News from our Managers: Pippa and Brenda


Pippa’s Snapshot of Activity from Lockdown in Tara’s Valley

Life here is full of the many challenges and opportunities offered to all at present. We are so fortunate to have a pristine environment with clean air, clear water and abundant open space. It does feel like the late Akong Rinpoche’s healing centre, and it’s sad that more people can’t benefit at the moment.

Maintenance

With all planned courses and many activities cancelled and/or modified, activities have been on going with the staff, volunteers and residents. A big focus for me has been supervision of repairs and maintenance which has been taking place in different locations with different builders. With all building merchants in Zeerust closed it was a mad rush to get in estimated needed materials before lockdown. It’s now challenging to get any further needed items so we are having to do what is locally known as ‘n boer maak n plan’ i.e. do our best with what we have. James has been involved with a lot of renovation work on the towering Eyrie, where Rob Nairn used to live. It will be available for future retreats as en suite accommodation. He is now busy with roof and gutter repairs. Basic maintenance is never ending.

Two skilled Zimbabwean builders Bernard and Elias, through the generosity of Dave Sheehan are with us. They were supposed to be here for three weeks but now their stay is in limbo. All has changed as Dave, who was going to drive them home, had to stay in Nepal. They have worked on redoing the leaking Octagon porch roof and gutters and a complete rebuild of Trish’s roof. An old farmhouse beyond the Training Centre complex, now called the Power House, is also undergoing renovation.

Permaculture

On the Permaculture site Thabo, the trainee who worked with Coen and Megan for 2 years, has been doing all he can to upgrade his skills and gain confidence while maintaining the site. We had hoped to send Thabo and Soli on a 10 day Permaculture course which has been deferred. He would love a computer if anyone out there would like to donate one, or some funds. Two volunteers Mac and Tereza, who arrived from Botswana, have been working with him for the past 2 months, both learning and sharing ideas. Once the restrictions ease, plans are afoot to introduce some basic practical skills training for selected interested people locally and or from Rietvaly.

Just before lockdown, we had a week-long visit from Lambro, a volunteer from Ixopo, who introduced us to making biochar. This is a charcoal-like substance used as a soil amendment for both carbon sequestration and soil health benefits. Biochar is now being used in different situations on site both for soil and chickens.

Community Focus

2020 has seen the expansion of the community wing of TRC’s activities, steered by Masi Makhalemele, a seasoned community development worker. She has has been consulting with the Rietvaly community and their chosen leaders, and before lockdown was involved in networking with service providers. Three of the community leaders are involved with management skills training and planning for future activity.

The lockdown has slowed down much of the activity and the Tirisano crèche in Rietvaly has closed. However, the Power House project is growing, and the building renovation is progressing at a reasonable pace. This will, when finished, be used as a base for many future activities.

Plans are afoot to support some of the most needy families in Rietvaly with weekly food packs, hopefully diverting some crèche funds, with permission from Rokpa International. Any donations towards this food support scheme would be most welcome.

Online Dharma

For me personally it has been a great blessing to be able to distantly ‘inter connect’ with the zoom puja and prayers currently on offer. I am not able to use zoom, but feel connected to others when I sit in my little shrine area at the appointed times to join in with Green Tara, Chenrezig and currently H.H. Karmapa’s 7 days of prayers for the pandemic. I have Sylva to thank for helping me with materials.

Wishing all well, and hope to see you back here when possible.

Pippa


Brenda’s Update from the Tara Rokpa Retreat Site

Every cloud has a silver lining and we have so much to be grateful for at TRC. We are blessed with open space, fresh air and we now have the time to catch up on all the work that needed to be done.

I feel this is a huge wake up call for all of us to show gratitude for all the blessings we have in our lives and to not let fear take hold of us. And remind ourselves that ‘this too shall pass’. The earth is getting the time it needs to heal itself, animals are returning to places we humans pushed them out, and we are getting to be reminded that we are all part of a global family and how much we need each other.

When the lockdown was first enforced, it was quite some adjusting mentally to prepare myself for my new daily schedule, when all the retreats had to be rescheduled. I have not left the valley in almost the month and am finding the social distancing quite challenging, having just become a great grandma and so looking forward to visiting my family and my new grandson.

Catching Up

It has given me the opportunity to catch up on all the projects I had planned for myself and my team, at the main site:

  • We did some very serious housekeeping and training in hygiene in the kitchen.
  • Kerileng has created some lovely succulent gardens outside Top Cottage.
  • Lebuamang and Kerileng got stuck into the Eyrie store, which is something we have wanted to do for the longest time. We got rid of all the broken appliances and stuff that has been accumulated, that cannot be reused or recycled.
  • Masi and Tereza came and took items that they needed for the Training Centre and the Power House, so everyone was happy. We can now actually see what we have in there!
  • Mac, a volunteer who has trained as a medical doctor, brought all the staff together to inform them what was required to keep safe with regard to Covid-19.
  • Trish has been very busy making masks for everyone and each day her designs and creativity get better and better.

Volunteers

Mokgadi is very busy documenting her photo stories and working on her blog. She has fitted very well into country living and our team. She is also pleased to have her own space in the newly renovated Eyrie, after James’ hard work. I think Rob would be pleased with how it looks. We have set it up as a double en suite up stairs and made down stairs in to a living room, that can also take another guest. It is self-contained, so she is able to take her meals there if she chooses, as the evenings are now taking on quite a chill.

Luciane, our other volunteer has made herself at home in the Main house and is a keen gardener. Her interest is in permaculture so she has been busy leaf mulching all the trees, and weeding out the blackjacks.

Photography

I have also being doing some photography for Masi, which she needs for Rokpa International and we have been recording a weekly photographic journal of the progress on the Power House. This has also given me the opportunity to teach Mokgadi more about the technical aspects of the camera and how to develop her photographer’s eye. She is proving to be a great student and always keen to learn. She has also been spending a lot of time at the Training Centre with Masi’s team and getting to interact and learn more from them.

I now have the opportunity to focus a lot of my energy on the gardens – another one of my true passions. They are thriving! I am attaching pictures for all to see. As Luciane said today she thinks it is their last spurt before the really cold weather gets here. I think the combination of attention and rain is making the nature spirits and myself very happy. It is certainly keeping me grounded in these challenging times, as I was feeling rather lost without the retreats and enjoying taking care of all our beautiful visitors and facilitators.

So for now, we keep doing our practices, meditation and prayers and pray this will all be over soon. And that through this experience, we are all better, kinder and more compassionate beings and further along the path to becoming bodhisattvas.

May all being be free of suffering.
May all beings be happy.

Brenda