The Tibetan Uprising, in 1959, against a decade of occupation
was crushed by the vast military resources of the People's Republic of
China. Many thousands of Tibetans were killed in the fighting and the
subsequent brutality of the Chinese crack down, which led to whole sections
of the population, but especially monks and nuns, being starved and worked
to death in concentration camps. As many as 1.2 million Tibetans died
in the aftermath.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His government were forced to flee into
exile in India, through high mountain passes, in deep snow and bitter
wind. Many thousands of ordinary Tibetans also attempted to escape, as
many as 80,000 eventually reaching India. Entire families left their homes
with little more than the clothing on their backs. Many of the elderly,
the weak, and the very young perished along the way.
Those who survived the ordeal arrived in India with nothing.
They had escaped the persecution of the Chinese; but they had no shelter,
nor any means of supporting themselves. The government of India gave them
basic shelter and work, organizing them into work gangs and sending them
to build roads in the mountainous north of that country. This was a tough
job, but the rugged Tibetans were up to the task of working hard at high
altitude. The problem was that there was no one to care for the young
children while the adults built roads.
that the children were in dire need of help, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
asked that a hospice be provided in Dharamsala, the newly acquired seat
of the Tibetan Government in Exile. And on 17 May, 1960, children began
to arrive at their new home, where they were cared for by members of His
entourage under the guidance of His elder sister, Tsering Dolma Takla.
The immediate crisis of finding a home for the children had been solved.
But the number of children arriving in Dharamsala quickly outpaced the
abilities of the volunteer staff to cope; and overcrowding soon became
a difficult problem. This was made all the more serious by the threat
of disease, particularly respiratory ailments, such as tuberculosis. In
the high, clear air of Tibet many of the diseases common at lower altitudes
were unknown or extremely rare. But in the humid air of India Tibetan
refugees were confronted by pathogens for which they had no natural defense.
As children continued to pour in from refugee camps as far away as Bhutan
and Nepal, resources were stretched to the absolute breaking point. But
the devoted staff, with generous help from the Indian government, eventually
began to gain some ground, figuratively and literally, as new buildings
were acquired and turned into group homes.
Sadly, Tsering Dolma Takla, the beloved 'Mother' of the
first children to arrive, died in 1964. Her responsibilities were picked
up by the Dalai Lama's younger sister, Jetsun Pema, who is now the president
of an organization of group homes, schools, vocational training centres,
and youth centres, providing care for more than 14,000 children and young
In the beginning, the group home, really little more than a barn, was
given the name 'Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children'. But over time,
the original accommodations were expanded to include other buildings in
Dharamsala; and in 1972, the organization was formally incorporated as
Tibetan Children's Village.
Growth and Expansionism
soon became apparent that the needs of the children and the organizational
demands of TCV were rapidly outgrowing the resources of the exile community
in Dharamsala, even with the generous support of the Indian government.
More houses and classrooms were being built, along with a corresponding
increase in the demands on infrastructure. The Tibetan Children's Village
was truly becoming a village in its own right.
The obvious solution was to look for a broader base of support. This meant
establishing contact with international aid agencies and seeking the financial
help of private donors. In 1972, TCV joined the Austrian-based SOS
Kinderdorf International, the umbrella organization of SOS Children's
Villages, which are the legacy of Hermann Gmeiner, an Austrian World War
II veteran who built the original village in Austria with his own modest
resources and deep sense of compassion.
Meanwhile, back in China, the moods of the ruling elite continued to swing;
and the people of Tibet continued to be swept back and forth at the mercy
of changing and conflicting policies. The terror and destruction of the
Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976) was followed by a period of relative
leniency, during which Chinese restrictions on travel were relaxed to
some extent. Many parents took advantage of the opportunity to smuggle
their children into India and the schools of the exile community, where
it was felt they would be safe and free to grow up as Tibetans. They were
fully conscious of the fact that this might well mean they would never
see their children again. Between 1980 and 1985, the number of refugee
children at TCV jumped from slightly more than 4,000 to roughly 8,000.
Parents still feel compelled to give up their children
by the pervasive sense of hopelessness in Tibet, where educational opportunities
for Tibetan children are extremely poor. There the school system is used
to suppress the cultural identity of Tibetan children by teaching in Chinese
and punishing children for breaking strict rules governing dress and behavior
which are intended to reinforce the process of sinicization. The dropout
rate from Tibetan schools is high, as a result; and the level of adult
literacy is correspondingly low.
Many human rights organizations point to the return of hard-line policies
in Tibet, where the immigration of Chinese 'settlers' is accelerating:
in many parts of Tibet, Chinese already far outnumber Tibetans. Many children
become the victims of China's policy to reduce the Tibetan cultural identity
to a curiosity, an historical irrelevancy. Tibet Justice Canter, an international
group comprised mainly of legal professionals, has published a report,
titled A Generation in Peril: The
Lives of Tibetan Children Under Chinese Rule, which documents some
of the very serious concerns many people have about the welfare of Tibetan
This is the atmosphere of fear which causes so many Tibetan parents to
pin their hopes for the futures of their children on the Tibetan Children's
the beginning, the philosophy of care in the Tibetan Children's Village
homes has been to provide a loving, nurturing environment as close to
that of a natural family as possible. Family groups, called Khimtsang,
are cared for by foster parents, who raise the children as brothers and
sisters. They share in the household chores; and the older children are
encouraged to help the younger ones.
TCV schools have a dual responsibility to their children. They must provide
a complete modern education, to equip the students with the skills necessary
to succeed in the 21st Century. But just as importantly they must teach
the children to appreciate who they are and understand the rich cultural
heritage of Tibet. It is crucially important that the children understand
the history of their country, including its tragic recent past, in order
to share the dreams of the Tibetan exile community as a whole, and one
day take up their own role in a new free Tibet.
The school curriculum follows that of the Central Board of Secondary Education,
New Delhi, which is the regional examining board for the state of India.
TCV follows the Indian educational system, but tailors its program to
suit the requirements of children from varied backgrounds, with varying
needs. The emphasis is placed on the abilities of each child, with the
objective of providing the best education in each individual case. Some
eventually receive vocational training, to help provide them with the
skills to find meaningful work, while those with the necessary academic
aptitude are helped to prepare for university. In accordance with the
policy of the Government of India and UNESCO,
Tibetan children are provided an education in Tibetan.
TCV schools have adopted the Montessori
teaching methodology, which emphasizes the inner development of children,
as opposed to the traditional approach - familiar to many of us - of cramming
information into rows of little captives. The Montessori approach places
children in a classroom environment which is designed to encourage their
natural curiosity and innate desire to learn. TCV has taken this philosophy
and adapted it to suit the specific needs of their children.
School doesn't end with childhood: in keeping with the philosophy of wholistic
education, TCV operates a Mothers Training Centre, which offers a four
month course covering everything from basic language skills to child psychology,
health, and hygiene to such necessary basic skills as how to operate a
and no play makes Jamyang a dull boy. And so the children of TCV are provided
with a variety of opportunities to play and express themselves as individuals.
Children are encouraged to take up a variety of sports, such as track
and field, basketball, and football. They participate in competitions
between villages and with schools across India, sometimes even traveling
abroad. There are also opportunities for cultural exchanges across India
and in foreign countries. In June, 2000, 15 children joined a choir in
Modena, Italy, at the invitation of the famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti,
for a benefit performance, 'Pavarotti & Friends for Cambodia &
In a strange and ironic way, the oppression in Tibet has
led to the growth of an environment uniquely rich in artistic expression,
as the cream of Tibet's artists and artisans are concentrated in the exile
communities. This is of great benefit to the children, who have the opportunity
to see art and crafts of the very highest order being produced all around
them. They are encouraged to take advantage of the chance to learn about
the art and crafts of Tibet, and express themselves through skills learned
from the very best in their particular fields.
lion's share of the funding received by TCV comes from SOS Kinderdorf
International and, to a lesser extent, other aid organizations. The Tibetan
exile community's contribution is growing in proportion to the means available
to its members. The goal is for TCV and, in a broader sense, the exile
community to eventually become financially self-reliant; and, to that
end, a number of ventures have been initiated, such as handicraft centres,
to generate revenue.
A relatively small but significant percentage of funding
comes from direct sponsorship by individuals. This benefits TCV, but it
also provides a valuable opportunity for people around the world to establish
a direct, personal relationship with a Tibetan child. They are able to
exchange letters, and send small gifts. The sponsorship money is used
for the benefit of all the children, so that there are no inequities created
between children with sponsors and those without.
Information about sponsoring a child can be obtained by contacting TCV
directly, or through The
To see the original page go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A644221
Tibetan Children's Villages
Dharamsala Cantt. - 176216
Distt. Kangra H.P., India
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.tcv.org.in
Pema, who is the president of the Tibetan Children's Village, and the
sister of the Dalai Lama, will be speaking at the AMI (Association Montessori
Internationale) International conference in Sydney, Australia in 2005.
See www.montessori.edu for more information.
following is a letter from Mrs. Jetsun Pema. Courtesy of the TCV home
From its humble beginning forty two years ago, Tibetan Children's Village
has today become a thriving, integrated educational community for destitute
Tibetan children in exile, as well as for hundreds of those escaping from
Tibet in recent years. It has established branches in India extending
from Ladakh in the North to Bylakuppe in the South, with over 14,500 children
under its care.
Forty two years is not a short period in anyone's life and certainly not
in the life of TCV. Tibetan Children's Village realizes the enormous responsibility
it bears for the destiny of our Tibetan children and for the goodwill
of the thousands of its donors and friends around the world who have sustained
it through all these years.
Today, we are proud to see young people from our villages serving the
Tibetan community in different capacities and, at the same time, accept
that there are a few children who have not fared so well. In this respect,
extensive efforts are being made to further improve the lives of our children,
bearing in mind the lessons and shortcomings we have experienced in the
Though much has been achieved, we still have a long way to go in fulfilling
our aims and objectives of providing the children under our care with
the necessary resources and the opportunities to develop their abilities
to the fullest. As has been highlighted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
in his message on our 35th Anniversary, the future direction of our program
will be in the field of further education in specialized studies to meet
the human resource needs of the community "during our period in exile
and more importantly when the time comes for us to go back to our homeland....
" We shall endeavor further to improve the quality of our children's
education and their cultural and social upbringing without necessarily
sacrificing the simplicity of our exile lifestyle.
All our achievements would not have been possible without the constant
blessing and inspiration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as the
unwavering support and understanding from the people and the Government
of India. And of course, we would not have been able to do so much for
our children without the continued financial help of so many good friends
around the world, especially the SOS Kinderdorf International, the backbone
of our financial support. Not the least, we must pay gratitude and remembrance
to the many, many mothers, coworkers and teachers, both past and present,
who have given so much of their life and hard work simply for the joy
of seeing the children secure a meaningful life.
We know our road is not at the end and that there is still much to be
done, for as His Holiness has stated, "The children are the seeds
of future Tibet." I appeal to everyone - to our sponsors, donor agencies
and my fellow colleagues- to continue to be at our side during this difficult
period in our history and assist us in educating and caring for the Tibetan
children in exile.
Jetsun Pema, President
VOLUNTEER WORK at TCV: If
you are interested in helping in person as a volunteer at the Children's
Villages, you must be able to provide a service that the Tibetans cannot
themselves provide and, for the sake of the children, to commit at least
one full year of time. If this is not possible please consider volunteering
by helping collect and send funds and materials. You would be welcome to
visit the Children's Villages if you are in India. Please contact TCV for
return to The Michael Olaf Tibetan Children's
Village page: http://michaelolaf.net/motcvproject.html