Dharamsala, a city in India
Once I arrived to Dharamsala, I sent a letter to my family in Tibet to let them know I was safe in India. This happened after four months of traveling and my family not knowing where I was. I could not ever repay the debt to my mother for causing her so much sadness. Later when I went back home in 2003, I learnt the whole extent of the trouble that I had created for my family.
Potato & Onions just add noodles
I studied English at the Exile Government Library for two years. I managed to find an American sponsor who gave me 700 rupees ($15) per month to study English. I found a place to share with two other Tibetans who were also studying English. Those two years were so hard, we ate one piece of bread in the morning, no lunch and then dinner. Our dinner was always noodles with potato and onion. I still do not eat breakfast these days because of this experience. Our rent was 250 rupee each per month, and 250 rupee for food, which left me only 200 rupees for the whole month.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives
During those two years I had no formal classes – I studied from tourists who were travelling around India. I think I changed over 100 teachers, because most of them came to Dharamsala for only a few weeks. In those days we had many young Tibetans who hung around the Library to look for Westerners. When we spotted one we would go to him/her and ask “excuse me, can I practice my English with you?”. Most of them were very good to us, and taught us English for a few days or a few weeks.
Norbulingka Institute is dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan culture
In those two years while I studied English so hard, I managed to find a job at the Norbulingka Institute. The Norbulingka Institute is dedicated to preserving and handing down the Tibetan traditions and raising the standards for Tibetans by providing training, education and employment. It creates and supports an environment in which the Tibetan community and family values can flourish. It respectfully reconciles traditional creativity with the modern, and seeks to create an international awareness of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature.
I held the position of Cafe Manager for one year, and then I was promoted to the Manager of the Museum.
I met my previous Australian wife at Norbulingka Institute where she worked as a volunteer graphic designer. We were the same age and had fallen in love. In 1996 we were married in India at the Hotel Tibet which was then the biggest hotel in Dharamsala. We set up a silk screen business and printed our own design t-shirts. We sold them in McLeod Ganj (Dharamsala) to foreign tourists to raise money for my air ticket to Australia. I came to Australia in 1997.
Snow Lion – mind free of doubt, cheerfulness
I worked as a disabled support worker for four years in Sydney. I studied English and completed a Tour Guide course through TAFE in Sydney. During that time I also set up a travel company called Snow Lion Travel (In Tibet the snow lion represents unconditional cheerfulness, a mind free of doubt, clear and precise). I took two tour groups to India, but because of a lack of experience and not enough funds I had to close the company.
Unfortunately my marriage did not survive. I moved to Brisbane in 2003 and have been living here ever since. I have been selling goods from India and Tibet at the weekend markets for four years and I work five days a week as a disabled support work.
I found love again. I was in India visiting friends when I met a shy Tibetan girl who was the sister of one of my close friends. We spent time together and I realized that she was the one for me. We shared many interests and beliefs and a cultural background. Kalsang had been born in India to Tibetan parents in Southern India and was intelligent, articulate and University educated as well as pretty. She was an Auditor with the Tibetan Government in Exile and had completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree in India.
Kalsang and I were married in 2005 and she moved to Brisbane Australia to start a new life with me. We have been blessed with two beautiful children – Samten, a girl, who is 6 and Kalden, a boy, who is 4.
Jamo school sponsored students TEF
I have visited Tibet many times during which I have met many poor families whose living conditions are desperate. All these families have difficulty sending their children to school in order to get a proper education and find it hard to feed themselves. I have also met many University students who are forced to live on bread for three meals a day due to the cost of school fees. In Tibet, the average labour worker’s wage is 120 Yuan a day which is equal to $20 AU, the university fee per semester is 4500 to 6000 Yuan ($675 – $900 AU).
Through meeting so many poor families, I learnt that many Tibetan families are experiencing the same conditions that my family experienced. I feel that so many children are forgotten, and it is these ‘forgotten’ ones who concern me the most.
I realized that I have a passion to try and answer the calls of the poor children who are eager to learn. I believe education is a path to freedom and liberation.
All these reasons gave me the motivation to set up the Tibetan Education Fund Inc. (TEF) together with the help of with some similarly minded friends. So far, the TEF are sponsoring around 163 disadvantaged children from multiple Tibetan regions. The children are attending Middle School, College and University. We also managed to build new gates, pave school grounds, and to paint Jamo and Dorshul Schools. We have also provided chairs and tables for Dorshul School and continue to regularly provide stationery for many schools.
Students of the Bumkhang school
In 2012 we have managed to open a Childcare Centre for local poor farming children. So far we look after
46 children with the help of two teachers and a cook. The cost for running the Centre is $750+ per month. The entire cost to run the Centre is coming from TEF’s regular events in Brisbane. It has been a challenging year for TEF with the Childcare Centre, but rewarding as we are providing early education to 46 children and their families.
Based on their finances, different families have highly differing educational opportunities. Many Tibetans are not able to send their children to school because of their financial situation and living conditions. Due to being farmers, their children must work on the farm or herd livestock. In addition, even the families which can afford to send their children to school cannot do so because there are no preschool or kindergarten programs in the villages. The aim of the Childcare Centre is to provide basic education and health care to children so they may have new opportunities in the emerging world. Some of them may even become Doctors or Teachers.
In other areas in the regions, children start preschool or kindergarten at the age of four. However, in Rebgong (and other parts of Tibet), children do not have the opportunity to start their basic education in pre-school and kindergarten due to the lack of pre-school and kindergarten facilities. Therefore, children only have the option to start learning basics at the age of seven. However, a seven year old in other parts of China would already have gained enough knowledge to read and write. Therefore, Tibetan children in areas like Rebgong lag behind other students in basic education and never really have the opportunity to catch up.
Vision for Tibetan Education Fund Inc.
Preserve Tibetan Culture
Preserving Tibetan culture is vitally important for the future of all Tibetans.
The survival of the unique Tibetan Culture is dependent upon the children of Tibet. Further, the children of Tibet need education to improve their lives over that of their parents –the same aspirations as we have for our children in the West.
The TEF’s main priority is to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged children to study and to create more opportunities for their future. In 2014 we would like to extend the TEF sponsorship program. Our aim is twofold:
- To extend our reach to more students from all over Tibet. The ability to go to Middle School and beyond to University is something that many students in rural Tibet can only dream about. Our goal is to make that a reality for as many students as possible.
- To continue to run the Childcare Centre. The families who utilize the Centre have come to understand the value of the Centre and are starting to reap the benefits from having their children cared for in such a way. The children in the Childcare Centre are flourishing from the teaching and the healthy environment created by the dedicated teachers. We have provided employment for the teachers and the cook which is important to the local community. It is vital to keep this Centre alive for the residents of Rebgong.
In order to achieve our goals, we need your support to help us to help these children.
Mr. Wanday Dondrup
Chair, Tibetan Education Fund Inc.
Phone: 0422 720 542
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