Ani Samten

I never had a burning desire to go to India. I had a burning desire to retire early and be of service to my lama. He needed a teacher at his monastery in Bylakuppe, South India. Bylakuppe is the largest Tibetan refugee settlement in South India. I visited and ordained in 2010, retired, and moved here in 2011. He asked me to teach English, math and science to over 100 monks in Classes KG-6; and American standards of hygiene and sanitation, and care for our 20 stray dogs (neither of which are part of their culture) to all 150 monks, ages 7-70. I am the only woman, the only foreigner and the only native English speaker at the monastery.

Since 2006 I have been making annual pilgrimages to Bodhgaya, North India, where the Buddha reached enlightenment. In 2013 I met the creator of the Chauari Village project, a villager dedicated to improving life in his community. It is his small, grass-roots humanitarian endeavor bringing clean water and sanitation, disease prevention and treatment, education and literacy, and economic and community development to 1500 villagers (500 under the age of 5 and 150 elderly, over the age of 50). When he asked me to help re-open the clinic I could only say yesbecause I was so impressed with his honesty, reliability and ethics.

Many people in this part of the world dream of going to America, yet few get to. My friend's son was accepted at a private high school in Maine, and received their highest scholarship. He is living the dream, sponsored by friends and family, with me as one of several surrogate parents.