With Wonderful Tibetan Orphans, Reflecting on How I Got Here

Tawang, India. Twenty-five years ago, I stumbled upon a ten-month old infant in Indonesia who would change the direction of my life: my son, Mathew James Tendean Luce.

IMG_6221With incredible Tibetan orphans, high up in the Himalayas on the
Bhutan/China border at Manjushree. Photo: Stewardship Report.

My mother, a child psychologist in Boston, encouraged me to make a difference with orphan care in the developing world. When she passed in 2001, she left funds to establish Orphans International Worldwide (OIW).

Archives_Luce_Mathew_007 2Mathew James Tendean Luce, the impetus of my passion, the day after
he left his orphanage in Indonesia. Photo: Stewardship Report.

We began in Sulawesi, Indonesia, with Protestant children (2001), followed by Roman Catholic orphans in Haiti after Hurricane Jeanne (2003), and then an exploration of needs with then-president Bharrat Jagdeo in my mentor Cheddi Jagan’s home of Guyana, South America – split between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese (2002).

153052087306850089_89SdHFr6_fWith the children of Orphans International Sri Lanka
after the 2004 Tsunami. Photo: Stewardship Report.

The Tsunami ripped across the Indian Ocean in 2004 and we were called to support new orphans – Muslim children in Sumatra, Indonesia and Buddhist children in Sri Lanka. They told me of climbing palm trees and watching their parents be swept away. At about the same time we began a home for Hindu orphans in Bali.

New_York_Post-Tsunami_Saint_DDubbed “Tsunami Saint” by the New York press, the author began work in both 
Indonesia and Sri Lanka after the 2004 Tsunami. Photo: Stewardship Report.

My father, a college professor, was excited about Young Global Leadership and inspired us to build our foundation in 2008 after he passed. For legacy, we named it The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation.

153052087306845303_2ZDEUd6m_fGround breaking for a new campus at Orphans International Sumatra
in Indonesia after the 2004 Tsunami. Photo: Stewardship Report.

I had studied literature in Tokyo in college and moved to New York with a Japanese bank that taught me finance. In 2009, at fifty, I left Wall Street, taking a vow of poverty and giving away all my money (see: Will a Vow of Poverty Fill the Void in My Soul?). At sixty, we are launching The Luce Collection to sell what I have left, my family’s possessions, to keep our charities alive.

BIHARVisiting “Untouchables” in rural India, 2012. I wrote “Touching the Untouchables
in a Rural Indian Village” for The Huffington Post. Photo: Stewardship Report.

But I get ahead of myself. The Naughts — the 2000’s — were filled with projects and exploration in Togo, Ghana, Tanzania, Madagascar and, closer to home, the Dominican Republic. An earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010 and we continued our work there as well.

224378_6216638827_5013_nComforting an orphaned child in Togo, West Africa,
2007. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Around this time we partnered with Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura, daughter of a Japanese Living Treasure whose family had helped build the silk industry in Kyoto. Through Dr. Kazuko, who I affectionately know as “sensei,” we began to assist the Tibetan orphanage in Tawang, India, very high up in the Himalayas near Bhutan.

DSC01607The children of Orphans International Sulawesi in Indonesia
loved their house cat. Photo: Stewardship Report.

We launched the Manjushree Fund in 2014 to build an endowment to support Tibetan orphans and destitute children in perpetuity, and in 2015 provide funds to help build a four-story academic, one million dollar building on Manjushree’s Himalayan campus.

IMG_5567Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura with the building she built for Tibetan children at
Manjushree Orphanage in India behind her. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Last year I was taking a taxi to JFK to fly to Jamaica. The young driver asked if I was off on holiday? I replied, no, in fact, to work with children and university students there. He inquired about my work, asking more and more questions. He seemed very thoughtful.

153052087306850166_GapFn8So_fWith orphans of Hurricane Jeanne at Orphans International
Haiti in Gonaïves, 2008. Photo: Stewardship Report.

As he helped unpack my bags from the trunk, he said, “You must be Jim Luce.” I was speechless. “I want to thank you for you work around he world,” he continued. “For, you see, I am a graduate of Manjushree Orphanage and was educated in the building you helped build.”

Archives_Luce_Mathew_001Mathew James Tendean Luce in Kindergarten,
Queens, N.Y. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Another program we have launched is the Luce Leadership Experience, exposing Young Global Leaders in New York to Ancient Greece, the Muslim-majority Indonesia, with plans to tour Jamaica, Taiwan, and even Israel and Palestine.

Our_Founder_uni_optAuthor visiting orphans in the north of Togo, West Africa.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

Last summer our Young Global Leaders visited Matt Luce’s Presbyterian orphanage in North Sulawesi. Orphans International’s primary mission is treating those in our care they way we would our own – “Mathew’s Rule.”

xxx bMathew Luce, adopted at age ten in 1995, holds a ten-month old
infant in the same orphanage, 2018. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Matt delighted in showing the group where he was raised from birth until infancy. His biological father had skipped town and his mother had died in labor, leaving him abandoned. The elderly women who had cared for him in 1994 were summoned from retirement and they showed him the actual crib in storage he had been placed in. It was an amazing moment full of love and tears.

xxx cA nighttime fire ravaged the Nazareth Presbyterian Orphanage where
Mathew Luce lived his first ten months. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Two weeks ago we received word that this Indonesian orphanage was on fire. It began in the middle of their night and I started getting text messages of massive flames engulfing the home. We could not get word at first on the safety of the children – all sixty were pulled out unharmed, and the loving staff were likewise safe. In the morning, all that remained was a wall with the Angel Gabriel.

xxx aThe next morning, all that remained of the orphanage was the
Angel Gabriel, seemingly unscathed. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Here at Manjushree they speak of the Cycle of Life. That the children here graduate, go off to university, and a few return to teach the next generation. In my family, my son Mathew has pledged to go back to Indonesia and spearhead reconstruction with funds from our friends, through our charities.

IMG_6171Author hanging out with the guys between classes at Manjushree Orphanage
in Tawang, India. Photo: Stewardship Report.

For me, it has come full circle with the ten month old infant I adopted 24 years ago – the impetus for beginning Orphans International – growing up and taking over. In the same orphanage he was placed in at birth. Surrounded here at Manjushree by Tibetan orphans, I wonder which of them will play a key role in my future?

Archives_Luce_Mathew_006The author, with a new child – and terrible food poisoning –
North Sulawesi, Indonesia, 1996. Photo: Stewardship Report.


  1. The Dalai Lama & Dr. Kazuko: A 47-Year Friendship
  2. Tibetan Children’s Village: Step One to Success
  3. India: Great Protector of the Tibetan People
  4. With Incredible Tibetan Orphans, Reflecting on How I Got Here
  5. Meet Japanese Grandmother of Tibetan Orphanage in India
  6. Lama Thupten Phuntsok: Tibetan Monk’s Life Outside Monastery 
  7. First Trip to Tibetan Orphanage High in Himalayas
  8. Dharamshala for Americans: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Hometown
  9. Himalayas: From India/Pakistan to Bhutan & Nepal + Chinese Tibet
  10. Himalayas: Once Greater Tibet, Now Tragically Divided 
  11. Meet American Lobsang Sangay, President of Tibet
  12. Dr. Kazuko: Planning Nine Orphanages Globally Through Gaia
  13. Viewpoint: Whatever Faith Tradition, It’s All About Kindness
  14. Orphanage Burns in Indonesia; Matt Luce Pledges to Rebuild
  15. At Fifty, I Gave Away My Wealth; at Sixty, My Possessions
  16. Autumn Elegant Evening to Highlight Charity Efforts Around World
  17. New Look: Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness at Tenth Year
  18. Luce Leadership Experience Looks to Israel after Greece, Indonesia Trips
  19. Charities at Twenty Confer Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Kazuko
  20. New Look: Orphans International Website Refreshed for 20th Anniversary


  1. On Pilgrimage: Following the Footsteps of Buddha Across N.E. India
  2. Under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya Where the Prince Became The Buddha
  3. Photo Essay of Bodh Gaya, Where Buddha Became Enlightened
  4. Next Step of Indian Pilgrimage: Vultures’ Peak Where Buddha Preached
  5. Touching the Untouchable in a Rural Indian Village
  6. Rediscovering the World’s First Great University in Buddhist India
  7. Buddhism for Beginners: Insights from a Non-Buddhist
  8. Buddhism and the Universal Concept of Social Responsibility
  9. Help Me to Support Education & Orphan Care in Bihar, India
  10. Most-Photographed Man in the World Prepares to Retire
  11. Yoshimitsu Nagasaka Photo Exclusive: The Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya
  12. Varanasi: Holy City of Buddhists – As Well as Hindus, Jainists, Jews
  13. On the Banks of the Ganges: Reflections of a Journey in Time
  14. My Pilgrimage Complete: Life Continues Like a Wheel
  15. Pilgrimage Postscript: Pneumonia and Possible T.B.


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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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