Saving 17 Children: a Remarkable Story

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.

*There will be two benefit screenings of the film in the next month in New York:  December 17th, 7-9 p.m. at The Interdependence Project  and January 16thth, 8:30-10 p.m. at Jivamukti Yoga School.

Geshe Lobsang Yonten


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

Glad to see one of the wonderful people of the world, get the attention he needs, to fulfill his commitment to these children. One step at a time, is all that is needed by each of us, to change the world.

Lim Y.
Lim Y8 years ago


Cy G.
C. G8 years ago


Colin Hope
Colin Hope8 years ago


Danuta W.
Danuta W8 years ago

This is great article

Petra Luna
Petra Luna8 years ago

I am more of an awareness person, though it's heartwarming to know that people like this exist. To the 17 children, this experience is invaluable.

Ashley D.
Ashley L8 years ago

Wow. What a wonderful and inspiring man. Thank you for sharing. It is always nice to see heartwarming stories for a change.

Cristi Sturgill
Cristi Sturgill8 years ago


Kristie Yang
Kristie Yang8 years ago

very inspiring,warm story. thanks

geoffrey l.
Geoff Lye8 years ago

when is this film going to be seen in New Zealand?