Around the world in 21 days: Buddhist monk makes the journey to find his voice

Sixteen-year-old Drupon, who was afraid to speak, is now able to control his speech

Amanda McCarthy - 17 April 2018

In a Northeast town in India, there lived a boy who couldn't speak clearly. He would stammer, stumbling over words in English, Hindi, Sikkimese and Tibetan. So much so, that before the age of 13, he preferred not to talk at all.

Drupon Deachen Rinpoche, who is a Buddhist monk destined to lead his monastery, has many responsibilities. He conducts classes, debates and lectures-all of which were nearly impossible given his speech challenges.

"It was becoming a big problem for me because I couldn't talk. Even if I had a question about my studies and my classes, I couldn't ask."

But everything changed on March 16, 2016, when family doctor and friend John Barnhill emailed the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) on Rinpoche's behalf.

"My speech-language pathologist colleague recommended your service for a 16-year-old boy I have met in India. Please recommend where we could investigate treating his stutter-perhaps online with ISTAR?" the correspondence read.

From there, the journey began. A journey that posed the question: 'to what length would a person go to find their voice?'

For sixteen-year-old Rinpoche, that length was equal to a whopping 11,677 km.

His first stop was London, England. Then he travelled to Canada, making an appearance in Toronto before finally landing in Edmonton-at ISTAR.

"My first day at ISTAR, I was quite nervous," said Rinpoche. "When I had to introduce myself, I couldn't."

When he couldn't avoid speaking, Rinpoche often pinched himself or stomped his foot-something he found eased the stutter.

But this is no longer the case.

After just three weeks receiving treatment at ISTAR, Rinpoche's stutter started to fade. No pinching, no stomping, just smooth speech.

"I don't stammer a lot anymore. After learning fluency skills, I have success in controlling my speech."

And for that, he is grateful.

"It is very important for a place like ISTAR to exist. I am very thankful to the therapists for helping me out with my stutter, and I hope they can help many more people. I have found my voice!"