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 look after some of the region’s more impoverished peoples.

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The Paramita Charitable Trust is an organisation that aids a series of projects to help some of the more destitute people of the region achieve a way of life that many of us take for granted in the West.

While the Trust supports wide variety of projects based in and around the Kalimpong area, during our brief visit to India we only had enough time to visit three. As such, I have only listed these three here, as what we saw made 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.

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1. The Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial Home

The Memorial Home is for elderly people and orphaned children who have nowhere to live. All generations live together as one big family, helping each other in their day-to-day activities. While this idea might not seem particularly special, having visited this home, we were astonished at how well this symbiosis worked when everyone was simply left to themselves: the young helping the elderly with their daily physical chores and the elderly sharing their experience and offering practical advice.

The home was originally founded in 1995 as an old people’s home after Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche saw how many elderly people had simply been abandoned in their old age. Mostly as refuges separated from their family and friends, many of the elderly people presently 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 the 1950s. Due to the fact that many of them didn’t speak the local Indian dialect, they had to resort to making a living through jobs that involved strenuous physical labour, such as breaking stones for road construction. As they grew older, however, 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 common disregard from local villagers, meant that they eventually found themselves homeless, living as outcasts in an alien society, without family or any kind of community support.

Thus, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche set about creating a home for elderly men and women so they could enjoy a better way of life, find companionship, and provide them with the most basic of needs i.e. food, water, sanitation, a place to sleep, etc.

In 1997 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 beneficial to both 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.

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2. The Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Centre

This eye clinic was founded in 2004 to help people who had eye conditions that, if left un-treated, 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 primarily due to the high levels of ultra violet (UV) light that are found at these elevations combined with the lack of readily available eye protection. The problem is then further exacerbated by the lack of proper nutrition and sanitation.

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 of 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 parents’ blindness. In northern India families heavily rely on their elders to make a living and provide for them, which – as many will sympathise – is exceptionally hard to do when one cannot see well (if at all). Usually people who live in the hills have to walk miles into town in order to trade wares and buy food and supplies. Just imagine how treacherous a winding mountain path would be to a person with little or no vision!

Once treated, each patient usually regains most of their sight within days and they commonly report how much better and easier their daily lives become.

To find out more about the Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Centre, please click here.

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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.

During our visit we discovered 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 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 in the north of India 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 literally as untouchables.

Here at the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School, it is the aim of everyone involved to be able to provide quality education for all, including both poor and/or orphaned children, 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 child from a “better-off” background would hope to.

Bearing in mind the strong discrimination between these castes, it was so inspiring 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. This powerful approach is the first step in redressing the social division inherent in Indian culture.

To find out more about the Jamgon Kongtrul III Memorial School, please click here.

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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 local and surrounding indigenous peoples, 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, travelling to India regularly being quite a costly and timely affair, and then being able to offer the outreaches a sufficiently useful amount of our time there i.e. more than a couple of weeks, it didn’t seem like a very viable or sustainable option for us.

Thus, thinking back to our time spent in India, we decided to focus on the basics i.e. monetary aid to help them expand their activities. While there, we noticed that the cost of living (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 there could be anything between one tenth to one twentieth of the cost of a meal in a cheap restaurant in the UK. Focusing 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 told us about the irregularity of donations each year – we figured that a regular donation once a year might well be of greater benefit to their endeavours than offering 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 common point that I have gleaned from traveling the world over, it is that people are not really that disimilar from one another. We all seek the same basic tenets of community, friendship, happiness, good health and freedom, wishing to be free of war, conflict and too many hardships, thereby finding contentment and peace. Thus, if we could help the Paramita Charitable Trust spread these basic precepts of equanimity, good health and education, then others who might not be as fortunate as ourselves (whether as a result of being forced to leave their country due to war or because they lack readily available and/or affordable medical treatment)… We feel their cause is worthy of support.

Certainly we are aware that it is not an easy task to be able to help other people across the world achieve as high a standard of living as we have done here in the UK. For one thing, some cultures don’t even see our standard of living as particular beneficial or even desireable… ! But, for those who do need help, we know that if everyone can do their little bit for anyone else wherever they can, even if it is only bit-by-bit, it will eventually make a big difference to all. 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.