The Tibetan culture in exile from Chinese occupied Tibet exists throughout Nepal, India and beyond however the spiritual center, governance and education foundation for these amazing people rests in a small town clinging to the steeps of the Himalayan “foothills” called McLeod Gang, above better known Dharamasala in northwest India. Earthaware arrived in McLeod as the snows began kissing the higher peaks and the bulk of pilgrims and tourists departed for the on-coming winter. The days were all sunny and bright with moderate daytime temperatures and chilly evenings.
We began as we always do when arriving at a new destination where we intend to offer the earthaware program: we slow down, listen and engage the local community in conversation on what they need, how they perceive the world around them and ask them how things might be done better. From a week or more of such interaction we look to the background and knowledge we have then approach local schools, community centers and orphanages offering a program.
In the early 1950’s His Holiness the Dali Lama worked with thousands of fellow Tibetan countrymen to establish a system and culture where fleeing Tibetans could find peace and a life away from their homeland in the adjacent host country of India. In that process a comprehensive K-12 school system was established. Today known as the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV) the system across India and Nepal comprises 5 full villages of from 1,500 to 2,200 full time boarding and day students, 7 residential schools, 6 day schools, 9 Day care facilities, 4 vocational training centers, 3 youth hostels and 3 homes for the elderly. Additionally there are 7 frontier camps where fleeing refugees are brought in and immediately given guidance, shelter and education… an amazing system supporting over 16,000 now 3rd generation post-invasion children today.
We were granted an audience with TCV Education Director Mr. Tenzin Sangpo and spent more than three hours with him discussing the history of the Tibetan people, the challenges of living in exile as an adult and as a learning child, issues of Chinese oppression and the state of the environment both back in Tibet and in the Dharamasala / McLeod Gang area. Through our delightful conversation we sipped on three cups of tea and came to an accord by the end: Earthaware will write a curriculum for integrating environmental awareness into the overall TCV extended systems curriculum for consideration by Mr. Sangpo and His Holiness the Dali Lama. This is our highest honor and responsibility.
After this humbling request time was spent letting the request sink in, letting it settle and what surfaced from that reflection is the current activity: write a simple curriculum that can be modified and customized to all peoples and cultures the world over. Start with the Tibetans and then through the learning’s of engagement and specific modifications there offer the platform to peoples the world over… now off to work on that.