Raising 17 children isn’t easy in the best of circumstances but in 2003, Geshe Lobsang Yonten began a mission not many would undertake. Not only did he pledge to many poor families in northern India that he would care for 17 of their children as if they were his own, paying for their school fees, health, clothing and care, he also pledged to safely walk them, on foot, through the mountainous, snow-covered Shinku pass, to bring them to Manali for their education.
A film about this arduous journey, Journey from Zanskar, narrated by Richard Gere, appeared earlier this year.*
Geshela has worked tirelessly for the children and operates under the umbrella of Save Zanskar. Dedicated to their education and success, it is his hope that they will return to Zanskar to help their community.
Zanskar, a remote region in Northern India is in the middle of the Jammu/Kashmir region which is plagued with political troubles and religous conflicts. Tibetan in its culture, religous practices, and written language, it endures harsh weather conditions that mean that the two small schools that DO exist can operate only six months out of the year — and that travel to and from the region is seasonal, limited, and dangerous
Our organization, Built on Respect, has worked with Geshe Yonten for the past year. I have seen first hand his dedication, and his faith in the goodness of others. As a fully ordained monk, Geshela himself has no income. He is an example of an amazing committed person who, with faith in his work, has been able to provide wonderfully for these children. Earlier this spring, we visited the children in Manali. We were able to show them the film for the first time. The excitement in the room was palpable, as many of the children excitedly shouted, “That’s me! I was so small!”
After the film, Geshela was able to tell the children they would be returning home for their summer break — the first time they would see their families in six years.
After I returned to the States, I learned that the trip was a success, the children arrived, and returned safely.
That in itself was such an example of Geshe Yonten’s dedication — he undertook fundraising to make that trip a reality.
To see a trailer of the movie, and learn more about this Trailblazer For Good, please visit Save Zanskar.
Geshe Lobsang Yonten