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Tibetan children

Wanday’s Story 1/3

Education was my path to freedom and liberation

My name is Wanday Dondrup and I come from Rebgong region in Tibet. This is my story.

Rebgong Region


Agricultural areas

Rebgong is a major county located in the center of Qinghai prefecture. There are 75 villages in the county of Rebgong. Four townships in the county are farming areas, six are mixed farming and herding, and three are nomadic areas. The population of Rebgong is approximately 100,000+, the majority of whom are Tibetans. Rebgong plays a major role in education, health care, and economics.

The farmers and herders in Rebgong have a difficult life with brutal winters and a short growing season. Farm production is limited to wheat, highland barley, and raising livestock such as yaks, sheep, cows, and goats.

 My Family


Tibetan Mother and Child

My family is a farming family, and I have three brothers and two sisters. I am youngest of all. My father became a full time hermit at the age of forty, so my mother had to raise all of us. When we were growing up, our family was so poor, we could not even buy salt which was a few cents at that time. My mum always sent me to our neighbours to ask for some matchbox wooden pieces, or a little cooking salt. She worked so hard to raise us and she managed to send us all to school. My mother is 78 now and she cannot even straighten her arms from over working for so many years.

books stacked

Education is the Key

My mother is an illiterate women but she strongly believes in education, and worked so hard for her whole life to ensure we received the education that changed our lives. One of my sisters became a mathematics professor at one of the biggest universities in China. She has even published some well-known books related to mathematics. Two of my brothers and another sister are school teachers. My other brother is a Tibetan doctor in America.

We all owe our mother deeply for the opportunity to learn.

Deciding to Leave Tibet

I always wanted to go to India, even though I heard so many scary stories about people been killed escaping on route to India or falling in to big holes that had been covered by snow.

street market

Street Market selling Clothes

I started by selling clothes on the street for one year, I purchased the clothes at wholesale prices from Lanzhou city, where my sister was a teacher, and sold them for a good price in my town. From this enterprise, I saved some money for the trip. The decision was made to go.

I was registered to supplement my study at Northwest Minority Nationalist University after my failed entrance exam to University. In February 1994, the night before I was ostensibly leaving for school in China but in reality was leaving to travel to India, my mother cooked my favourite noodle soup. As she was completely unaware of my real journey, she was ignorant of the turmoil in my heart.


Tibetan Bread for the Trip

All night I felt so much pain knowing tomorrow morning I would be leaving everything I loved behind and may never see my family again. I kept looking at my mother’s face, and tears started to fall down my face.  My mother’s exact word was “Why so sad? You just going to school for few months, and we will see you soon“. These days I still think about that night.

The next morning my mum got up so early as usual and baked some Tibetan bread for me to take, she woke me up in her usual way “Wanday get up get up, you are going to be late”. I gave her hug with tears in my eyes which is not common in our culture, and she said “why the tears, now go, and study hard”.

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Wanday’s Storypart 2part 3

Wanday’s Story 3

My Time in India – (Goto page 1)


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 tibetan works and archives

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.

 Tibetan Education Fund Inc.

Jamo school sponsored students 2012

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.

tibetan education fund logo with purple trim

TEF logo

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.

Bumkhang school Tibetan students

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.

Bumkhang childcare center group photo.

Bumkhang childcare

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:

  1.  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.
  2.  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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Wanday’s Storypart 2part 3

Tibet Unplugged (Summer 2014)

Tibet Tour Itinerary: 18 days Eastern Tibet including

Lhasa Tour 2014








Arrive Xining, meet with your guide and driver and drive to Tongren. Evening dinner with some local Tibetan families.



2 July


7 July


The Shaman Festival in Tongren (Rebkong) is a large-scale sacrificial performance activity prevailing among the local Tibetan and the Tu villages in Rebkong area, which is held annually between June 17th and 25th of the lunar calendar. The July Festival celebration is a complex that rich in cultural patterns and connotations. Today we will first drive to the Tibetan village by the name of “Siheji” to see the festival activities such as offering sacrifices to deities, inviting deities, welcoming deities, dancing for deities, and above all, enjoy the unique military dancing performance. The June Festival will be held in scores of Tibetan and Tu villages’ along the Wutun River basin. In addition participating the crowds at Siheji village, we will enjoy military dancing at Gomargar and Gashari village. We will be staying with some local Tibetan families to experience daily life of Tibetan family.

Rongwo monastery, Wutun temple, Guomari temple, Gormari castle. Festivals, Thangka paintingvisiting.



8 July


Drive to Xiahe via Ganjia grassland,visit Labrang Monastery in the afternoon. Labrang monastery is one of the six major Tibetan monasteries of the Gelugpa order (Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism). The others are Ganden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries near Lhasa; Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse; and Kumbum near Xīníng.



9 July


Visit the villagers around Labrang Monastery and drive to Xining via Tongren.


10 July


Visit Kumbum monastery in the morning, take the afternoon train to Lhasa.

Train journey

11 July

Arrival of Lhasa.

Arrive at Lhasa, meet with your guide and drive, transfer to your hotel in Lhasa.


12 July


Drive to visit Potala palace, jokhang temple, Borkhor street.


13 July


Visit Tibet Museum and Norbulinka, Sera Monastery.



14 July


We will go through the turquoise Lake Yamdrok on the vast Tibetan Plateau. Yamdrok Lake situated in Lhoka area with an cover of 621 square km and the elevation of 4,441 m is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet. Also it is the largest lake on the northern slope of the Himalayas. On the way we can enjoy wonderful sightseeing and take pictures. Lastly we will arrive at Shigatse by new road.



15 July


Today, you will be arranged to visit Tashi Lumpu Monastery. And in the afternoon drive back to Lhasa.


16 July


Visit Chamzhu monastery, Yunbulakang palace.


17 July


Visit Samye Monastery, Yaluzangbu river boating.


18 July


Free day for Shopping until transfer to the airport and fly back to Beijing with Sweet Memories of Tibet.


 Price: $4800 (8-10person, peak season price)

 Service details:


  1. One Private mini bus with excellent driver throughout the whole tour
  2. International flights and airport tax.
  3. 14 nights accommodation with breakfast in foreign –rated 3 star hotel, twin bed rooms. 4 nights with local Tibetan families.
  4. 3 meals daily
  5. Train transportation: Hard slippera for Xining~Lhasa(meals are not included during train journey)
  6. Entrance fees as above mentioned in red Characters
  7. Permits to Tibet and permits to Samye monastery


  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expense


a. Hard Slipper refers to the class of travel. Similar to middle class as in Australia. 


TEF Newsletter January 2014

2013 Wanday in Tibet - TEF Newsletter

Hello from Tibet

Dear TEF Friend:  Tashi Delek! 

Wanday and all the TEF team hopes you enjoyed the holiday season and are ready for a big 2014.  TEF has some exciting plans for this coming year, more about that later, first our update from Wanday after his return from Tibet.

TEF Newsletter jan 2014

46 children now

The Bumkhang Childcare Centre welcomed another new student in December so that’s takes our numbers to 46 at the moment. Wanday is happy to report that the centre is running smoothly with the children enjoying their classes and activities along with the nutritious lunches provided every day. Your donations will ensure that the centre stays operational during 2014. Wanday’s children were happy to join in with the activities and lunch on a regular basis while visiting Tibet.

perfect potion lemo sham

Lemo Sham & Perfect Potion creams

Many thanks to Perfect Potion for the creams and donations for Lemo Sham that Wanday was able to deliver personally. The availability of on going creams has made treatment of Lemo Sham’s eczema much easier and her quality of life has improved greatly.


Lhabum confined to WheelChair

A sad case presented itself to Wanday, that of a young Tibetan man Lhabum. Lhabum had suffered a spinal injury from a fall off a truck while working. Unlike Australia there is no compensation or help available to him in Tibet. He has been totally bedridden for the past 1 ½ years with his wife as his carer, responsible for his feeding, cleaning and movement to help ease pressure sores.

Wanday went onto do what he could for the couple and managed to raise 55,000 Chinese Yuan from family and local businesses to enable Lhabum to spend some time in hospital receiving pain relief and some rehabilitation and also a little time of respite for his wife. Wanday has shown the local people how to come together to help one of their fellow Tibetans and he hopes that this help will continue on for Lhabum.

So onto 2014 and a reminder to you all of the Festival of Tibet to be held at the Powerhouse New Farm from the 22nd to 26th January. An exciting program is on offer and you can get all the details from .

Tibet Unplugged !!

Also in 2014 TEF is offering a grassroots tours of Tibet! Very exciting news, so book your holidays for travel-globeJuly 2014 so you can join us on this tour Tibet Unplugged. The tour is for 18 days including some days with local families, also visiting Lhasa, Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple.

We will arrive during the time of the Shaman Festival in Tongren so that you can experience first hand the culture and dancing that this festival presents. Travel is with a tour guide from Tibet and in a private mini bus. The itinerary and pricing are on our website, just follow the link to our tour page.

Why not arrange with some of your friends to join with you for this chance to visit Tibet and see it with a local Tibetan, it will be a unique experience of this amazing country and its people.

Many thanks to all who enable TEF’s work to continue through our $10 per month sponsorship program, please direct anyone interested in our Childcare Centre to this link.

 Please come and say hi to us at the Festival of Tibet, we would love to meet our supporters in person.

 Wanday and the TEF team.

TEF Newsletter January 2014

TEF Newsletter September 2013

Dear TEF Friend

Tashi Delek!                             September  Newsletter 


SAVE THE DATE!!  Yes our annual TEF Trivia Night is coming up so mark it in your diary, Saturday 5th October. Starts 6:30pm


Trivia Night is our main fundraiser for TEF so we would love to see you and your friends at the Uniting Church Hall on Merthyr Road New Farm for a 6.30pm start.  Entrance fee is $25 and we will have some lovely prizes for the winners of the trivia. A Tibetan supper will be provided along with tea and coffee, so practice up on your general knowledge for a fun night.


Please contact Greg Fergus to book or through our website so we can plan for catering, payment can be made at the door on the night. Why not get together with a group of friends and book a table for 6 to share your knowledge.


During the evening we will have an auction of some lovely paintings by Karma Phuntsok. Karma Phuntsok is a well known Tibetan artist based in northern NSW, before attending our Trivia night have a look at Karma’s website

Thank You

TEF would also like to thank Wanday and Greg for donating their time to help out at a recent private event, held by the chef of the Himalayan Café. All their hard work was rewarded with a donation to TEF, thanks to you both.

Kamo JaKamo Ja with her Father - 'Mr 18'

It is with sadness that I pass on the news from Kamo Ja’s father of her passing recently.  TEF has supported Kamo Ja during her battle with leukemia and I know some of you made a special donation to this cause.  Kamo Ja’s father had a little more time with his daughter because of the help with medicines we were able to provide and we all wish the family strength at this time.

$10 Plan

Many thanks to all of you who have joined up to our $10 per month plan. To have some money guaranteed on a regular basis will allow us to plan for the future of the Childcare Centre and we will not have the constant concern of how to pay for the next months costs. If you have been thinking about joining the plan, we would love for you to start the new financial year with TEF in mind. $10 a month is not a burden to us in Australia but it makes a big difference to the children of Tibet to be able to get a quality start on their education.

Monthly Donation

To organise your monthly donation, you can set up a direct debit to the TEF bank account which means you don’t have to worry about sending money through each month.

Our banking details:  

Bank: Westpac New Farm

Account name: Tibetan Education Fund Inc.

BSB: 034 065

Account No: 236626

Tibetan Education Fund

Once again we thank you for your on going support of the children of Tibet through the Tibetan Education Fund and please direct any family or friends that are interested to our website,

An upcoming event to plan ahead for is the Festival of Himalayan Film to be held on the 19th October at Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre, 120 Main Street Kangaroo Point.

We look forward to seeing you at our Trivia Night.

Another Newsletter next month.

Wanday and the team at TEF