Answers to frequently asked questions
In a nutshell: what is ROKPA?
ROKPA is an international non-profit organisation active in Nepal, Zimbabwe and South Africa. For more than 38 years, we have been helping provide young people with an education, and supporting the destitute and the sick. We primarily work with volunteers in order to ensure that a large proportion of donated funds reaches those who need it most. Our headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland and we are represented in 15 other countries. ROKPA is the Tibetan word for “help” or “friend”. ROKPA has no political or religious affiliations.
What are ROKPA’s core tasks and competencies?
- Takes in abandoned street children
- Protects orphans from exploitation and poverty
- Enables children and young people affected by poverty to have access to school education, further studies and vocational training – and thus to better prospects for the future
- Cares for children with disabilities and offers respite to their parents
- Helps single mothers to find a job
- Provides homeless people with hot meals
- Provides urgent medical aid and pays for life-saving operations
- Covers the costs of food and subsistence for destitute families
- Teaches organic food production and preserves traditional knowledge
Our work is not possible without financial support. Therefore, we are grateful for every donation.
How does ROPKA differ from other relief organisations?
ROKPA has been guided by the following core values for over 38 years:
- Working in close proximity to our beneficiaries
- Helping people to help themselves – even in places where no-one else is helping
- Sustainability because of our long-term support
- Taking good care of all donated funds and keeping administrative costs low
In Nepal former beneficiaries make up part of the ROKPA workforce. Thanks to their own experiences they know the needs of the people they work with and therefore play an invaluable role in project implementation.
ROKPA president Lea Wyler and her team of experts travel for several months each year to personally review and promote ROKPA projects. A small team of permanent employees at the ROKPA headquarters in Zurich, together with numerous volunteers, is responsible for project administration and reporting to the donors.
ROKPA has a worldwide network of qualified employees who volunteer their time and knowledge. At ROKPA, much of the work is done by volunteers enabling ROKPA to use your donations efficiently and keep administrative costs low.
ROKPA’s commitment is supported by numerous well-known personalities.
How can I support ROKPA?
ROKPA depends on your help to support destitute people in the Himalayas and southern Africa. Whether you make a one-off donation, collect money for ROKPA at your place of work , sponsor a project or include us in your will, we are deeply grateful for every donation you make to support our work. As a charitable organisation ROKPA is tax-exempt; you can deduct your donation from your taxes.
There are many ways to support ROKPA:
- by donating money (via payment slip, online banking, credit card, Postcard or PayPal on our website, SMS, standing order)
- by sponsoring a project
- with a legacy
- by donating your time as a volunteer
- by buying greeting cards or WalRo dolls in our ROKPA shop
- donate to ROKPA whilst shopping online – at no extra cost to you
- book a room at the ROKPA Guesthouse for your next trip to Kathmandu
- Treat yourself or your loved ones to handmade textiles from the Women’s Workshop. Are you looking for a suitable client gift? The ROKPA Women’s Workshop can also produce gifts tailored to your requirements.
- Are you celebrating an important birthday or anniversary soon and don’t want gifts? Join many of our donors and ask your relatives and friends to donate to ROKPA in your name.
- Losing a loved one is very painful. Mark this sad occasion and continue your social commitment in a sustainable way by donating to ROKPA in their memory.
- Does your company have a donation programme? Add ROKPA to the list! Many employers double employee donations to charitable organisations.
- Donations in kind: if you would like to support our projects with a donation in kind, please contact us. We will be happy to inform you what is currently needed on site.
- Tell your friends about ROKPA!
- For more inspiration: donors in action for ROKPA
We will be happy to provide you with further information on donation options by telephone 044 262 68 88 or by email info (at) rokpa.org.
You can order payment slips using our contact form.
Can I determine what my donation will be used for?
As a donor, you decide who you want to help:
- We are in constant contact with the people involved in our projects and know where immediate help is most needed. With a non-earmarked donation you enable us to act quickly and flexibly.
- If a particular project, topic or country appeals to you, note it in the purpose of payment and your donation will go exclusively to the beneficiaries chosen by you
- ROKPA offers project sponsorships because a longer commitment is more effective. Select the topic that is most important to you.
Why doesn’t ROKPA offer individual sponsorships? What is the difference between an individual sponsorship and a collective or project sponsorship?
To protect the children, ROKPA deliberately refrains from personal child sponsorship – in accordance with ZEWO (Swiss charitiy monitoring) recommendations.
Instead, your donations go towards our project and topic sponsorships which benefit not only a single child, but everyone around them.
How can I find out about the progress of individual projects?
The most important results of ROKPA’s assistance work are published in ROKPA Times, in our annual report as well as on our website.
Subscribe to ROKPA Times and our annual report free of charge.
As a project sponsor you will receive an annual overview of achievements in the area you support and you can learn from people who have been helped thanks to your contribution. We offer 6 project sponsorships in our core topics.
Will my address be passed on to other aid organisations?
Can I deduct my donation from my taxes?
Donations to ROKPA can be deducted both from the federal tax and from the cantonal and municipal taxes. This applies to both private individuals and companies. To assist with your tax return, we will provide you with a donation receipt at the end of February of the following year or on request.
I would like to get involved as a volunteer – what opportunities are there at ROKPA? How do I proceed?
Many qualified helpers support ROKPA by making their time and professional expertise available free of charge. Get involved – write to us!
All open voluntary positions can be found on our Voluntary Work page >
If you don’t see a current vacancy matching your abilities and wishes, write to us at info (at) rokpa.org.
Can I get a certificate of employment as a volunteer?
Yes. Volunteering both challenges and develops your own skills and competences, opening up new perspectives for your own life and work. ROKPA will therefore be happy to issue a reference for your voluntary work so that you can prove your commitment to potential employers.
Does ROKPA have the ZEWO seal of approval?
In 2016, ROKPA decided to end their 12 years of cooperation with the ZEWO quality label organisation. The combination of strategic planning and operational project work by the president and co-founder Lea Wyler, who has worked tirelessly for ROKPA for decades, is a necessity for our organisation, but would no longer have been possible due to the ZEWO guidelines. The use of the donations will of course continue to be audited annually by external auditors.
Why is ROKPA active in Africa?
Students of Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche, co-founder of ROKPA, who come from South Africa and Zimbabwe, expressed a wish to become part of ROKPA in order to help the many destitute people in their respective countries. Akong Rinpoche encouraged them to start their own projects.
The demand for a specific project came from the locals themselves who now carry out and operate their projects under the auspices of ROKPA. ROKPA INTERNATIONAL receives reports and regularly visits and evaluates the projects, ensuring that all projects comply with ROKPA guidelines.
Why does ROKPA no longer operate in the Tibetan areas of China?
Since 1990, ROKPA has been one of the most active aid organisations worldwide in the Tibetan highlands with a total of 457 projects implemented. After the death of former ROKPA president Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche in 2013, our work in the region became more and more difficult. Akong Rinpoche – and through him ROKPA – was under protection of the United Front, a Chinese government department responsible for the Overseas Tibetans.
After Rinpoche’s death, ROKPA was deprived of this protection making our commitment there too dangerous for all concerned. So it was with a heavy heart that we had to announce our withdrawal from this area.
ROKPA is not an isolated case: many other aid organisations such as the Swiss Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières were also forced to leave the region a few years ago.
At ROKPA we continue to monitor the situation and are in contact with local partners. We have not ruled out the possibility of resuming project activities one day, but this is not likely in the foreseeable future.
Of course, ROKPA continues its work in the service of the poorest and will therefore continue to rely on generous support in the future. Particularly in Nepal, but also in South Africa and Zimbabwe, we continue our commitment to helping disadvantaged and poverty-stricken people.
How does ROKPA measure the success of its work?
For ROKPA, the sustainability of the work performed has been an important indicator of success for over 38 years. In addition to the annual project visits, ROKPA is in contact with many former beneficiaries. We know what has happened to them, what profession they have learned and where they work today. In this way ROKPA is directly informed about positive developments as well as more challenging ones.
Furthermore, some of these young people are now involved in ROKPA projects themselves. The director of the ROKPA Children’s Home in Kathmandu, Nepal, is also one of the first street children taken in by Lea Wyler in the early 1990s.
What proportion of donations is spent on project management, administration and marketing?
One of ROKPA’s basic principles is to keep project management and administration costs as low as possible. For example, the founders of ROKPA never received a salary. ROKPA also relies on a team of volunteers, some of whom have been with the company for many years, especially for administrative matters but also for putting donated funds to work. A cost breakdown is provided in the annual report.
How does ROKPA ensure that donations are actually used for projects and are not squandered elsewhere?
This is an extremely important concern for ROKPA. Bookkeeping in the project countries is regularly monitored. Each year a project team visits the various project locations, assesses their progress and impact and draws up reports on the basis of questionnaires.
You have more questions? Please don't hesitate to contact us via info (at) rokpa.org .