Update May 23, 2015
From Benchen Monastery Committee
The Committee includes a link to a youtube video done by Sherab Wangchuk showing Benchen Monastery: https://youtu.be/eyiFyrHLFzs
The earthquake in Nepal on April 25th disrupted everyone's life and it will be a long time before it returns to any kind of normalcy. The Benchen monks in Swayambhu responded immediately by setting up tarpaulins on the army parade ground across the road, and ensuring that our community was safe and protected. Our monks started collecting rubbish and waste to help keep the camp clean and tidy, and continued to help over the next ten days, by provided morning and afternoon tea, to more than 1000 local people who had taken shelter in the camp. Benchen Shedra, also delivered prepared food to a village on the other side of Pharping that had been very badly affected by the quake.
His Holiness The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, requested that all Kagyu monasteries direct all their efforts into providing immediate aid and assistance to the community. The Benchen senior monks responded by forming a committee that has continued to assess and respond to the changing needs of the community as they have arisen.
It was soon realised that the Swayambhu monastery was not a suitable place for our young monks to be, because of safety issues and the possibility of disease. They were therefore, moved to tents in the Shedra grounds at Pharping, where they continue to stay and where their school lessons have now recommenced.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, some of the monks went out into communities, both near and far, helping to rescue people trapped in the rubble of fallen and damaged buildings, and making the areas safe. Others were involved in assessing the immediate needs of local and more distant communities and villages, and still others were involved in finding and purchasing goods, such as food, tents and blankets, to provide to victims of this terrible disaster. In addition to the aid programs of Benchen Monastery, our monastery served as the coordination, storage and distribution point for Karmapa Service Committee Nepal's relief activities, and our monks participated in all these distribution functions as well. All this activity has involved our monks and volunteers in loading , unloading, storing, sorting, reloading and transporting these materials out, each day, to the people in need. The Benchen water tanker was also put to good use, delivering clean drinking water to accessible camps near and far. During all of this our Benchen earthquake response committee continued to meet, on an ad hock basis each day, to coordinate efforts and ensure that our aid was being delivered to the most needy.
Tempa Lama send these pictures 23.05.2015
Adare Development, through The Himalayan Medical Foundation, and Benchen Free Clinic, responded by conducting medical camps, in villages outside the Kathmandu Valley, for the 12 days immediately following the first earthquake. Dr. Tsering lead a small health team, including some Benchen monks, who went out each day to different villages. This group set up the mobile clinics and provided medical care, first aid and medicines to more than 1500 people.
Now that things are more settled, the Benchen Monastery Committee has been assessing the damage to the monastery buildings. Several architects and structural engineers, both private and government officials, have examined the monastery buildings. In Swayambhu, the two story building topped by the butter lamp house, is damaged beyond repair and will need to be completely rebuilt. Of the main buildings, it is apparent that the structure of our Maitreya Shrine Hall is the most extensively affected. The kitchen chimney and bathroom structure on the south side of the building is in danger of falling and has caused us to block off access on that side of the building. The supporting pillars in the kitchen and dining room, underneath the shrine hall, are damaged to a great extent. Therefore, according to the advice from the experts, soil and strength testing of the support structures is being carried out, in order to ascertain whether the building can be repaired or needs to be pulled down and completely rebuilt. The testing has been carried out and we have some anxiety while we await the results, however, they are very necessary in order to guide the planning process for repairs and rebuilding.
The good news is that the Shakyamuni shrine hall, Tenga Rinpoches old residence, the Benchen Free Clinic and the monks quarters are not severely damaged. The very good news is that the senior monks quarters, the Benchen Vihar and all the Benchen buildings in Pharping: the Shedra, the memorial stupa of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, both the Naropa and Niguma retreat centres, all the single retreat houses and the Ani retreat centre which is under construction, have not been damaged by the earthquake.
Benchen Community would like to take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude and our sincere thanks to His Holiness The 17th. Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, for his incomparable guidance, compassion and generosity to the people of Nepal in this very tragic and trying time.
Benchen Monastery Committee would also like to thank each and every one of our supporters, worldwide, for their sincere concern and help during this most terrible disaster. In addition we would like to acknowledge our monks and volunteers for their tireless commitment and hard work in supporting of our aid program, and also to those involved directly or indirectly in this endeavour.
Benchen Monastery Committee.