I have had the pleasure of sponsoring three different children since I first visited Kyitseling in 2004. I was deeply moved by my initial visit to this hostel for Tibetan refugee children for many reasons. I think the thing that impressed me the most was seeing how much respect, love, and care the older children were showing towards the younger ones—and how truly creative and kind the adults at the hostel are. This hostel is much like a big family, and a beautiful model of how a group of people can live together in a harmonious and mutually supportive way.
Although this hostel is primarily for Tibetan children, another thing that made a strong impression on me was learning that when the Tibetans who are in charge of running our hostel visited Bodhgaya , they discovered that, although they had had a long and difficult time learning to make their way in India, the people of Bihar were even worse off than they were in terms of poverty and lack of education. So they decided to help several children from there to attend our school in Clement Town and live at Kyit-seling—with the ultimate objective that these kids might ultimately be able to return to their home as teachers who can help lift others out of poverty. I was deeply moved to see that these people who have so little themselves were willing to stretch out a hand to help those who are struggling as well. This is true compassion in action!
The first child I sponsored was in fact a young boy who was originally from Bihar, currently living in Varanasi. Unfortunately, as his formal education was pretty scant by the time he was 11 and came to Kyitseling, the school curriculum ultimately proved to be too challenging for him. All the children are expected to become proficient in speaking and writing Hindi, English, and Tibetan. And so although he was unable to stay longer than a year, he benefited a great deal from being immersed in a situation that was both very loving and highly structured. I was able to spend some time with this boy last year, and was delighted to see that he has developed into a beautiful and hard-working young man who now has a wife and child of his own.
The second boy I sponsored moved away from Clementown to attend a different school after a few years, but I loved receiving his letters and drawings which he sent me on a regular basis. I remember him sending me a photo of how delighted he was to open a box of books and art supplies I sent him. I am now sponsoring another little boy who is seven years old. I had hoped to meet him in person the last time I visited Kyitseling in 2009, but unfortunately he was away visiting his family when I came. And so I have not yet met this child, I love having a relationship with him and knowing that he knows that someone in a faraway country loves and cares about him.
I can honestly say that participating in the TCEF sponsorship program has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. Like most of our sponsors, I am not a wealthy person–but $540 a year is not a huge amount of money, and can truly make an enormous difference in a child’s life. I have been a TCEF board member since 2003, and am continuously inspired to discover how much good a small but committed band of caring and open-hearted people are able to do in the world. I have personally felt deeply enriched by this simple act of sponsoring a needy child, and I feel so fortunate to have connected with this group of people who are truly making a difference!