Roosevelt Islanders Go Around the World, Helping Neediest


We’ve been following Roosevelt Islanders Jim and Bix Luce and their strenuous treks through India. Funded by local foundations with multiple lines of help, they’ve been opening schools for “untouchable” kids and collaborating with local leaders. Following is a digest of their most recent efforts from notes sent from high in the Himalayas.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

COVID Keeps Roosevelt Islanders From the Dalai Lama

“OK, I came home while Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura stayed to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama yesterday, Luce wrote in his most recent dispatch. “He could only meet with one of us because of corona restrictions.”

“I volunteered to return. I have a lot of campaigning to do, so that’s fine. I will be back in August and then November. To the school. Hoping to bring the head of our board to New York for training in December.”

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, is the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Dr. Kazuko Tatumura is a member of the N.Y. Global Leaders Lions Club and a major supporter of Manjushree Orphanage high in the Himalayas on the Chinese border of what used to be Tibet. This boarding school affiliated with His Holiness the Dalai Lama hosts 240 Buddhist children.

“It was an exceedingly rare opportunity,” Jim Luce told The Daily. “We’re so grateful to Dr. Tatsumura for stepping up.”

Saraswati Free School of Saraswati Community Centre in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India near neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh. 

“The Centre is on an island like Roosevelt Island,” Luce said. 

“400 children, all Hindu “Untouchable,” live in this subsistence farming community surrounding the Centre. Most had never been to school before the Centre opened in April 2022. Most live in primitive homes made of brick or mud.

Saraswati Free School. The building and supplies and even the students’ uniforms are funded by money rounded up by Roosevelt Islanders Jim and Bix Luce.

“’Saraswati” is the Hindu and Buddhist God of Education. The Saraswati Centre, named after the bodhi tree across the dirt road from the Centre under which Lord Buddha sat on his path towards enlightenment, will have four buildings:

– The primary school is run by J. Luce Foundation India.

– Gaia Holistic Children’s Home pledged by Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura, will be run by Orphans International Worldwide of Roosevelt Island.

– The New York Global Leaders Lions Club of Roosevelt Island will oversee the Saraswati Health Clinic. Luce established a branch club in India from Roosevelt Island. This will be staffed by volunteer students from the local medical college.

– Luce Leadership Centre at Saraswati to be run by The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation of Roosevelt Island. This building will consist of high school and college classrooms and conference rooms, a cafeteria and dorm rooms/youth hostel.

The Saraswati Centre construction budget and first-year operating cost are approximately $850,000.

A roundup of Initiatives from Roosevelt Island Around the World

The New York Global Leaders Lions Club has three branch clubs: China, Indonesia, and India. It cooperates with other NYC Lions Clubs with roots in the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Japan and Bangladesh.

Jim Luce is now a candidate for District Governor of District 20-R2 (Staten Island through Manhattan to Westchester County). This Roosevelt Island-based Lions Club also runs the New York Shih Tzu Rescue Society.

Orphans International has run projects in Haiti (Leogane, Gonaives, Jacmel), Indonesia (Aceh, Manado, Bali), Sri Lanka (Galle), the Dominican Republic (Azua), and Tanzania (Moshi).

Jim Luce was an adjunct professor at the Caribbean Maritime University where a Luce Leadership Centre opening was halted by the Pandemic.

Post-Pandemic, Orphans International and J. Luce Foundation plans are underway to open or re-open centers in Indonesia (Sulawesi and Bali), Tanzania (Moshi/Maasai), Bangladesh (Sylhet), and Thailand (Isan), with conversations about Ghana, Ukraine, Panama, Colombia, and the Philippines ongoing.

How you can help:

Roosevelt Islanders are encouraged to donate to the Saraswati Free School through the J. Luce Foundation here.

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