By I. Suyin Lee
During a recent visit to Bhutan, I met with Dr. Tashi Zangmo, founder and executive director of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, in her office across the river from the city of Thimpu. Tashi had been in Europe for the past three weeks, had not yet checked her email, and therefore did not know that the Bhutan Nuns Foundation had received a Khyentse Foundation grant of $6,560 for two teacher nuns’ salaries; thus, my being the messenger of good news was a great ice breaker.
Tashi said that BNF was founded in 2009 and that its beginnings were actually in the USA, where she was studying and working on her dissertation on Bhutanese nuns. She was able to return to Bhutan with enough seed money to begin her charity organization.
She shared that there is always a need for funding for nuns and nunneries, of which there are many, and that most of the nunneries are located in remote parts of the country. Since there is no government support for nunneries, there are always huge needs, especially for the basics of good nutrition and hygiene. There is also a great need for teachers, not only to teach the Dharma, but to instruct the nuns in the basic necessities of daily life, such as how to shop and cook, handle money, and such ordinary things.
Leadership and counseling skills are essential in large groups living together, and these skills need to be taught as well.
To manage some of these issues, BNF hopes to open a training center in Thimpu to teach those nuns who want to learn the necessary theories and skills. These nuns would travel to the many nunneries and pass on their knowledge and expertise.
As we talked, I could certainly see how impassioned and concerned Tashi was for the well-being of the nuns that she helps. It’s difficult to decide where her limited funds should go. As an example, she told me about the 30 or 40 huge boxes of Crocs (plastic shoes), donated from Germany, that were piled up by the office entrance. Even though she was very happy to receive them, she said that the administrative costs for BNF to get the shoes to the nuns would be great (import and government paperwork, shipping and handling, truck delivery costs to the nunneries, and so on), and the distribution would also be costly in terms of time.
As we talked, two young nuns entered the room. Tashi smiled broadly, announcing that these were the two volunteer nuns who would be receiving the KF grant money to teach in remote Bhutan. Synchronicity in action!
Tashi is putting forth huge efforts for the Bhutanese nuns, and I encouraged her to keep all of us in KF updated on all her projects.
Photo: Ani Tenzin Dolma (right) and Ani Kencho Wangmo, who will be receiving salaries from the KF grant,