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A caretaker lama for the poor & elderly

The 50-year old monk is looking after the welfare of 16 elderly people and 12 children who do not have means to sustain themselves

Tshering Dorji
from Trashigang

Altruism seems to have taken a new form in the being of Lam Tashi Dorji from Phongmey gewog in Trashigang. The 50-year old monk is looking after the welfare of 16 elderly people and 12 children who do not have means to sustain themselves.

Three elderly people who were in the care of Lam Tashi Dorji have already died but life is still tough for these people who hail from backgrounds of poverty and want, and are in need of food, shelter and clothing.

Lam Tashi Dorji came to the village when his parents were sick but not withstanding their poor health his parents also took care of elderly people who did not have children to look after them and did not have any source of income. The group included children with single parents and who came from poor families.

Now the Lam is carrying on his parents’ legacy by continuing their work.

Most of the elderly people are in their 70s and some are aged as old as 80. They are being taught by Lam Tashi Dorji to read religious texts.

Citing an example of gaining merit through practicing the dharma, he said there were certain elderly people who were advised by a health worker not to eat chili and butter because they suffered from abdominal pain but now the problem has been resolved because they go about their religious duties regularly.

“I am supporting all these old people and young children by asking help from people of nearby areas,” he said adding that he sent some children to school if their parents could not and if the children chose to study, through a little monetary support.

Since last year two children under him have joined school.

He provides food to the children and old people by begging rice from people living around the area.

Most of them have spent many years with him as they have nowhere else to go and the majority of them are from Phongmey.

“We need more shelters to stay, more food and when these people fall sick it is difficult to take them to the hospital. We also need additional toilets and I am thinking of employing a cook,” he said regarding the challenges he faces in doing his tasks.

However, these days the people under Lam Tashi Dorji are busy planting trees to commemorate the birth of the Gyalsey.

“I have requested the department of forest to provide us with 1,500 saplings. We will also be planting trees in landslide-prone areas.”

Phurpa Dorji, aged five, who has been staying with the lama for a year said that he is happy as the lama is a “nice person”. His parents are poor therefore they could not afford to send him to school.

A 14-year old Sonam Dorji who comes from a family of eight children also said, “I am happy here. I was not able to study and my 70-year old father is paralyzed so I was sent here to be with the lama.”