DHARAMSALA, Nov 18: A panel comprising of senior hostel children from Tong-Len Charitable Trust, a Dharamsala-based NGO working for the welfare of slum children, spoke about their experience at the organization and how it has changed their lives at a press conference held on Nov 17 in Dharamsala.
Addressing media persons, Ven Jamyang Lobsang, founder and director of Tong-Len gave a brief introduction on the organization and spoke on the achievements made in the past 11 years.
“Tong-Len Charitable Trust was started in 2004 and now, we have three different projects – health, child education and empowerment programs. Among these programs, the education program has two sections-child nutrition program in the slum community and hostel program. Tong-Len Charitable Trust has been helping the slum community in lower Dharamsala for the past 10-12 years. We have such wonderful students in our hostel program and we have achieved a lot. As students are participating with us as panelists today, we are very happy and proud that we have reached this stage that students can at least have the confidence to talk and express their views and opinions,” Ven Jamyang said.
“We have a hostel program located in Sarah village and we have achieved a lot as some of the students have reached top level in the state board examinations. Moreover, for the past two or three years we have been focusing more on holistic developments which has given a lot of encouragement, knowledge and wisdom to the students. So we try to develop the students from all the angles, not just academically. We are proud to tell you that a girl who used to beg and collect rubbish is now studying journalism in one of India’s top media universities in Bangalore. Another boy has been enrolled in an engineering college and many other students are planning to join the universities, including all the students in today’s panel,” he further added.
Ven Jamyang also announced the inauguration of a new hostel to be held on Nov 17 where His Holiness the 17th Karmapa will be the Chief Guest.
“To highlight the importance of social work and honor those who have contributed through social work, Tong-Len awards will also be presented on the day,” said Ven Jamyang.
The four student panelists recalled their life before joining Tong-Len, their experience at the organization and the difference it has made in their lives.
“Before coming to the Tong-Len hostel, I used to collect rubbish and sometimes I used to beg. The life in Charan slum community is unimaginable and cannot be explained in words. After coming to Tong-Len hostel my life has totally changed. The atmosphere of studies at Tong-Len is different from that of Charan. As I got education at Tong-Len, I really believe that I have a good personality and have a good and sustainable life in the future,” said Karan, one of the student panelists.
“Before joining Tong-Len, I used to collect rubbish and also go for begging with my mother. When we beg, people used to hit us with stick and I used to find it very strange. When I return home, I always used to find my father drinking which I never liked. I requested him many times not to drink, but to no avail and he also used to beat my mother. But I am very happy at the hostel as guru ji (Ven Jamyang) has given us a very good life,” said Ranjita, a girl from Charan slum community who wants to become a lawyer and help her community in the future.
“I have never dreamed that I’ll get such an opportunity. But because of guru ji, I think I have got everything that I wasn’t familiar with before coming to Tong-Len. Guri ji is like a father to me and the other staffs are like brothers, sisters and teachers. I want to thank everyone who has helped me become what I am today. I have always thought that I will be collecting rubbish or begging though out my life but Tong-Len has proved that our potential is not limited to that, that we can also achieve something else and earn a living for myself. I am currently pursuing business studies in Kerala so that I can contribute to my family and society. My parents passed away during my childhood, leaving me all alone in this world. But my maternal aunt took care of me before guru ji picked me up from Charan and put me in a completely different environment for which I am forever grateful to him because he has given me a new life. It is like lifting somebody up from hell and opening the gates of heaven. Tong-Len is not only a home but an institution of learning for us,” said Sunny, another student panelist.
Tong-Len currently looks after around 250 poor children from the slum community in Dharamsala through its child education program. A total of 150 children are provided education and nutrition at Charan Khad slum community and 100 children are enrolled in the hostel program.