A visit to the Tibetan Childrens Village is a must and so we took an autorickshaw up the mountains with David and Kelley to spend some time there. TCV is about a 20 minute ride up the mountains from McLeod Ganj and is surrounded by forests, cliffs (what else?) and valleys. we went to the office and they graciously provided a guide for us. Karma took us around TCV and this is what we learned and saw.
TCV has provided a home and education for more than 40,000 children since HH Dalai Lama’s sister, Pema, created the first one in 1960. Karma herself was a student at TCV and now she works in the office. most of the children are Tibetan orphans. either their parents are dead or they (the children) have been smuggled out of Tibet because their families wanted them raised as Tibetans and this is not possible with the Chinese making Tibet their home. this is, as you can imagine a very hard decision for the parents as they never know if their children survived the escape across the mountains or not. the journey is arduous and extremely dangerous. the weather is cold, the route is teacherous (walking across the Himalayas) and they always need to be avoiding Chinese army. if they are seen they will either be shot on the spot or taken prisoner and back to Tibet. many children have not successfully made this journey – they either died through the hardship or were captured and then who knows what happened to them. the groups travel at night to avoid the chinese army and hide away in the daytime to sleep. they must carry all their provisions with them – the journey can take up to 30-40 days. when the food runs out, the drink melted snow and keep going. Betweeen 500-1000 Tibetans sucessfully make this risky journey every year, many of them carrying these small children in backpacks or bags.
a big part of TCV is to provide a safe and secure home-like environment for these children as they have suffered much physical and emotional trauma. there are 43 ‘homes’ at TCV. They house 25-30 children each. each family unit has a house mother and father. there are rooms for boys and girls – each one has about 10 bunk beds and they sleep 2 to a bed. they pair an older child with a younger one and the bonds that are formed between these ‘siblings’ last a life time. Each house has a kitchen, the children eat their meals together and they all help prepare meals, do laundry, cleaning and household duties. On the TCV grounds is a nursery for the preschool age children, and also classrooms for all grades :K- grade 12. the high school students have their own dormitories. then there are libraries, activity centres, temple, soccer and cricket fields, and meeting rooms.
Since Simple Gifts is always looking for projects that match our mission we asked about the sponsorship of students. Karma told us that it is usually easy to find sponsors for the very young children, but that the older students are very much in need of sponsors. she said that TCV provides all these services and opportunities for all its children and most of the money comes from foreigners and Tibetans abroad. Karma was very grateful for our interest in TCV sponsorship. We have hercontact information and we will be in touch with her after we return to Canada and talk with the friends of Simple Gifts. A sponsorship costs $40./month and this provides room, board, education, clothing and necessities. We could see that the gift of sponsorship is a precious one.