I called Esteban today (May 10th, 2007) from Buenos Aires, where over 300 people attended the teachings. I asked him to summarize some of my thoughts about Pundarika in two areas: current projects and staffing assignments.
At the recent retreat at the Angela Center in Santa Rosa, I had a heart-warming experience that I would like to share with all of you. After seeing the film on the Nangchen Nuns, people from the audience were asked to share how they have helped the nuns through home fund-raisers and special events. When they had completed their brief presentations, I realized that the personal responsibility I have held for years has gradually become all of our work, not just mine. I felt very relieved to know this and also much joy because we all benefit when we preserve and protect what is sacred. Then I reflected on how so many of you are helping Pundarika in many different ways.
This e-mail would be too long if I thanked all the people who have helped Pundarika over the years; therefore, I want to focus on current projects in the United States. In the near future, I do want to show how our particular work blends into a global mandala—attempting to bridge East and West.”
here is a brief ‘highlight’ list of current pundarika projects:
Journey to Nangchen Film: This 28-minute film about the Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns has allowed thousands of students and the public a glimpse into the nuns’ lives. It has been shown to audiences across the world. A longer length documentary will be completed in the next year, offering a more in-depth understanding of the nuns’ circumstances in Nangchen. My special thanks to the producer and director, Victress Hitchcock.
Bodhicitta Book: The first draft of this new book (title to be determined) has been completed and will be published in the near future. Sherab Cohen has skillfully edited this draft, and Patrick Hammond has guided this project from the beginning.
Brochures: We have ‘upgraded’ our look with new Nangchen Nuns, Pundarika and Planned Giving brochures and an elegant personal portfolio that describes my projects. This material allows me to show people who we are across the world and, when appropriate, ask for their help. I hope in the near future to redo the Yeshe Rangsal brochure.
Nangchen Nuns Medical Project: We are collecting important information about the Nangchen region, the nuns and surrounding communities, so that we can apply for grants and compile much needed accurate assessment reports. Mark Kane, a retired epidemiologist from the United Nations with a distinguished career in third-world medicine, has given us much of his valuable time and energy designing a questionnaire. Once Neil Hogan and his sister, Brady, gather data, pictures and stories in Nangchen this summer, Mark and other medical professionals will assist Pundarika staff in analyzing and preparing a final draft report for me. My hope is that we can provide a balance of traditional Tibetan and Western medical care for the nuns’ basic health and welfare needs.
Yeshe Rangsal Development: I have reviewed the preliminary architectural plans for a new residence on the Yeshe Rangsal land, and as soon as the Zimchung is sold, will begin building there with the proceeds. This house will be located towards the back of the land (closer to the mountains) near the future Three-Year Retreat Center. I have always felt that the simultaneous development of Yeshe Rangsal and the support of the monastics in the East are important—like two wings of a bird. Other plans for cabins, a shrine building, a Yudronma shrine and a small administrative center are still in place. These will, one day, complement our existing Stupa.
Selected Teachings for the Web: It is an important time for us to make teachings available in a practical and helpful way for as many people as possible. One way this can happen is through the new Web site where carefully chosen teachings can be categorized by topic so they can be found easily. Also, a search engine will allow students to cross-reference key concepts to enrich their understanding. We have a good amount of archived teachings to review and organize, and I have asked Sandra Hammond to assist Pundarika with this project.
Nuns Home Fund-raisers: As interest and enthusiasm has grown to support the nuns, Mary Ann Chubb is the person responsible for coordinating these events. She provides needed materials, answers questions and will ensure that attendees are linked to the nuns through their photographs and names.
Special Benefits and Events: I do want to thank Gina Thompson especially for her devoted and tireless help in offering her home and heart, as well as Danny and Tara Goleman and Sharon Salzberg. MaryAnn Clark at Spirit Rock has always looked for ways to help us, and for all this I am grateful. Recently, over 200 women attended a special event at Spirit Rock hosted by Debra Chamberlin-Taylor, Julie Wester, Lama Palden, Mary Ann Clark and Gina Thompson. Over $11,000 was raised at this event for the Nangchen Nuns’ endowment fund. Of course, I am aware of the “behind the scenes” efforts by Pundarika staff to support these events, and they personally know my deep appreciation. In particular though, Deborah Easley has been a ‘good glue’ for us, binding together all the details with her characteristic efficiency and good will.
Updated Sound Recording: I want to compliment the high quality of our retreat recordings with more “cutting edge” capacity to put selected teachings (audio and video) on the web and MP-3 files. Patrick Hammond and Adam Kane will lead this project.
Endowment Funds: Donors’ contributions and any extra funds we have from retreat income have been carefully invested with a good return for almost two years now. We “passively” (due to investment gain) earn over $100,000 per year. This fund has doubled over the last two years with new donations and retreat earnings, and we are halfway to our $2.6 million dollar goal. I have personally thanked many of the individual donors, most some of whom wish to remain anonymous.
Planned Giving: Michael Kunkel is coordinating this complex area so that donors can help Pundarika through charitable giving. In this role, he will be the main contact for individuals and families who wish to donate stock, assign life insurance policies, put Pundarika into their estate plan, etc. This new area will be fully described in our forthcoming web site and brochure.
New Web Site: We have engaged a web site design company to create a new web site that aesthetically captures our ‘look and feel,’ increases the user’s ability to get information (functionality) and employs the latest technology. For example, we will have search engines for locating and cross-referencing teachings, have interactive donation pages, a web-based newsletter and a high functioning online registration system. Also, carefully selected teachings will be available online as audio and audiovisual files. This is a huge undertaking and a ‘work-in-progress’ for the year to come. However, I am pleased to announce that an early version of the new site will be online mid-August. Many thanks for all the patient and creative work of Adam Kane, Deborah Easley and Esteban Hollander.
Given all the new projects, I want to make sure everyone knows some of the recent changes in our volunteer staff assignments. A complete list of everyone’s existing roles is included here so I won’t repeat it.
As noted above, Sandra Hammond is now performing a special project organizing many of my past teachings into discrete topics. This way they will be easily accessible for the web and available for new publications. Sandra has transitioned from the Retreat and Program Coordinator and Scheduling role into the role of internet/web education coordinator. Megan Andersen is the Retreat Coordinator and Registrar for Pundarika sponsored U.S. retreats.
Tressa Hollander has taken on the scheduling, ticketing and visa/passport functions from Sandra and is working very closely with Brady Hogan, who continues her personal assistant role to me.
Executive Board: Program and retreat planning will now be part of the Pundarika Executive Board’s overall responsibilities. It reports to me in my role as president and Tashi Lama as the vice president. The current Executive Board has the following members: Gary Simonson (Yeshe Rangsal); Michael Kunkel (Planned Giving); Tressa Hollander (Scheduling/Finance); Sandra Hammond (Special Projects); Brady Hogan (Personal Assistant to me) and is coordinated by Esteban Hollander, Executive Administrative Director. Deborah Easley is the Secretary to the Board and Alex Halpern provides legal counsel as a consultant. Patrick Hammond, the former Executive Administrative Director, is “retired” and now serves as an emeritus Board member.
Gary Simonson is the Director of Yeshe Rangsal and the key person reviewing plans, working with local governmental authorities, supervising construction and estimating costs. Gary continues the work accomplished by Greg and Gisela Rabold in this area.
Also, Adam Kane is now doing sound and recording, and Amy Priest is assisting Tressa Hollander with posting donations and other matters. Laura Colvin has also volunteered to help in correspondence and bookkeeping.
In conclusion, it is my deepest wish that all our efforts truly serve the Dharma and all beings in whatever way most benefits them. My gratitude to all of you who help this work.