Buddhist leader to rope in Hollywood celebrities for Nepal aid

IANS, May 18, 2015

Kathmandu,  Nepal -- After roping in actress Michelle Yeoh, known for her role in James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies", acclaimed Buddhist leader Gyalwang Drukpa is banking on more celebrities and movie stars to raise money for reconstruction and rehabilitation in quake-devastated Nepal.

The spiritual head of the 800-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas, with around 1,000 monastic centres, is teaming up with Hollywood stars such as Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, Steven Seagal and Indian superstar Aamir Khan to appeal for Nepal relief.

"I am in touch with my celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Steven Seagal and Aamir Khan and they will definitely join our NGO Live to Love International's long-term reconstruction operation in Nepal," the Gyalwang Drukpa told a visiting IANS correspondent.

Treating the natural-calamity as a "wake-up" call, the globetrotting spiritual head, known as an active environmentalist and promoter of gender equality, said he would be travelling this week to the US, New Delhi and Geneva to mobilise more aid for Nepal.

"When the earthquake hit it was raining heavily, completely dark and shaky. It was painful but a crucial wake up call for the rest of the world."

"After the disaster, we can't afford to build unsafe buildings and live in an ecologically unfriendly way anymore," the Gyalwang Drukpa, who is active in Nepal, Bhutan and in India, added.

Foundation 'Live to Love' on Sunday adopted devastated Ramkot and Thaple villages, located on the fringes of the sprawling Drukpa Order-run Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery near this town. The nunnery too witnessed the maximum damage.Actress Michelle Yeoh, who is the brand ambassador of 'Live to Love', arrived last week to join the relief operation.

Initial government estimates say over one million private and public houses and buildings, totally or partially, were damaged. The total estimated damage could be $5-10 billion.

The spiritual leader said prefabricated community halls would be erected for the house victims of the quake in the adopted villages with a population of over 1,000. More than 85 percent of the houses have been damaged.

"We are also planning to build eight additional community halls on priority in Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchok and Ramechhap districts to shelter over 2,000 people before the onset of monsoon. Designs for quake-proof permanent houses in the adopted villages is also under consideration," he said.

Three hundred nuns of the Druk Amitabha Mountain monastery, who are learning the ancient Chinese martial art kung fu daily, refused to be evacuated after the quake for rehabilitation in the nearby villages.

"Since the day the quake hit on April 25, these nuns regularly visit nearby villages to help removing the rubble, providing tents to the homeless and repairing the tracks. They reached out to the locals before the government aid came," the Buddhist leader said.

The maroon-robed nuns have also been trained in driving, plumbing and electrical works, and can also work with gadgets such as computers and cameras. The community work is part of their training, he added.

Waterkeeper Alliance has named the Gyalwang Drukpa, founder and patron of 'Live to Love' foundation, the 'Guardian of the Himalayas'."The 'Live to Love' foundation is much young but the spirit is very old," the Gyalwang Drukpa added.
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