Online game helps house homeless monks

Victoria-based Facebook connections help rebuild Himalayan monastery

Chris Hoyer

Facebook connections are rebuilding a home for boy monks in Bhutan, thanks to a pair of Oak Bay women and a Victoria gaming company.

The earthquake relief started well before the shaker, though Chris Hoyer and Carla Funk, both of Oak Bay, didn’t know it at the time. They were on a photographic journey to the remote Himalayan country in 2008. “We had a wonderful time and the people are so friendly,” Hoyer said.

Last September, 32 boy monks, many of whom the tour group had snapped photos, were left homeless after the 300-year-old Chetokha monastery where they lived was damaged in an earthquake.

“This is a great example of how versatile online fundraising can be,” said Funk. “The contributing photographers live across Canada and the U.S., yet were able to upload their photos for sale to the website. The photographs are paid for online, sent digitally to printers in the U.S., and then posted directly to the customer. We spread the word through our email and Facebook connections. We had orders from as far away as Switzerland.”

Sonam Dema, of Bhutan, first alerted Hoyer to the plight of the monks of the Chetokha Monastery through a message on Facebook.

“The monastery is in a remote area, close to where my family lives, and these five- to 12-year-old boys were left living in makeshift tents, with the Himalayan winter coming on. I sent out a message to all my contacts on Facebook and I have been astonished by the great response,” said Dema. “We were able to buy the boys warm jackets and blankets to help them through the worst of the winter.”

Again through Facebook, the Oak Bay women created a connection with GameHouse Canada which concocted an online game to raise funds for the monastery.

“We run many different games throughout the year, and we create several especially to raise money for different charities,” explained Marc Dugas, producer at GameHouse Canada. “It’s our company’s way of giving back to our community, and we like to support local charities where possible.”

The Victoria company’s Facebook game raised nearly $5,000 for the Chetokha Monastery Fund through the Pema Lingpa Treasure Vahrayana Centre of Victoria.

“Now, with the money from (GameHouse), we can do even more,” said Dema, a member of the non-profit Buddhist society, Pema Lingpa Treasure Vahrayana Centre. “I will be returning to Bhutan later this summer and I will personally deliver all the money raised directly to the monastery. The boys should be properly housed this winter, thanks in large part to the generosity of Canadians, whose hearts were touched when they heard about their situation.”

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