Tong-Len, Dharamsala, India
Hostel kids in private audience with the Dalai Lama
In 2003, one of our trustees, travelling in India, had a chance meeting with a young Tibetan monk named Jamyang. The Trustee talked about the newly formed Mandala Trust and the monk spoke of a newly established project he had launched called Tong-Len (the name of a Tibetan Buddhist compassion practice). Jamyang had been working with the Charan slum community, home to 600 people struggling to survive in flimsy make-shift shelters which offered only minimal protection against the harsh climatic conditions. Disease was rife and was exacerbated by severe malnutrition. Children, like their parents, had little or no opportunities for education and many spent their days scavenging and begging. Jamyang’s dream was to open a hostel to house children from the slum, and before long, the two new friends had agreed to work together to make this happen.
Months after the two had met, a hostel had been opened and the Mandala Trust had committed to fully funding it for the first year. At the hostel the children live in a family environment with experienced caregivers and professional teachers. The hostel staff provide balanced nutritious meals, help the children with their homework, and organise recreational activities. The children contribute to the domestic tasks and have the opportunity to learn cookery and other essential life skills. They are also encouraged to play sport, study dance and singing and learn a musical instrument if they wish. Computer time is very popular and the children are given individual lessons by the hostel teachers. The family atmosphere of the hostels is important to all. For most of the children it is their first experience of a secure family life.
The hostel children attend the local Dayanand School and their achievements have been outstanding. All of the children receive good marks and many are top in their class. Two of the children, a boy and a girl, were placed in the top five out of almost a million students in their class five State Board Exams.
Tong-Len has gone on to become a flourishing and vibrant organisation with a number of such hostels and also health and education services within the communities it serves. The Mandala Trust feels proud to have been a part of their success story.