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Lions Roar : January 2019
SHIRLEY BLAIR HELPS provide more than five hundred students with free schooling, housing, and medi- cal care. Blair is the director of Shree Mangal Dvip (SMD), a boarding school for Hima- layan children in Boudhan- ath where students learn to speak, read, and write English, Nepali, and Tibetan, along with studying the dharma. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama, founded SMD in 1987 to give these mountain children an education grounded in Buddhism and the opportunity to escape the extreme poverty of their villages. “Many high-altitude people were bringing their children to Rinpoche to keep them alive,” Blair says. “Seeing how much sorrow comes from a lack of edu- cation, he started this school to help pre- serve their Himalayan culture and their Buddhist way of life.” While most of the children are Nepali, culturally and linguistically they are Tibetan. Their families are seasonal nomads who live without electricity, sanitation, and running water in remote villages where the teachings of the Bud- dha have been passed down for centuries without interruption. Blair was originally a schoolteacher in British Columbia, Canada, before moving to Nepal to be closer to Thrangu Rinpoche’s teachings. When she visited him for the first time, Blair decided to drop by SMD to see how it was run and if the students’ needs were being met. “I’m a teacher at heart,” she says, “and it was plain to see that the school needed someone who could liaise between Nepal and the rest of the world.” Blair decided to step in to help and, for the past two decades, has worked tirelessly as director and fundraiser, shepherding SMD through tumultuous years. The school depends on sponsorship to con- tinue operating, especially since suffering damage in 2015 from a 7.6-magnitude earthquake. Currently, SMD is too crowded to offer grades eleven and twelve. Despite these hurdles, SMD remains a unique institute of learning with a strong emphasis on student care. When senior students complete grade ten, they can work at one of Thrangu Rinpoche’s mon- asteries while completing high school or they can apply for scholarships at high schools abroad. Upon graduation, many choose to take robes, while others choose additional study in Nepal or overseas, often pursuing careers in health and education to help their remote mountain villages. “Our kids are resiliently tough,” Blair says. “Their success is not because of their academic prowess, although they work hard. It’s because of their under- standing of the dharma. It makes them patient and kind.” ♦ BODHISATTVAS Educating Himalayan Children SHIRLEY BLAIR is director of Shree Mangal Dvip school in Nepal, where children receive a modern education and learn about their traditional culture. PEMANURBULAMA Tell us about a bodhisattva you know at firstname.lastname@example.org Shirley Blair (far left) and school founder Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche (center) with students 2019 Residential Courses For details on all courses: www.buddhistinquiry.org Lama Rod Owens Liberation through Love and Rage Aug 30 - Sept 2, 2019 Shinshu Roberts Dōgen’s Being-Time as Teaching & Path Aug 2-14, 2019 Akincano and Judson Brewer Pleasure, Like and Craving July 23-28, 2019 Sebene Selassie & Brian Lesage An Exploration of Cultural Bypassing March 6-10, 2019 LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 15