Thursday, May 28, 2015


I haven't known what to write. It's been a month now since the earthquake, and though the kids and their families are alive and safe, they have lost so much. For most of them, their homes, and entire villages are gone. The school is so badly damaged, with 120 kids still living under a tarp, sleeping on the ground. With the monsoon season upon them, I don't know how they will cope. Aftershocks have become too many to count, and just when they feel the ground has finally stopped shaking, it begins again. I cannot imagine their fear, their anxiety.

Tsering Lama told me that something in his back was broken after that wall fell on him, but he assures me that he feels much better, and now he plans to trek to what is left of his village. Tsewang found out that Pemba Tsering is in his village and unharmed, and Pemba Gyaltsen managed to contact me to tell me he's ok too. The only one we still have no word on is Phurbu Nyima. I keep hoping that his phone just ran out of battery and he's safe with his loved ones, but how I worry...

These snapshots are from our week-long SMD After School Artists reunion this February. We dined on shabaley and momos, and I added some Turkish helva to the mix. Pedro sketched Tsewang, and Kiran drew a cup of tea on a square of tissue, which I then slipped between the pages of my sketchbook.

There go my eyes again. They keep getting all watery!

Please donate to the Himalayan Children's Fund if you can. The funds go directly to Shree Mangal Dvip School if you write "SMD School" in the designation box— any little bit helps!

Friday, May 1, 2015


Sangita is one of the original Shree Mangal Dvip After School Artists. She was about thirteen when we first met, intensely staring at me with huge eyes from the back corner of a tiny, dark classroom. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence of the room, though it was full of kids. Over the years, she has grown out of her shyness into a bold, intelligent, and confident young woman with a fantastic sense of humour. I would never describe her as quiet now— hers is a voice that is always heard, a voice of support and kindness, a voice that stands up for the people who need it most.

Sketch of Boudhanath Stupa, by Sangita

When Sangita completed her 10th and final year at SMD, she was awarded a full scholarship to complete high school at International School of Asia, Karuizawa (ISAK), in Japan. I was so proud, so impressed with the little girl with the ponytail, who became my model of perseverance. Being a person who needs to get things done, she and the other Nepali students at ISAK, Karma and Himanshu, banded together and began a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the rural areas of Nepal devastated by the earthquake. With the students and staff of ISAK rallying behind them, and the help of Sherab Dolma Sherpa in Canada, these clever and compassionate students have created ISAK's ProjectNEPAL, where you can easily donate money to help. Please visit ISAK's ProjectNepal's GoFundMe page for more information.

an update, and a way to help

The week has been frustrating, with dropped calls and connections so bad that Tsewang's voice was chopped into nonsensical sounds. Nevertheless, we have managed to talk nearly every day since the earthquake, and this is what I know:

The 240 kids and staff at Shree Mangal Dvip School (SMD) are safe, though still sleeping outside under tarps. They have food and water so far, and they have opened the school grounds to others for shelter. Many of the children's villages are gone, and some still do not know if their families are alive and safe. Tsewang's family is safe, though their homes are gone. Most of his village in Nubri, which is in the hardest-hit district of Ghorka, has been destroyed. Like many of the remote villages in Nepal devastated by the earthquake, they are in desperate need of water, food, and shelter. I cannot imagine the stress and fear that the kids must be feeling— not knowing the status of their loved ones back home, and not knowing how to help them. The news from Nepal is that the government is not sending villages any help and support, and that most of the aid is being focused on the Kathmandu area. Survivors are essentially starving on the hillsides and mountains.

As for my dear artists, the original group whom I've been teaching for the past five years, news has been trickling in. Most are safe, though emotionally exhausted and fearful of more aftershocks. They are doing their best to support the littler ones, and to help out in any capacity they can (you can see Kiran, Tsewang, Nyima, and Tsering D. above). As several of the original group graduated (SMD only goes up to 10th grade), many of them are no longer at school. One of my boys, Tsering Lama, was hospitalised after a wall fell on him, and no one seems to know exactly where he is or how badly he is injured. No one has any news from Phurbu Nyima, or the two Pembas. Last I knew, they were in their villages.

I have had a difficult time sleeping and focusing, not knowing if they are safe, not knowing if the families of all the kids are safe, and knowing that they are afraid. I do not know yet how to get help to the villages, but I do know how to help the school.

The Himalayan Children's Fund (HCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in the United States, dedicated to supporting SMD, along with the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and abbey founded by Thrangu Rinpoche. I fully trust HCF, as I have donated funds through them in the past, and know that they money does indeed reach the school. I also sponsor one of SMD's fine young artists through HCF.

One of the easiest ways to donate is through Network For Good. Follow this link to the HCF page:

To support Shree Mangal Dvip School, please type "Earthquake relief for SMD" in the designation box when you are making your donation. Your donation however, can be designated or undesignated— if it is undesignated, the money will be distributed where it is needed between SMD, SMD's clinic, the monasteries, and the abbey. For more information, please read the latest HCF newsletter.

I thank you for all the kind words of support that I have received, and hope that you will keep my dear ones and the people of Nepal in your hearts and thoughts.

All photos are from Shirley Blair and Tsering D.