Paramita Charitable Trust
Here at Richard & Associates we have pledged to donate some of the company’s annual income to the Paramita Charitable Trust in Kalimpong, a township of West Bengal in Northern India, so that they can continue to effectively look after some of the region’s more unfortunate peoples.
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The Paramita Charitable Trust is an organisation that aids a series of projects to help some of the poorest and most unfortunate people of the region achieve a way of life that many of us take for granted here in the UK.
While the Trust supports various projects based in and around the area of Kalimpong, during our brief visit to India we only had enough time to visit just three of these projects. As such, I have only listed below the three outreaches we were fortunate enough to visit, mainly because what we saw there left quite an impression on us.
In each case I have done my best to outline a bit about their history as well as each of their respective aims.
1. The Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial Home
This is a home for elderly people and orphaned children who have nowhere to live. Both generations live together as one big family, helping each other in their day to day activities. Having visited this home, we were astonished at how well this symbiosis worked: the young helping the elderly with physical chores and the elderly passing down their practical advice and wisdom gleaned from their many years of life.
The Memorial Home was originally founded in 1995 as an old people’s home due to the wishes of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche III, who, having seen how many elderly people had simply been abandoned in their old age, wished to do something for their plight.
Mostly as refuges separated from their family and friends, many of the elderly people now residing at the Memorial Home had come to India after the People’s Republic of China incorporated Tibet into their sovereign state system back in 1950. Due to the fact that many of them didn’t speak the local dialect, they had to resort to making a living through jobs that involved strenuous physical labour, such as breaking stones for road construction. However, as they grew older and more frail, this hard line of work began to take its toll on their bodies, causing many of them to develop serious health problems. This, combined with a lack of respect from the local villagers, meant that they eventually found themselves living destitute, as outcasts in an alien society, without any home or family to turn to for support.
Having seen their situation first hand, Jamgon Kongtrul III set about creating a home whereby elderly men and women could enjoy decent living conditions and companionship, as well as providing them with most of their basic needs i.e. food, water, toilets, a place to sleep, etc.
Then, in 1997, by complete chance the Memorial Home began to host orphans as well, although this was only meant to be a temporary effort. However, this addition proved to be so exceptionally beneficial to both the elderly and young alike that the Memorial Home expanded the project to include orphans permanently.
To find out more about the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial Home, please click here.
2. The Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Centre
This eye clinic was founded in 2004 in order to treat diseases that, if left un-cured, could lead to permanent blindness.
In the high altitude areas of the Himalayas it is not uncommon for people to suffer from cataracts at a young age. This is mainly due to the high levels of Ultra Violet light that are present in comparison to lower altitude areas combined with the lack of readily available eye protection. This is then further exacerbated by the lack of proper nutrition and hygiene.
As with the other social projects of the Paramita Charitable Trust, the aim of the Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Center is to provide free treatment to the poorest people in the region, not only so as to help restore people’s visual acuity, but also to assist families that would otherwise be left devastated and marginalized by their elder’s blindness i.e. families rely on their elders to make a living and provide for them, which – as I’m sure many will sympathise – is exceptionally hard to do when one is nearly blind. Usually people who live in the hills have to walk miles into town in order to be able to trade wares and buy food and supplies. Just imagine how treacherous a winding mountainous path would be to a person hard of seeing!
Once treated, each patient usually regains their full sight and, so, finds their daily activities much easier and less dangerous to perform.
To find out more about the Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Centre, please click here.
3. The Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School
Founded in 1997, the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School provides education to children from impoverished families, including lower and untouchable castes.
Believe it or not, while visiting India we found out that Indian society is still strongly influenced by an ancient caste system, which is a system of division between labourers and those carrying the ruling power. In many ways, this is a bit like the UK’s own esoteric class system i.e. the difference between the upper classes, middle/working classes and the lower classes… Except, in India this caste system actually manages to completely segregate people from one another, forbidding them from any interaction to the point that one can clearly see distinct social stratifications within their society. While this caste system might not be as prevalent in more cosmopolitan areas (such as cities and larger towns), in smaller, more isolated areas it still strongly defines communities, breaking them up into thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis.
The Jātis were originally grouped by the Brahminical texts under four well-known caste categories, known as the varnas. While these groups are still around today, some people are excluded altogether from this system, ostracised by all other castes and treated as untouchables.
Here at the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School, it is the aim of all those involved to be able to provide quality education for everyone, both poor and/or orphaned children alike, regardless of caste, creed or beliefs. Here these children are provided with the chance to study and progress in the Indian education system just like any other child from a “better off” background would hope to.
Bearing in mind the strong common discrimination between these castes, it was an absolute inspiration and pleasure to be able to visit a school where equanimity and equality between all peoples is being openly practised and taught as if it were the norm.
To find out more about the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School, please click here.
How we aim to help the Paramita Charitable Trust
Having seen, first hand, the beneficial impact of the Paramita Charitable Trust’s endeavours on the lives of the local and surrounding indigenous peoples of the area, we knew that we had to find some way to help them continue their invaluable work.
While our first thought was to visit India regularly enough to offer ‘one on one’ voluntary help… Due to the fact that our families and businesses were all located in the UK, the idea of traveling to India regularly (which, in itself, is quite a costly and timely affair), and then being able to offer them a sufficiently useful amount of our time while there i.e. more than a couple of weeks, it didn’t seem a very viable or sustainable option.
So, thinking back to our time spent in India, we decided to focus on the basics i.e. monetary aid. While there, we noticed with regular frequency that the cost of living in India (especially in Northern India) was considerably less than it was in the UK… So much so that the cost of, say, eating out in a good restaurant could be anything between 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of a meal in a cheap restaurant here in the UK. Thinking on this obvious disparity between living costs in the UK and India – and bearing in mind what Thinlay (the head caretaker of the Memorial Home) had mentioned to us while there about the irregularity of donations every year – we figured that a regular donation once every year could be of greater benefit to their endeavours than an offering of any personal ‘one on one’ aid.
As such, we now find ourselves making this pledge to provide them with a regular annual donation so that they can help others achieve a better way of life… A way of life that many of us take for granted throughout the modern, developed world today.
If there is one important fact that I have gleaned from traveling the world over, it is that people are not really that different from one another wherever one goes. We all seek the same basic ideals of friendship, happiness, good health, family and a peaceful environment – one free of war, conflict and too many hardships – to live our lives in. Thus, if we could begin to help the Paramita Charitable Trust bring these basic tenants of a rewarding and happy human existence in to focus for others… Others who might not be as fortunate as ourselves (whether because they were forced to leave their country due to war or because they lack readily available and/or affordable medical treatment)… We feel theirs is a worthy cause to support.
Certainly we are aware that nobody can do everything to help everyone in the world achieve as high a standard of living as we have done here in the UK… But, nonetheless, we know that everyone can do a little something for someone somewhere, even if it is only bit by bit. As Edmund Burke (the renowned British philosopher and member of Parliament) once remarked, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
So if you find yourself visiting their website and feel as though you might be able to help… Please do make a donation, no matter how small, as it all ultimately helps towards making the world a better place for everyone.
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To find out more about the many arms of Paramita Charitable Trust, please click here.