millenium archive


refugee children from tibet
refugee children from tibet

Reasons for the need of Tibetan Childrens Villages

WORLD TIBET NETWORK NEWS - (Dharamsala, Northern India) Following is a story from our archieves, which might give one, or many, reasons for the need of The Tibetan Childrens's Village, and why the Tibetan children would leave their families in Tibet, in order to come to the Tibetan Children's Village, in India. Even though this story is over six years old, its explanation of what was happening back then in Tibet, especially to the children, continues to happen into the new millenium! The story begins...

Tibetan children sent on dangerous journey to save their lives and their culture. They all look down when they speak, nervously picking at their pants as they answer questions. They have perfect manners: "Good Morning," "Thank You," "Please, do you need anything else, madam." Their politeness is a tribute to their absent parents. "My parents sent me here because the Chinese are raising the prices so much that Tibetans can't afford food," says Tenzin Dhargyal, 13. "My mother wanted me to get a good Tibetan education," says Jamyang Nyima, 12. The other three children in this latest group of arrivals voice similar reasons for making the arduous trek, of up to 20 days, across the Himalayas and out of Tibet. "My father brought me to the Nepalese border where we met my aunt. She brought me here, my father is now back in Tibet," says Dawa Dolkar, 11. Yangchen Dolkar's father brought her right to the home, rested for a day, then said goodbye to the lanky 12 year-old and returned to eastern Tibet. Jamyang Nyima, Dorje Wangdu and Tenzin Dhargyal's parents each paid travelers to bring their cherished children to safety. Orphaned, but living in the safety of the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamsala, these youngsters are embarking on a new life. However idyllic, their new home, high on a hill over-looking the sprawling Kangra Valley, they would rather be at home. Like the thousands of children who came before them, they all miss their parents. The village is divided into three groups: babies, infants and juniors. Two weeks ago, Pema Yangchen, aged six months, was brought to the baby-home by her mother who wanted her to be brought up in the traditional Tibetan culture.

Pema has little hope of seeing her family again, unless they, too, decide to risk the grim journey into exile. "The parting can by very painful," said one worker, who has witnessed the awful scene many times. They are crammed into bunk-rooms, sleeping two to a bed. Usually there are only 25 children per home; nowadays with the exodus picking up, there are between 48 and 50 children per room. They remember their hometown. "There were always a lot of Chinese," says Dorje. Here, there are no Chinese - just a life that is a warm immersion in the Tibetan language and history and provides a bright student with the chance of a place in an Indian university. In Dharamsala, there is a medical center practicing traditional Tibetan medicine, an institute of performing arts, as well as a library filled with scrolls and books. In the Chinese-run Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), one third of Tibetan children receive no education! Those who do are taught subjects such as science (in Chinese only) and the version of history is a grotesque sanitized account approved by Peking.

For the educational benefits, and the knowledge that their children will keep alive the flame of their culture, many Tibetan parents are willing to bear the cost of painful separation. The sacrifice is reminiscent of the Jewish Diaspora, whose investment in children and education helped the Jewish faith to flourish in exile over nearly two millennia. However, other children are sent across the Himalayas simply because they face torture in Tibet. Human smugglers, known as "coolies," charge the equivalent of the average worker's annual salary to bring each child to safety. Dorje Namgual, 26, who fled Lhasa late last year after being warned that he faced being re-arrested, was forced to pay his guide the equivalent of three years' pay. But he knew it was a price worth paying. On March 7, 1989, Dorje had been shot by Chinese police during an uprising in the capital Lhasa. He was arrested four weeks later and taken to Gurtsa detention center where he was tortured for several months. "They would beat me with a wooden stick, place electric cattle-prods in my mouth and on my genitals," says Dorje. "But what really hurt was when four or five soldiers would stomp and kick me." When the boot-work was over, Dorje recalls, the soldiers placed a wooden plank across his leg, and played 'seesaw' for 15 minutes. The effects of these beatings: Dorje had epileptic seizures and became incontinent, which forced the authorities to hospitalize him. After two weeks he was sent home to die. He recovered, but last November received word that he would be re-arrested and forced to serve-out his sentence. He joined a group and began the long trudge over the Himalayas. The journey was slow: there were three girls, aged five, six and 12, among them. Some contracted snow blindness. "We passed four other groups with around 10 to 20 people in each," says Dorje. Since arriving in Dharamsala, Dorje has sent 10 letters to his family - mother, father, two younger sisters and younger brother, but has not received a reply. Dorje's story is harrowing but not unique; ask any of the 270 refugees currently at the Tibetan Transit School - a complex of crude corrugated iron huts without running water. Most arrive here suffering from frostbite and malnutrition. Those who have been in prison, tell of being beaten with wooden sticks or plastic pipes, of being handcuffed to the floor for weeks on end, of being suspended from trees in the airplane position. Their names and stories cannot be told because most of those providing shelter now, hope, one day - they will return to Tibet


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