Himalayan Elders Project (HEP) created a project called "Tse-phel" (Tibetan: ཚེ་འཕེལ་, Wylie: tshe' phel), meaning a healthy, prosperous, and long life in Tibetan. The project's core mission was to protect our seniors from the deadly Covid-19 virus and provide services for their mental and physical wellbeing. The project started with a few HEP volunteers and later expanded into a collaboration with various organizations; professionals worked with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and NYC Department of health. The project was able to bring 'service' to the forefront of the Tibetan and Himalayan communities in NYC and empower and inspire a vast number of people.
Throughout the pandemic, project Tse-phel was able to keep in touch with seniors regularly, provide hotlines for medical professionals within the community, organize online gatherings/performances/meditation classes for seniors, help coordinate transport and provide support for seniors admitted in the hospital, deliver Tibetan meals and safety/health care supplies to seniors, and arrange online Buddhist monks for end-of-life rituals. The project is ongoing, and we were able to help schedule (with the help of the Mayor's Office of immigrant Affairs and NYC DOH) vaccination appointments for our seniors. Since we started, the number of volunteers and the strength of our commitment has grown exponentially.
The pandemic forced the Himalayan Elders Project center to closed down. Socialization is crucial for our seniors' well-being. They were going to miss it; there was a need to fill the void and create a virtual gathering place and an easy communication system. Protection from the virus via education, providing safety/health care supplies to seniors were much needed. A regular supply of Tibetan barley flour (Tsampa is the staple diet for most Tibetan seniors) was necessary. Online availability of Tibetan monks to perform last rites was the essential and easy communication with a health professional in the Tibetan/Nepali language to discuss symptoms and so forth was also necessary.
More than 35 volunteers actively participated in making the project happen, totaling about 6253 hours of volunteer hours. Volunteers were recruited from specific fields, keeping our needs as the guideline. As described above, Registered Nurses, Drivers, Cooks, Software developers, and others all worked in their respective fields of expertise.
Himalayan Elders Project was founded in 2012 to support, enrich and empower seniors from the Himalayan community in New York. At the HEP, we provide time and space to our seniors to gather, practice dharma, socialize, share life experiences, cherish community connectedness and enjoy a renewed sense of independence.
Tsephel is an ongoing project. To learn more about the Himalayan Elders Project please visit www.himalayaneldersproject.org