Friday, December 21, 2007

Monastery Life


View from our rooftop of the terraced fields and
villagers' homes below

Stunning Himalayan views from our rooftop

View of the valley just behind the monastery

In October we all loaded up into the 2 monastery trucks
to go for a picnic. Lots of badminton, soccer and cricket-
it was a great day.

Inside the picnic tent with Lama Dawa
and Tashi Wangchuk

Badminton action shot

One monk tries to retreive the ball that John
hit into the river, while another chases the ducks

Mingyur Rinpoche visits Namo Buddha to speak with
the monks on conduct

During Mingyur Rinpoches visit

Laundry Day
on their day off, the monks are kept busy washing
their robes - and playing soccer and badminton too!

In the garden with Thrangu Rinpoche
on his 75th Birthday

Drummer inside the temple, during Rinpoche's
birthday celebration

Lama Dancing during Rinpoche's birthday

Young monks with Dorje, the favourite monastery dog

Tenzin Palden enjoys the view with Dorje

Namo Buddha Stupa

Statue at the Stupa

Butter Lamps
On the rooftop with Karma Phurbu after Cherezig

Our Departure
On the morning that we left all the monks gathered
in the shrine room to say goodbye and offer katas.
Karma Phurbu gave a very heartfelt speech and then
several of the 'medical monks' got up to say a few
words of thanks as well. It was a very touching goodbye.

Monks offering katas on the morning of our departure

Medical Monks

17 of the monks are now training to be
Health Asstants

Vital Signs Class


Clinic Pharmacy

In front of the Clinic with Jamyang, Medical Director
of Namo Buddha Clinic and Samten Phuntsok, Health Assistant

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Settling In at Namo Buddha

At 5am the gong sounds and the monks start their day, full of joy and energy - John too springs out of bed for yoga while I laze about in bed for a little longer.

We all gather together at mealtimes to eat food that has been cooked over an open fire (for 180 people!). The food is great - lots of rice, dahl and curried vegetables. We even get curry for breakfast!

John is kept busy running the clinic six days a week. Three evenings a week he is teaching a course in health care for 17 young monks - they are ideal students
eager to learn, genuinely kind and compassionate, smart, energetic and curious.
This week they are learning how to take patient's history and check vital signs. The monks also get clinical experience by assisting John and Jamyang Dorje in the clinic.

The new hospital building is not yet finished but due to generous donations is back under construction - looking at a completion date of fall 2008. So for now the clinic is still run from the small 2 room complex, with no running water and poor ventilation (only 1 window). John says it gets a little close in there, but it is so rewarding. The folks are resilient, and strong they get better!! They are grateful and gracious.

Monsoon season in Nepal is over now so we are enjoying lots of clear views of the Himalayas. When we arrived we watched as the local villagers harvested their corn, and now bundles of cobs hang from the rafters of every home to dry. The terraced feilds are now being prepared for the winter crops. It is a beautiful, rich landscape.

We are surrounded by monks and are settling in to the simple and quiet rhythm of life at the monastery.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

To Nepal......

These past few years Sara and I have been busy going back and forth from Newfoundland to India and Nepal for Buddhist retreats, yoga courses and to do volunteer work.

Last year my Buddhist teacher, Thrangu Rinpoche, asked me to help in the planning and operation of a new medical facility at Namo Buddha, Nepal. I was delighted at this opportunity since it allows me to combine my medical and Buddhist interests to help people with profound need. In addition, it is a privilege to be able to work for Thrangu Rinpoche, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar and meditation master.

So now we are moving to Nepal and we have created this blogsite, "sowahealth", so that you will be able to follow our work there once we get settled. Sowa is a Tibetan word that means "healing". This title suggested by our teacher embraces the Buddhist principles of compassion, altruism and peace.

Below I have posted some information about the new hospital where I will be working. I have also included details about how you can help this project through donations of money, medications, supplies, and equipment. Or, if you work in the health care industry, then you could volunteer your time (in the near future)!

Namo Buddha

The Namo Buddha Retreat Center and Monastic College, run by Thrangu Rinpoche, is located in the mountains two hours from Katmandu, Nepal. There are about 180 monks now in residence at Namo Buddha. Primarily, they are young monks attending school.
The free clinic is located on the monastery grounds.

The Tamang people inhabit the area surrounding Namo Buddha. Originally from Tibet, they came to the area several hundred years ago. They are extremely poor and support themselves through subsistence farming. The most basic health assistance is a four-hour walk from Namo Buddha. Because of this Thrangu Rinpoche wished that a clinic be built to serve the villgers surrounding the monastery which they could access free of charge.

The clinic opened its doors in April 1995 - a modest two room building with no running water. This free clinic now manages the healthcare of 3000 active patients from the neighboring areas. It is staffed by a monk health assistant, Jamyang Dorje, a trained village health care worker, as well as volunteer doctors and nurses visiting Namo Buddha.

New Hospital Building and Services

Local villagers have become more aware of the medical service that is being offered free of cost, and an increase in patients and medical needs has escalated. As a result, the current building, with two small rooms, has become inadequate to deal with the expanding patient population.

So last year construction began on a new, much larger clinic. The new building will be completed by the fall of 2008 and will facilitate the provision of a much wider scope of medical services.

The new facility will have better patient privacy, Inpatient capacity, improved examination and treatment facility, accommodation for care givers/family members and volunteers, toilets and running water, pharmacy/dispensary, and laboratory facility. This is an exciting time to implement expanded programs such as antenatal care and Public health/hygiene education to reduce common and preventable causes of morbidity and death.

Pharmacy / Dispensary

The Pharmacy/Dispensary aims to reliably stock and maintain a selection of essential medications for free prescription. Related to this we plan to continue and expand vaccination programmes already established for local children. We will seek liaison with UN/World Health Organization vaccination programmes.


Volunteers will be welcome to share expertise with our experienced health care workers. Fields of experience we would like to host include Nursing, Midwifery, Physiotherapy, Dermatology, General practice, Internal and Emergency medicine, and Pediatrics. The volunteer would be responsible for patient care and teaching of local Health Workers. The facility is planned to host visiting groups in providing services in great demand such as Ophthalmology, Dentistry and Women’s Health (to name a few).

The laboratory will be able to provide diagnostic services when Wanchuk Rabten, a local monk, returns from his training courses. This will aid in collection of data to better plan our therapy and to identify needs and risks. In addressing these findings we are planning on a training program of local leaders to teach community members about Public Health (example. disease transmission, safer water practices, hygiene, and nutrition, etc.)

This time is exciting as it offers a great chance to plan and provide greatly needed services and to help the people around Namo Buddha site. Thanks for your interest and support. Please feel free to contact us for more information and suggestions on how to explore your interest in helping

How to Donate to Namo Buddha Medical Clinic

The Clinic is entirely supported by private dontions of money, medications, supplies and equipment.

If you would like to donate money towards the work we are doing in Nepal, then you can go to Thrangu Rinpoche's website:
then click on 'Rinpoche's Projects'
and then select 'Namo Buddha Medical Clinic'

or, click on the link below

Please be sure to indicate on your cheque that the money is for the medical clinic, since Rinpoche has many projects. And of course, all donations are tax deductable.

If you would like to donate medications, supplies or equipment, then please contact Sara and I at:

We can guarantee that all donations will go directly in support of the Medical Clinic - everyone working at the Clinic volunteers their time.

Thanks so much for your help and generosity!

John and Sara