The orphanage at Chodrak Monastery was founded by Khenpo Dam Cho Dawa Rinpoche, a senior teacher at Chodrak Monastery, in response to the growing numbers of young children who were orphaned or whose parents were unable to provide for them.
The majority of the people of Kham province are traditionally farmers and nomads. Farmers were able to grow enough food to feed their families and a little more that could be traded for necessities such as tea. Nomads grazed yaks, sheep and goats, and raised horses that could also be traded. Most of the farmers and nomads don’t earn a cash income; rather they exchange goods as needed. The land reforms introduced by the government over the last forty years, greatly restricting grazing areas, has had a very adverse effect on the Khampas’ ability to maintain their lifestyle. The problems created by the harsh conditions in Eastern Tibet, which had historically contributed to an early mortality rate, have been compounded by government policies such as resettlement and the change from a barter to cash economy. Even those who have a chance to earn a cash income have great difficulty paying for necessities such as medical fees and often forego medical treatment for lack of money. Khenpo Dam Cho Dawa built Chodrak orphanage to provide food, accommodation and an education for children who would otherwise be forced to beg for survival in a poor and remote part of Tibet.
Since its inception, the orphanage has continued to grow in numbers and now cares for around 100 children ranging in age from 5 to 16 years. In addition to providing for the children’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, it also provides the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty by providing them with a sound education whilst maintaining their Tibetan culture. The language for what education is available under the communist basic education system is Chinese. Recognising that the language that best preserves the cultural and religious heritage of the people of Kham is Tibetan, Khenpo has ensured the children’s cultural heritage is maintained through the curriculum taught at the orphanage. The children study Tibetan and Chinese language, maths, art and traditional Tibetan folk dance and music. The orphanage has five members of staff, including teachers, who provide for all the children’s needs.
In addition to his responsibilities as a senior teacher at Chodrak Monastery, Khenpo Dam Cho Dawa Rinpoche provides all financial requirements for the children and orphanage through his teaching activities. Rinpoche regularly undertakes teaching tours throughout regional China to raise funds to support his charitable endeavours, and has taught Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Beijing for the past seven years. Khenpo Dan Cho Dawa is also the abbot of Yushu Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy College, a school for monks and tulkus in Jyukendo, Qinghai, which is four hours’ drive away from the orphanage.
Any money given to Khenpo from students is given to the orphanage, to cover the costs of the children’s health and education, and to improve the rudimentary conditions of the orphanage. Khenpo Dam Cho Dawa has entrusted Venerable Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche to act on his behalf in Australia, in order to support his compassionate activities. To this end, Khenpo has made available a DVD to Barom Kagyu Chodrak Pende Ling, kindly produced by a Chinese student, of Chodrak Orphanage and Khenpo’s teaching activities. If you would like to help Venerable Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche and Khenpo Dam Cho Dawa continue to provide for the children of Chodrak Orphanage, please contact us for a free copy of the DVD.