Tibetan Village Project Australia Supports Orphanage School

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This May volun-tourism organization Conscious Journeys facilitated a group tour for Tibetan Village Project Australia members and donors. Three TVPA donors traveled to the Minyak region of Kham to visit TVPA project sites and learn more about the culture of the region. They also bought and donated a washing machine to the Tagong Monastic Orphanage.

Tagong children

Children at the Tagong Thangka Training Center

So many people are already doing such wonderful work to better the world of the Tibetan people. Let we fortunate Australians increase our support of TVPA, in order to give these wonderful people more dignity, a voice and a better life.

This May volun-tourism organization Conscious Journeys facilitated a group tour for Tibetan Village Project Australia members and donors. Three TVPA donors traveled to the Minyak region of Kham to visit TVPA project sites and learn more about the culture of the region. They also bought and donated a washing machine to the Tagong Monastic Orphanage.

“We 3 Aussies- Nigel, Karen and Helene – plus Tsering, our guide extraordinaire, and our fun loving driver, Tenpa, set off into rural Tibet,” TVPA donor Helene wrote. “It is a land of yaks, high mountains, temples and beautiful, warm people who still dress, live and work in traditional ways – hand ploughing, making yak butter and cheese – but, surprisingly, we had mobile phone coverage always.”

TVPA was founded in 2005 by Don Cullen, who partnered with Tamdin Wangdu of Tibetan Village Project US in order to facilitate development and implementation of projects in Tibet. TVPA focuses on education, healthcare, microfinance, microenterprise, and ecotourism. TVPA encourages donors to travel to the project areas to see how their funds are used and to share ideas on current and future projects.

For this trip, TVPA donors Helene, Karen, and Nigel flew first to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, to meet with TVP and Conscious Journeys team members and staff. They had time to visit Chengdu’s Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center, and then met with the Conscious Journeys team for orientation and dinner at a local Tibetan restaurant.

On May 8th the team flew with their guide to Kangding, the traditional capital of the Kham region of Tibet, and the starting point for tours into the region. A Conscious Journeys driver met the team and drove them to Tagong Village, where they were greeted by the mother of a local monk, who hosts TVP and Conscious Journeys groups in her home.

“We loved the Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan culture, and admired the strength of their faith,” Helene wrote. We saw many bent old people limping along, doing the Kora several times a day and spinning those prayer wheels to gain merit.”

At the center of Tagong is a large monastery, where local pilgrims come daily to walk kora (circumambulate) around the large complex, which is surrounded by rows of large prayer wheels. Nigel walked kora with the locals, and everyone met at the Tagong Monastic School to help the students prepare lunch. In the afternoon the team played games with the students.

The team learned that the students were only able to wash their clothing and linens once a month, by taking everything down to the river—in extremely cold weather. They decided to purchase a washing machine for the school. The Conscious Journeys driver and a teacher from the school drove to a larger town to purchase the machine, and brought it back later that afternoon. The team installed it an old shower area—TVPA is currently funding the construction of a new 6-stall shower house for the school.

The next day the group visited the Gego Nunnery, located about a half-hour drive from Tagong into hills and scenic nomadic grassland. The team met with the coordinator of the nunnery, another TVP/TVPA project, and agreed to donate 2,000 RMB to help pay the salary of a teacher selected to instruct the nuns in reading and writing Tibetan. That afternoon the group picnicked and went for a hike before returning to Tagong.

The next day the team visited the greenhouses for the Tagong Monastic School, another TVPA-funded project. The group decided to buy mani stones as souvenirs, which are carved in the village near the nunnery.

The group drove to their driver’s village, called Dora village, after stopping to buy some food and supplies for the next few days. They stayed with the family of their driver Tenpa—their house has been renovated to host CJ travelers and other homestay clients. In the evening Tenpa and their guide Tsering prepared dinner for them.

The morning of May 12th the team drove to nearby Danba county to look at ancient stone watchtowers and do some sightseeing. That evening Tenpa taught the group how to make momos—Tibetan steamed buns filled with potato or yak meat. The next day the team went for a hike in the area and had another picnic lunch. They carried prayer flags to a small stupa.

“Outside, it was spring and blossoming trees and flowers were beginning to brighten the mountainsides and river valleys,” Helene wrote. “We hung yet more fluttering prayer flags from the Chortens and picnicked in sunshine on the grasslands.”

On May 14th the team traveled to the town of Sihurong to visit the clinic there that was built by TVPA. They stayed at the monastery there, which oversees the clinic. The head of the monastery took the group on a tour. He also introduced them to the monastery and answered questions about Tibetan Buddhism.

“Many of the villages were like ghost towns, for all but the very new, the very old, and their carers had taken to the mountains, to gather caterpillars,” Helene wrote. ”There is a 4-6 week season to collect these highly-prized delicacies, which are sold to the Chinese for $6 each. Even Dr. Drolma and her TVPA clinic had moved there, as the boost to finances each year is a necessity. One half-filled plastic bag, we estimated as worth $1800!”

The group left Sihurong the next day and drove to Yoloshi, the village of Chatu, another CJ driver. They stayed at Chatu’s family home, which is also equipped for homestays. The next morning Tsering and Helene went on a 3-hour horse trek to Lachen Ma Mountain to see Minyak Gangkar and the Minyak Glacier. Nigel and Karen met them at the mountain, and then they returned together to Chatu’s home for lunch.

“A highlight for me, was riding one of the surefooted ponies, high up, in order to view their holy mountain, Minyak Gangkar, which was snow covered and is 7560 meters high,” Helene wrote. “It was great meeting two young American TVP members, who were researching the feasibility of installing solar panels to homes.”

The team drove back towards Kangding, stopping to take photographs and say goodbye to their various hosts and host families.

Helene summed up the trip: “So many people are already doing such wonderful work to better the world of the Tibetan people. They, themselves, work long hours tirelessly, in difficult circumstances. Let we fortunate Australians increase our support of TVPA, in order to give these wonderful people more dignity, a voice and a better life.”

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