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Institutional Cooking in Nepal by Ben Robinson

In 2016 Live to Love sent George Lewis and me on a mission to implement a number of rocket stoves to victims of the 2015 earthquake. The aim was to make life a little easier for those people whose lives had been made so difficult by a natural disaster. The rocket stoves had a great impact but we also noted how there were no appropriate solutions for larger cooking applications. Schools, monasteries, dairy farmers and local businesses had to either pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for poorly designed solutions or rely on open fires to cook the large quantities of food needed. Over the next year, as part of my mechanical engineering masters degree, I developed an appropriate solution for institutional cooking and in late 2017 we took it to Nepal. Co-financed by Live to Love (UK and International) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) we set out to see what we could do with 10 of these cookstoves in various pilot sites.

Three years on, whilst the world is in chaos reeling from the effects of COVID-19, and I am stuck in isolation in Kathmandu, it is time for an update on progress. I have visited the pilot sites a number of times, in 2018, 2019 and over the last few weeks in 2020. There were two basic questions we wanted to answer: first, do institutions influence the way communities cook? And second, is there a sustainable enterprise model for this cookstove?

Both these questions needed time, hence three years of monitoring. Only now are we beginning to see the impact of people integrating these institutional cookstoves into their lives and organisations. Of the ten manufactured, three are still used daily, six at least once a month for religious festivals and one is unfortunately no longer used. When you compare this use to the average it is extraordinarily good. The stoves that are having the biggest impact are in the Kathmandu Valley with a dairy farmer and at a school for mis-treated children.

The dairy farmer uses the stove to cook for his cows, a very Nepali tradition, and due to its high performance it has allowed him to save and expand his farm – drastically increasing his income. The school has integrated the cookstove into their curriculum and it is looked after by the senior pupils; the headmistress regularly has inquiries from the local farmers. The cookstove enables the school to saves hundreds of USDs on cooking gas which is able to pay for more children to attend the school. The other successful sites are above 2500m in Langtang National Park, around 100kms from Kathmandu. High in the Himalayas the water is too cold to touch so the stoves provide an efficient way to heat water for washing people and plates. These stoves are also used to make tea for the religious ceremonies; reducing the amount of firewood needed means less time scrambling in the jungle looking for firewood – an activity that can have deadly consequences. When visiting these sites people are always grateful for the assistance but when asked the difficult question of would you pay for this - a good test of real value to users - the answer is almost always yes.

Back to our research questions: yes, I do think that the institutions that use these cookstoves have affected the views and habits of the community members. Everyone has always heard of the stove and wants to know how they can get one. And second, there is a huge market for this - to start there are 20 million farmers in Nepal all cooking for their cows on an open fire and a government subsidy system that would make it affordable to all socio-economic groups. As well as answering the big questions there have been a number of academic research outcomes; the first is that the data from this pilot has been used to write a research paper that will advise the Nepali Government on the correct steps to create an institutional cooking market (currently under review at Development in Practice). Second, the results of the pilot are so successful that we are writing another paper on how we achieved it – to be submitted very soon!

Finally, I would like to thank Live to Love for all their support over the years and whose hard work and belief in me made this all possible. This project will continue to benefit peoples’ lives for a long time to come!

In April this year London based photographer Safeena Chaudry was granted special access to photograph the Kung-Fu nuns at the Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery in Nepal, and learn about their self-defence training, campaigns against human trafficking and awareness-raising about violence against women. The results can now be seen in her Women Against Crimes exhibition at the Gower Street Gallery in Central London and proceeds from the sale of the prints will help to fund the reconstruction of the Amitabha Nun's accommodation following the devastation caused by the earthquake in 2015.

On July 17th there be be a lunchtime conversation at the gallery with Safeena and Diana Cook from Live To Love UK; together they will discuss the Kung Fu Nuns and the power of an ancient tradition in modern times - click here for details

The exhibition has been extended to run throughout August. On August 7th, at 1:00 pm, there will be a conversation at the gallery with Safeena and Di Cook from Live To Love UK; together they will discuss the Kung Fu Nuns and the power of an ancient tradition in modern times - click here for details and tickets.

Click here if you would like to make a donation towards the Amitabha Nun's Accommodation Reconstruction

A year after we completed phase 1, distributing 119 cookstoves directly benefitting over 800 women, children and men, I am back in Kathmandu and ready to take on the challenge of developing the project into something that is sustainable for the future.

Last year we identified a further 108 households that would benefit from using an improved cookstove and a few days ago I went back to these communities to check if this was still the case. Unfortunately it was: these people remain in desperate poverty and in need of help. During this trip I also visited a selection of the households that we have previously helped. The results were mixed. All were using the cookstoves but the majority seemed to be using them as a secondary rather than primary cooking method i.e. using the cookstoves in conjunction with the traditional open fire. For me this is a success - they are using the cookstoves! With limited education and training programs these people are using the cookstoves.

So, the first cultural barrier has been overcome but there is still work to do. We talked to the communities about how to improve the cookstove itself and also how to improve our training programs. It is now key that we take these learnings into the next phase of the project. As a result, I am in the process of designing a training event that will get people excited about using the cookstoves as well as educating the local people about the health benefits for themselves and their children of using this alternate method of cooking.

We are currently manufacturing the next batch of domestic stoves and will distribute them this autumn. Warm thanks go to the Rotary Club of Gloucester and Severn who have so kindly sponsored the units for both phases of this project.

Not only are we running a household cookstove program but this time we have a larger cookstove, of my own design, that can be used by schools and monasteries. This cookstove is incredibly efficient and produces a form of charcoal whilst cooking. The production of charcoal brings a whole other dimension to cooking as it means that we can increase the attractiveness of the cookstove by creating an entrepreneurial model that will empower women and drive local micro-economies to alleviate poverty. Already in this project we have partners in the University of Nottingham UK and a large outreach organisation in Nepal.

In the first few weeks we have made good progress but lots still to do! I will keep you all posted!


Big thanks to Ivor Twydell who has just had quite an adventure – cycling through the whole night in a 100km fundraiser in Bristol. An awful lot of hills to be navigated (the city is so not Amsterdam) and the wear and tear of pushing a body that really wanted to be in bed by 2am! Ivor was cycling for Live to Love and his daughter, Rebecca, was riding alongside in aid of a domestic violence refuge unit in Bristol. Ivor was fundraising in support of our projects in Nepal and Ladakh – one of which is bringing portable rocket stoves to remote communities outside Kathmandu that are still struggling more than 2 years after the devastating earthquake of April 2015. And another initiative in partnership with a fantastic group of young students ( to recycle plastic bottles into houses!

You can donate to Live to Love by clicking onto Ivor’s fundraising page or by clicking on the donate page on our site for unrestricted funds.


This is an interview conducted by Jarvis Smith with His Holiness on his award as Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

We were absolutely delighted to welcome His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa – the founder of Live to Love – to the UK this month. His Holiness came to receive an Honorary Fellowship from Wolfson College, University of Oxford, which was awarded in recognition of his tireless work in the Himalayas to protect and preserve cultural heritage in the region.

Wolfson College organised a wonderful two day programme, which included private visits to the Bodleian Library and the Pitt Rivers Museum to see rare archive materials and which culminated in a very special ceremony event followed by a Tibetan cultural programme. There were many discussions on potential partnerships to support heritage work in the Himalayas, with a special focus on the development and expansion of Hemis Museum in Ladakh, one of His Holiness’s flagship projects.

You can view or download the transcript of the speeches from this link

You can see a video of the presentation and addresses here


Continuing to support the victims of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal

Through the autumn of 2016 our focus was on a rocket stove initiative in Nepal. As part of our house construction project following the 2015 Nepalese earthquake, we are aiming to ‘build back better’ and related to this is the provision of rocket stoves. Many of the remote communities in Nepal still use traditional open fires without chimneys and this often leads to serious eye and respiratory problems, especially in children and in the women who tend the fires. Rocket stoves require a fraction of the fuel used in a standard fire, are well ventilated and emit much less smoke thereby supporting better health and safety for families. Two intrepid engineering students, Ben Robinson and George Lewis, set off to Kathmandu in August to supervise the design and build of a small portable stove that could be taken into remote areas that were still experiencing great hardship 2 years after the earthquake.

Ben and George’s initial brief was to identify families, schools and other community groups that were in desperate need of new cooking facilities, to demonstrate the benefits of using a ‘rocket stove’, and to train people in how to use them. And then to organise the manufacture and delivery of stoves where needed. Please follow the links below to read their report and watch the video – they had quite an adventure! They managed to distribute 119 stoves, bringing benefit to over 800 women, men and children and a further 108 families have been identified as urgently requiring stoves; these will be supplied in phase 2 of the project in 2017.

Huge thanks to Ben and George for all that they achieved and to the Gloucester and Severn Rotary Club for their wonderful support of this project. A further thank you to our partners on the ground -Sindhu Welfare Society (based in Nepal and NYC), Hylomo Association and the Panchakanya Group – who gave invaluable help to this initiative.

Following on from the rocket stove initiative last autumn, Ben Robinson decided to undertake, as his master’s year research project, the design of an institutional rocket stove. Here is his proposal in his own words:

‘A major area of interest for me is Appropriate Technology – creating sustainable solutions to major problems in the developing world. With the support of my tutor, Dr Mike Clifford, who is a world leader in Cookstove technology, I would like to design and develop an Institutional Cookstove for use in Nepal. Currently, there is only one manufacturer producing these and each one costs approx. $1000 USD. My proposal would be to design and create a low cost alternative that could be easily transported whilst remaining robust and efficient; it could be built in country and aimed at the more remote regions such as Sindhupalchowk. This will create a ‘trickle up’ and ‘trickle down’ development when carried out in conjunction with the rocket stove project that is already being facilitated. Both the poorest in the region and bulwarks of society – the schools and monasteries – will possess this technology in one form or another, thereby helping to educate the whole population and create truly sustainable development that is much needed.’

Live to Love is facilitating Ben’s return to Nepal this autumn both to build the prototype institutional stove and to continue with the build and distribution of domestic rocket stoves in the region. Many thanks to the Gloucester and Severn Rotary Club for their continuing support of this valuable project.

Please follow this link to read Ben's report on his visit, and follow this link to see a video about the visit.

Live to Heal

The Amchi System of Medicine, commonly known as Sowa-Rigpa, has similarities with Ayurvedic medicine in India and is the traditional medicine in many parts of the Himalayas. It is an ancient, well documented, living medical tradition based in the region’s Buddhist philosophy. The term Sowa-Rigpa means ‘science of healing’. In 2016, Live to Love UK sent a second grant to help support the Ladakhi Society for Traditional medicines (LSTM) run a second ‘Woman and Child Health’ workshop for 28 local Sowa Rigpa practitioners (Amchis). The workshop provided the Amchis with training in awareness raising, offering advice and providing treatment services, all of which can be shared with other practitioners in more remote communities. The participating Amchi and villager leaders were delighted with the workshops and said they have a very positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the women and children in their communities. For more information on LSTM please click here


Prior to the Naropa Ceremony in Ladakh in September 2016, and in partnership with Live to Love France, Live to Love UK supported work at Hemis Monastery Museum to enhance the exhibition’s layout, presentation and factual commentary. Funds were made available to sponsor two French specialists to complete the work over a six month period.

Bottle House project

We are currently supporting an initiative created by 8 enterprising students at the University of Nottingham and plan to help them build their first, earthquake proof house in Nepal this summer – from recycled plastic bottles! Here is the description of the project by team member, Kate Clayson:

‘Bottle by Bottle is a social enterprise composed of 8 students from the University of Nottingham, UK, aiming to mediate the construction of plastic bottled housing in Nepal. We have just returned from a successful 2 week trip in Nepal which has helped us in our next steps to scale Bottle by Bottle. During our time in Nepal we were successful in establishing a relationship with Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) and Architects Sons Frontieres (ASF), whom we met in Kathmandu and have been useful in providing us with the supplies of plastic bottles as well construction knowledge. HCI provided us with 23 volunteers whom we trained in bottle filling as they work alongside the National Volunteers programme. In addition to this, we were very lucky to have been invited to Druk Amitabha Mountain DGK Nunnery where we were successful in training 8 of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa’s nuns to fill plastic bottles with sand; these nuns are going to in turn teach others this skill.

As this was a research trip for us we have planned to return in September to build a home for a woman who isn’t eligible for the Nepali government grant. She is currently living in a tin sheet shack in Panchkhal. Thus, in preparation for our build in September we have signed our first employee whom we are employing part time for a month in August to manage the filling of plastic bottles that we will be using for our build in September. This build will help us gain approval on our building technique by the National Reconstruction Authority in Nepal, which is necessary to acquire to allow even more of our plastic bottled houses to be built.

After our visit to Nepal, it became obvious to us that plastic waste is an issue. HCI run a social enterprise named, ‘Friends of the City’, creating employment opportunities for disadvantaged Nepali women to collect and sort the plastic bottles. They themselves as a single enterprise collect 1-2 tonnes of plastic bottles every day from the streets of Kathmandu, highlighting the urgency of needing to deal with this ongoing issue. As there is no use for the bottles, Friends of the City squish the bottles down and send them to India. But with these bottles that are otherwise thrown away, we can build homes - homes that are a third cheaper than normal conventional homes, homes that provide a safe shelter for the people of Nepal.

I would also like to say thank you very much to Live to Love for arranging our invitation to meet the most wonderful nuns at Druk Amitabha! After speaking to the team we all had to decide our favourite moment of the trip that wasn't the morning we met the nuns! It was an amazing experience.’

Kate Clayson – Bottle by Bottle

For more information on this inspiring initiative please visit their website and Facebook page

Education International: Druk Padma Karpo School

We continue to run a child sponsorship scheme for both residential and day students of Druk Padma Karpo School (DPKS) in Ladakh, India. The scheme offers support to children whose parents lack the financial means to provide their children with a good education. During the last year Live to Love Society UK has mobilised funds to enable 18 children to attend the school as residential students and 3 as day students. In partnership with Blue Bell School Delhi, DPKS sends teachers for training at the Blue Bell School during the winter. Live to Love UK has raised monies to support two teachers to attend this course this month. Live to Love UK continues to support the work of its sister charity, Drukpa Trust, in the construction of Druk Padma Karpo School. In the last year, £24,022 was transferred to Drukpa Trust for this purpose. For more information on the school please click here

Education UK: Mindfulness Programme

During the year, two grants were made to Live to Love UK mindfulness teachers. The first was to help support two shorter courses of 6 weeks each for (i) a network of local carers and parents of disabled children in north London and (ii) clients of a London organisation which helps support unemployed ex-service personnel re-adjust to life out of service and get back into the labour market. The second grant was made as a bursary fund to enable a group of unemployed and low-wage adults in West Sussex attend an 8 week mindfulness course at a subsidised rate.

Eye Camps

In 2016 Live to Love UK sent funds to support the Live to Love Eye Camps held in Nepal and Ladakh. This has enabled the completion of many cataract operations to restore the sight of people whose lives have been devastated by the onset of blindness.

Animal Welfare

The animal rescue centre established by Live to Love and Young Drukpa Association Ladakh, helps a wide range of animals in need and the ever growing problem of street dogs. The centres offers medical assistance to injured animals and a sterilisation programme for dogs. Live to Love continues to support this project.

Live to Rescue

The Live to Rescue centre in Nang, Ladakh, run by the Young Drukpa Association, is now in its third year. The team have rescued many street dogs from certain slaughter when dog numbers in urban and village areas became excessive. Live to Rescue have now re-homed many of the dogs, but still maintain a policy of providing a home at the centre for sick, old or aggressive dog. They also run a sterilising service in their Leh clinic, as well as treating animals that are diseased or injured.

In addition to dogs the centre has cows, goats and chickens. Most of the chickens were rescued from becoming ‘chicken dinner’ and can now enjoy a full lifespan. In several cases, the cows and goats had been injured by vehicles on the road. All the animals enjoy human love and care, as well as good and regular food. Live to Rescue runs a waste-food collection service which receives left-overs from top hotels and restaurants in Leh - so these animals are very well fed!

His Eminence Thuksey Rinpoche - chair of YDA - told us of His vision to create a green park-area around the rescue centre where people can come to walk the dogs and get to know and understand them, thus helping educate local people to appreciate the loving qualities of ‘man’s best friend’ and to look on them with care and compassion.

Donations towards the costs of running and employing staff at the centre and clinic are gratefully received. Click here to go to our donate page and select the Live to Rescue: Animal Sanctuary Appeal button.

Himalayan Glacier Waterkeeper Initiative

To help protect and preserve our planet for the future this exciting initiative is being taken forward in Ladakh by the Young Drukpa Association in partnership with Live to Love International.

Representatives from the Waterkeeper Alliance USA visited the Druk Padma Karpo School in July to launch the initiative. Sharon Khan, Waterkeeper Alliance’s International Director, spoke to an audience of local VIPs, community members and the children of DPKS about the value of keeping Ladakh’s glacial waters clean and drinkable so that the billions of people dependent on the Himalaya’s extensive river system can also benefit from clean water.

The day also included training the first batch of Ladakhi ‘waterkeepers’ in how to monitor the streams coming into and leaving the villages and how to manage and reduce any pollutants. Traditionally streams and rivers have been carefully protected and cared for, however modern washing detergents and changes in sanitation habits have been putting the water under threat, especially in areas popular with tourists.

Over the coming months YDA plans to roll out this grass-root initiative to twenty glacial streams and rivers in the Indus valley.

Druk Padma Karpo School – Education Support

Now in its fifteenth year since opening in 2001 DPKS has seen four ‘Year 10’ classes matriculate with pass-rates increasing from 90% to 100% in 2016. Every year there are more demands on the school’s team of teachers to meet the growing needs of their students and to equip them with the confidence and skills required to succeed in a modern world.

To this end DPKS runs a teaching training programme over the winter holiday in partnership with Bluebells School International, one of the top five schools in Delhi. The training, which lasts for four weeks, builds both team and leadership skills as well as galvanising good teaching methodologies and practice.

The cost of this four week residential programme along with flights to Delhi is just £300 per teacher. This winter seven teachers will benefit from the programme.

If you wish to help sponsor a teacher’s training, please contact us on or visit our Donate page and select the DWLS Educational Support Appeal button.

For further up-to date news on DPKS please visit the school's Facebook page

Join Young Drukpa Association (YDA) and Live to Love International in building a green reservoir that will serve nearly 8,000 people, prevent troubling disputes in an already geo-politically fragile region and save lives.

This reservoir taps water sources that are not currently utilized and would promote an equitable irrigation system to the region. We are almost there! We have already raised 73% ($122,470) of the of the total project cost of $167,140. The remaining $44,670 (27%) will cover remaining construction at this final stage in its execution.

In addition to the project construction cost, the administrative expenses are very low - estimated at $2,500 - which will be used for the transportation and consultation fee for engineers and miscellaneous expenses.

On 11-15 September 2016 at the Sonam Norbu Memorial Hospital, Leh, Ladakh the 10th Eye Camp will take place. Live to Love will partner with Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Young Drukpa Association Ladakh, and Health Department Leh to perform 350 surgeries.

Since 2009, Live to Love has restored sight to over 1,500 Himalayans. The Himalayan people suffer from a high incident of cataracts – which frequently lead to complete blindness. Live to Love performs free eye surgery restoring eyesight to hundreds who medically qualify. We also provide post-operative care to patients, and we house their family members during surgery and recovery.

Re-building progress. Please click here to see a recent report in pdf format.

A happy day for many patients who have had their bandages removed. You can see many faces beaming with joy and excitement when they can finally see clearly.

During this two-day Eye Camp, the team from Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology has operated on a total of 178 patients.

A note of appreciation to all the parties who have helped in this cause, namely the doctors and paramedical staff from Tilganga, the nuns of Druk Amitabha Mountain DGK Nunnery, the volunteers and the various Live To Love International Chapters throughout the world who have been fundraising for this cause.

Last but not least, our sincere thanks go to the generous support of the donors from all over the world who made this Eye Camp possible.

Solar house Animal Clinic Construction under progress at the Live to Rescue Centre at Nanag
Live To Love UK is promoting village-to-village action in the Painswick area of the Cotswolds to help some of the many Nepalese people displaced by the catastrophic earthquakes earlier this year. Villagers in Painswick are encouraged to directly support villagers in the Kathmandu valley, and see them rebuild their lives and communities. If each home in the village of Painswick gives just £10, then we could build 15 homes.

In October local residents will be asked to make a donation and place a model brick to build symbolic houses in the Cotswolds that will create real homes in Nepal.

The following announcement has been made by Wolfson College.
Wolfson College Letterhead


It is a pleasure to announce the creation of the Gyalwang Drukpa Scholarship at Wolfson College, named in honour of the Founder of Live to Love International. The scholarship is an MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies and the first recipient is Joshua Daugherty, who has recently completed his first Masters degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Joshua is American by birth and has spent considerable time in Asia. His intention for the MPhil is for rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship exploring traditional forms of literature and hagiography, as well as the cultural, iconographic and philosophical evolution of the region.

Yoga and Mindfulness class in Painswick


Immense thanks to Kim and Ivor in Painswick, Gloucestershire who have run 4 yoga/mindfulness classes this summer in aid of the Nepal appeal. And to the supporters of these classes who have donated an astonishing £1500.10!

Additional fundraising classes will be taking place on Tuesday 29 September and Tuesday 27 October at 7pm at The Painswick Centre.

We have completed over 200 earthquake resistant foundations/structures for homes in the villages listed below. We focused on villages that where a high proportion of the men are absent, working elsewhere, which means that the rebuilding is left to women and the elderly. While we wait for the official photos, here are some snap shots. Please note that all the homes with blue roofs were provided by Live to Love.

  • 1 Naya Gay
  • 2 Phokri Dalda
  • 3 Cheso Pani
  • 4 Havaldar Basti
  • 5 Kala Bari
  • 6 Tin Gar Banjang
  • 7 Tusal
  • 8 Dada Gay
  • 9 Adisor

In keeping with the local tradition, we are building the homes WITH the Nepali families. They are using materials from their previous homes to rebuild and many of them are not yet complete.

We are still waiting for an final comment on the community halls. These are meant to house over 100 people and are, in the case of Nuwakot, located near a heavily damaged school. These halls may double as class room facilities.

Live to Love International volunteers and partners continue working hard for the completion of one community hall and 201 earthquake and wind resistant homes for 9 selected villages in Ramkot in the Kathmandu Valley. Structures of 166 homes have been fabricated and installed, with 45 more on the way. 11 other community halls in 5 other districts are under construction.
Incessant rains in the last few days in Ladakh have caused flash floods, resulting in damage to summer crops, houses and buildings and creating widespread panic. Photos of the Druk Padma Karpo School have just been received; please stay tuned to see how you can help with the relief efforts…