Dharamsala, Dec 6 - They are from the slums here, mostly children of migrant labourers from Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Around 57 young ones are getting a better shot at life thanks to a Tibetan monk's charity that also has the blessings of the Dalai Lama.
Twelve-year-old Pinky Haryan, a Class 6 student who tops every class, has been rehabilitated from Charan Khad slum and is now being educated and taken care of by the Tong-len Charitable Trust, run by Tibetan monk Jamyang.
'I want to become a doctor and serve humanity,' she said.
A Class 5 student said, 'No we don't want to go back to the past where we had to take out leftover food from rubbish bins. Sometimes, we had to steal food and even beg.'
Starting with 20 children in 2005, the registered charity now has 57 boarders in three hostels located on the outskirts of this town, known as the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
As many as 17 of them were adopted last month - all below three years of age - and are looking forward to a bright future.
Nisha Kumari, whose parents sell balloons for a living, recalled the day when she was blessed by the Dalai Lama.
'It's your money as long as there are funds in the Dalai Lama trust. When there is no money, I will say no,' she quoted the Dalai Lama as saying when the Nobel laureate visited to inaugurate a new hostel funded by his trust Nov 19.
Jamyang, who founded the trust in 2002, told IANS that the Dalai Lama trust has provided Rs.75 lakh for setting up the newly opened hostel.
At the inauguration, the Dalai Lama said: 'We will feel happy to be able to contribute for their education. It's our duty to make donations to help the poor section.'
Describing Jamyang's initiative to provide education to the slum children as 'wonderful work', he said: 'In little ways, we fulfil our - moral responsibility to serve the local Indian community, particularly needy children. I really appreciate your good work.'
Jamyang, 38, said that in four years the Dalai Lama trust has funded education, health and empowerment projects of Tong-len charity. A large number of foreign donors are also supporting the cause by sponsoring education.
'Some of the sponsors are even keen to continue their higher education in foreign institutions,' he said.
In addition to bearing the educational expenses of the students, the charity is also taking care of their physical, emotional and social wellbeing.
The children reside in the hostels most of the year. They return to their families during holidays and every second Saturday in a month.
'We recognise that the relationship between the child and the family is very crucial,' hostel manager Navita Pradhan said.
The children wake up at 5 a.m. They do exercises. From 7 a.m., they study for one hour. After having breakfast at 8.15 a.m., they all leave for Dayanand Model Senior Secondary School located in Dharamsala in a chartered bus.
On returning from school, they spend time playing cricket, basketball and football. Before going to bed at 9 p.m., they complete their homework.
Pradhan said 14-year-old Karan is a good footballer. 'His Britain-based education sponsor is keen to train him in a Manchester football academy. Before that, we are now trying to get him enrolled in one of the state-run academies.'
The Dalai Lama, whose government-in-exile is also based here, said during the hostel opening ceremony: 'Poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor are morally wrong and practically a source of problems. We must make every effort in finding ways to reduce this gap.'
Bharatiya Janata Party vice president and MP Shanta Kumar last month announced a contribution of Rs.10 lakh from his MP fund towards the Tong-len charity that has branches across the Europe.
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