Tibetan Children’s Village

Vyvyanne Mackey

We walk into a dusty courtyard. Children’s voices from open windows of the buildings up the hill fill the air. We head toward a few older girls lingering outside the door of one of the buildings. We are told to mingle so I strike up a conversation with one of the shyer looking girls. She’s going into 12th grade and wants to join her sister who is in college in Bangalore to study accounting. People start to trickle through the door so we take that as a sign to head in. The room is large with colorful flags hung from the rafters. There is a projector and a white screen with six or seven smiling faces of Tibetan children. We take our seats and watch two presentations; one about the history of the Tibetan community in exile and the other about the Tibetan Children’s Village.

Meeting TCV students

The Tibetan Children’s Village is not only a safe haven for Tibetan refugee children, it is a place of conservation and education. The children here are given a safe and healthy environment to grow up in, while being taught the skills required to successfully live on their own. Here, young refugees and orphans are given surrogate mothers to look after them, filling the roles that need to be filled for each child. But TCV has another important role; it is trying to conserve the Tibetan culture.

After the presentation, a young man comes to the front to share the story of his life before TCV. His father was an alcoholic. He says that the Chinese government has made alcohol and tobacco so cheap that it is now cheaper than food. As a result, many people have become alcoholics. His father eventually died from his habit, forcing his mother and him to beg on the streets. When he was four, his mother died of starvation. Then he was adopted by a woman who eventually brought him to TCV. At the end of his story he points at the children’s smiling faces on the screen. He says, “They are smiling but they are not happy. There is a great suffering that you cannot see behind the smiles”.

Although the children have been given new lives with more opportunities, they have still suffered immense loss. Some have not seen or spoken to their parents for over half of their lives. Others were born in India, and can only dream of seeing Tibet someday. All of them have lost a country, and a place to call home. While most of the world doesn’t understand how important these children are to the legacy of the Tibetan culture, I hope that today we proved to the TCV kids that we care and support them in their wishes for Tibet’s independence.


Aimee Hopkins

Today we visited the Tibetan Children’s Village above Dharamsala. The school is located below the vast and divinely sacred, Himalayan Mountain range. Upon our arrival, open, friendly, and kind students greeted us. After watching a short presentation we split into small groups to break the ice, and learn more about each other’s cultures.

Aimee with TCV students

I was in a group with a young Tibetan woman born in India, the student president and his older sister. The student president told us about how the Tibetan culture has been diluted by the influence of other cultures and the oppressive rule of the Chinese government. He told us that the school tries its best to preserve the culture by wearing traditional clothes and only speaking Tibetan on Wednesdays, and by teaching the language and ensuring that there are Tibetan books on the shelves of the library. He also explained that the first step to preserve the Tibetan culture is to influence these people into having pride in their lineage. In many cases, the absence of confidence has diminished their sense of identity and self worth.

Today I learned so much about the Tibetan culture and how crucial it is to preserve the values that Tibetans embody. The Chinese government is trying to eradicate a culture that teaches us about the values that make us human.
The Tibetans have held strong to their beliefs and values during this time of great suffering. Today, the students at the Tibetan Children’s Village changed my life with their insight on preservation of culture, and unconditional strength amidst worst of circumstances.

  • Melissa Sanders-Self

    Hi All,
    Today, (your time)I believe you are interviewing His Holiness. (Kavi and Brooke, if you read this, don’t forget the questions we discussed for him.) May you all be brave, open-hearted and blessed in your interview. He is!
    I am loving all of your writings—I see you are traveling fast and far. I know before you left you thought all of us who said you would be ‘transformed’ by this journey were a little over-zealous, but I have a feeling now I can say ‘I told you so’ with impunity.:)
    I also love reading the responses of your families and friends to your experience.
    Thanks again to all your chaperones and Shmuel for the amazing photos.
    With you in spirit,
    Love,
    Melissa

  • Julie

    Our family gets so excited about new posts, new pictures, seeing these young adults as they make their way through this voyage weaving in and out of ancient sacredness and the realities of the modern bustle. We are humbled by all of those who worked so hard to prepare them for this, to make it happen so that, as can be told by the expressions on their faces, these students can just bask in the new experiences that are coming to them, sometimes faster than their senses can completely capture. We are so in awe of these students, part of “the next generation,” but a part that has a true understanding of what it means to be a citizen of a global community. Each of them so wise, so poised, so beautiful, inside and out. May they recognize the value they bring to all they meet, be proud of themselves, and excited about where they each will be on the next leg of their life adventures. Their journeys and memories from their time at Mt. Madonna will stretch through their lifetimes, and beyond. This special group of students have been so well prepared to begin life on their own; the relationships that they have formed will be the foundation of the beginning of their next phase of their individual journeys. With humility and gratitude we bow down to the Mount Madonna Senior Class of 2013, and to all who have held them dear.