US hostage killed in Syria taught Tibetans, nourished slum children

US hostage killed in Syria taught Tibetans, nourished slum children
US hostage killed in Syria taught Tibetans, nourished slum children
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Vishal Gulati (IANS) | The News Minute | February 13, 2015 | 08:37 am IST

Dharamsala: The woman US aid worker kidnapped by the Islamic State and killed in Jordanian airstrikes in Syria was inspired by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and was remembered for her humanitarian support to the Tibetans in exile. She also fed slum children in Uttar Pradesh, according to people who knew her.

Kayla Jean Mueller was believed to have been an aid worker with the Spanish Doctors Without Borders.

The 26-year-old was captured by the terrorist group along with her Syrian boyfriend, in Syria's Aleppo city in August 2013 and taken to the de facto IS capital of Raqqa, also in Syria.

Mueller had volunteered to teach English to Tibetan refugees during her two-month stay in Dharamsala in 2010, Lobsang Rabsel, coordinator for the Lha Charitable Trust based here, told IANS.

He said Mueller came to Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan administration in exile, soon after finishing her school as a tourist.

"When she came to know about our charity, she volunteered to work for us. She did some work for two months in June and July."

Besides humanitarian work, she was also associated with the trust's monthly magazine "Contact Magazine".

Mueller did editing and rewriting work for the magazine. She also interviewed people devoted to the Tibetan cause, he said.

"The magazine's goal is to bridge the gap between the East and the West and shed light on the Tibetan refugee situation," she wrote in 2010.

According to the Washington Post, in 2012, Mueller began working with victims of the conflict in Syria for humanitarian group Support to Life.

Her sympathisers here recalled that she was focused on understanding Tibetan culture and the sources of its spiritual sustenance.

During her stay here, she had an audience with the Dalai Lama, which she said was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of her life.

"The Tibetan cause is really incredible, and sitting with these people and hearing their stories and then teaching them English and then watching a film on Chinese brutality, (it) has all come together to cause me some heartache, as it's so much sorrow to take in and it surrounds you here," one of her posts said.

On the Dalai Lama's birthday July 6, 2010, Mueller coordinated the Tibet Hope Center's project called "We Love You: Dalai Lama".

Volunteers of charity Tibet Hope Center, also based here, said Mueller encouraged the Dalai Lama's sympathisers across the globe to pen a letter, a poem, an essay or draw a picture expressing their gratitude and love to the spiritual leader.

During her stay, she volunteered with many Tibetan groups and joined campaigns to highlight the cause of the Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, said Duke Tsering, who met her in Dharamsala.

While in India, Mueller, who studied political science at Northern Arizona University, also worked with Food for Life Vrindavan, a humanitarian aid group in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.

"She had a heart of gold. She volunteered for more than six months," said a post on the group's official website.

"She was very simple and humble. She loved the kids, without the 'fear' that many foreigners have. She made many friendships with the parents of the children, use to visit them in the slum, and even eat with them," it said.

The website also posted her photographs, donning Indian attires, with the children.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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