take the baby if she and her other daughter, Sudhena, also came to the CED House. It just so happened that Anandi’s sister had been in the CED House since being badly burned as a young child in her family's home. So, now the two older sisters were reunited and the younger sisters, Aarti and Sudhena, and their mom are all able to stay together too!
For several years, my own daughter (age 10) has begged me for a baby sister, so we were incredibly excited to become the sponsors of Aarti, helping to provide her with a good education, food, and clothing.
My children, Lama Tenzin and I excitedly went off to shop for new clothing for both Aarti and her sister!
While shopping, we stopped to buy a volleyball and a soccer ball to share with other children at CED House. We spent a very fun afternoon playing volleyball with Lama T and all the children and staff, where we learned more about the many opportunities given to these children. My son said that playing volleyball with the kids and Lama T was his favorite part of our visit.
I also had the opportunity to meet with some of the older girls at CED House and to discuss with them how feminine hygiene is handled in their remote villages. I was happy to give them some environmentally-friendly sanitary kits from the Days for Girls (DfG) project. Lama Tenzin has a tailor shop and a couple of the girls from his orphanage have learned to become seamstresses. We are now researching ways to train them at the DFG Center in Nepal so that they can produce and distribute DfG Kits, and educate other young girls about sustainable hygiene needs in their communities, both in in Dehradun and in the Dolpo region.
Lama T encourages his older children to go back to their village of Dolpo and give back to their communities. He treks back to the village every year with several children to visit their families (see video clip here of a recent trek to Dolpo). Many of the children who have been raised at the CED house have stayed on to help Lama Tenzin, running and raising the other children, so they're giving back in their own way.
The day we were departed Dehradun, Lama T was preparing to drive one of his 12 year old girls, Pema Choezom, who was born with a clubfoot and confined to a wheel chair, to New Delhi (an eight-hour drive) for her surgery the next morning. Later, Lama T told us the surgery went well and Pema’s legs are not crossed anymore and that the hospital donated the surgery and hospital stay.
Visiting Lama T and the CED house was a precious gift for me and my children, and we were truly inspired by the challenges he has overcome to provide a loving home and education for 28 children! We learned about how one man can truly change the lives of many with little resources and the gift of education. We left with open hearts and sweet memories of our little Dharma sister, Aarti, to whom we look forward to providing an education and clothing.
You can support Lama Tenzin’s mission to educate and house his children with a donation to Partners for Change. We also invite you to travel to Dehradun to support the good work of this remarkable Buddhist monk on our Gifts of India Adventure. In addition to visiting some of India’s iconic sights, such as the Taj Mahal, we will work alongside Lama Tenzin and the orphaned children on a variety of service-learning projects, including a community service work to support of the Tibetan elderly in the Derhadun.
Special Video Clip of our visit with Aarti: