Regent Abbot Tashi, who gave the clinic land
The Surmang Clinic is the oldest philanthropic clinic in a Tibetan region. For the 26 years of its clinic history, the idea of a water system was never far from our minds. There were several engineers who drew designs, but we always seemed to lack the ability to actually execute, until US Board member, Architect Ralph Allen and Canada Board member Lyle Weinstein came along.
In 2011, Surmang Foundation received a donation of two pumps by the Danish pump manufacturer, Grundfos, via the support of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, China. By late 2017, we’d received the last design, the one we intended to use, from Ralph and Lyle. Both had been to Surmang and understood the difficulty of capital construction there.
By late 2017 we assembled a team consisting of myself, daughter iana Weingrad, son Joseph Weingrad and Russell Iser, a Master Plumber from the US. All three –iana, Joseph and myself—have nearly perfect Chinese language skills.
The source of the water was to be the stream that runs by the monastery, a stream that feeds the upper reaches of the Dzachu, the “wild yak river,” what we call the Mekong River. At Surmang this stream is referred to by as “the heart’s blood of Demchog, or Chakrasamvara,” one of the two names of Buddha in the lineage of Surmang Tibetans.
As good as our plans were, we found that recent construction blocked direct access to the stream, so we met with Trungpa Rinpoche XII, Chokyi Sengay, the Abbot of Surmang Dutsi-til Monastery.
The founding director of Surmang Foundation, Lee Weingrad, was the first non-Tibetan to meet Rinpoche back in 1992. Rinpoche agreed to let us connect to the year-old water main that had recently been installed by the Chinese government. The foundation offered to continue its help of the monastery with a helicobacter infectious disease project in 2019.
To do that, we needed a revised drawing to connect the water main to the clinic. Fortunately Joseph Weingrad had the skills to create such a graphic:
Within a few days a backhoe was summoned, the trench was dug and the pipes were laid. Connecting the pipe was the next task. Since we had purchased all the necessary equipment and supplies in Yushu, we had all the PVC pipe needed to join and lay the pipe.
As the last pipes were joined, and the backhoe returned to fill the trench, the next morning with perfect timing, a local Lama blessed the project.
After 26 years of planning, the clinic water system was finally completed. We told everyone that we would be back next summer to install a modern shower and composting toilet.
The day before we left, Joseph Weingrad filmed an interview with Laizhong, with one of the oldest members of the Surmang Community. She broke our hearts when she said, “the clinic is like a mother and father to me.” That interview will be available soon.
The next day, August 2nd, we returned to Yushu. Everyone was happy since we’d completed a project that we’d talked about 26 years before. Its completion firmly brought the clinic and health care into the 21stC.
It would be impossible without your steadfast support, the donors of GlobalGiving.org
Dr. So Drogha with her new daughter
Final water plan by Joseph Weingrad
Joseph and Russell Laying the pipe
Pipes in place