Pre-med Students Volunteer in Tibet with Conscious Journeys

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This July a group of 5 pre-med students from UCLA participated in a Conscious Journeys trip to the Ganzi Tibet Autonomous Region (traditionally known as Kham or eastern Tibet) of Sichuan Province.

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This July a group of 5 pre-med students from UCLA participated in a Conscious Journeys trip to the Ganzi Tibet Autonomous Region (traditionally known as Kham or eastern Tibet) of Sichuan Province.

The purpose of this trip was to learn about current health care issues in local communities of the region, conduct need assessment, give basic health care education on subjects like hygiene and sanitation, design a practical project plan, and compile a list of recommendations for developing this plan. The volunteers worked with a community of about 200 families and one clinic in Sihurong, a village located about 200 kilometers from Kangding.

The group arrived in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, China, on July 5th. Before traveling to Kham they visited the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center near the city. They also attended an orientation and discussion meeting to learn about food, transportation, safety issues, cultural etiquette, and also to discuss the plan for the medical project in Sihurong.

The group traveled by car to Kangding, a city in western Sichuan that used to be an important trading hub on the ancient Tea Horse Road. The students visited the Kangding Tibetan Hospital to learn about Tibetan medicine. This hospital is where Tibetan people in the greater Kham region come to buy medicine and seek diagnosis and treatment. Afterwards they visited a museum in order to learn more about Kham Tibetan culture.

The students left Kangding for Dora village, where they spent the night in a homestay with a local family. The next day they drove to Sihurong, where they stayed as guests at the local monastery. The head of the monastery, called Khenpo, took the group to visit several local families in order to identify behaviors and habits of local communities that contribute to poor hygiene and sanitation.

The students spent the day providing a workshop to over 200 locals. TVP invited Tenzin, a healthcare teacher and medical specialist, to Sihurong to provide the workshop. Kampo served as the translator during the workshop, and the UCLA students provided demonstrations of basic hygiene, such as how to clean teeth and wounds. The students also picked up rubbish around the monastery and burned it.

The next day the students spent the morning in the Sihurong Clinic. The doctor at the clinic, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, received the medicine and medical supplies that TVP had previously bought in Chengdu. The students helped her organize the supplies, and learned more about traditional Tibetan medicine.

After leaving Sihurong the students stayed at the home of another Conscious Journeys driver, Chatu, in his family’s village of Yoloshi. This area is famous for the holy mountain Minyak Gangkar. The group went to view the mountain and to visit local nomadic families and learn about their lives and health issues.

The students also visited Tagong city, where TVP has a monastic orphanage and school. They took a tour of the local monastery and bought some arts and crafts created by the schoolchildren. They also visited a nearby nunnery and watched artisans carve mani stones. They also explored several meditation caves.

Conscious Journeys is the volun-tourism program of the NGO Tibetan Village Project. Tours focus on providing services to local communities, practicing sustainable travel, supporting local businesses and connecting in a positive and meaningful way with Tibetan communities across the plateau.

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Tamdin Wangdu
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