By Mike Kinney
The founder of Richmond’s well-loved Buddhist monastery, once lovingly called the “Little Monk” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama due to his short stature, is spreading love and education to hundreds of children throughout the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal.
And the Venerable Thupten Donyo’s American neighbors have played a significant role in his efforts.
Long before establishing the Buddhist Gyuto Foundation and Monastery at 6401 Berhard Ave in East Richmond Heights, Donyo was growing up in the high foothills below Mt. Everest in the remote and isolated villages of Nepal. Being raised there, Donyo is well aware of how difficult it is for village children to obtain an education.
In 2009, Donyo decided to do something about that by becoming founder and director of the Delek Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit providing education and healthcare to children in need in those villages.
The Dalai Lama expressed support for his efforts, advising Donyo in 2010 to help elementary Tibetan schoolchildren.
The efforts are having a big impact. In 2018 and 2019, Donyo traveled to the Himalayas with school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and educational supplies at four schools in four villages. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Donyo sent funding from his Delek Children’s Foundation to Nepal to ensure the children would have their supplies.
Three hundred elementary school kids from four villages were served during the charity tours of 2018 and 2019. Last year, 250 elementary school students were served by the nonprofit’s efforts.
Donyo plans to return in October, provided he can receive the COVID-19 vaccine to travel.
“On this charity tour, I will buy 1,000 pair of shoes for children along with school uniforms and backpacks,” Donyo said. “If we have enough funding, we will get them food supplies and health care.”
He sets his annual budget at around $35,000 dollars per year per trip, and of course obtaining the funding is always the greatest challenge. Increased funding helps not only with school supplies, but with tuition for some kids. The nonprofit also funds an English language teacher to instruct students at $150 per month for the school year.
“Two villages have requested two more English teachers,” Donyo said. “We will hire them when funding is approved. “
The charity tour grows annually, as has the need for support.
“We are hoping to educate as many children as possible,” Donyo said, adding, “”Our goal is to raise the standard of living there in Nepal and India and to create opportunity for future generations. The success of these children will touch the lives of those in their communities and bring hope to other children and their families.”
Donyo says much of the Foundation’s funds comes from donations from the local Bay Area community. Many donate at the Foundation website and will sponsor a student.
“We have different sponsorships for elementary and high school students,” he said. “We as well have sponsorships for college and universities that people like to fund.”
Donyo expresses deep gratitude to the many people who have supported the Foundation’s goals.
“When we come with the school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and educational supplies, what those school children see is hope,” he said. “I mean real hope. Seeing their faces, you can see how happy they are. When I see them happy, it makes me extremely happy too, knowing we are making a true difference in their lives.”
To learn more about the Delek Children’s Foundation or sponsor a student, visit this website: www.delekcf.org.