Self-Sufficiency Bears Fruit
Interview with Nyima Kunga
by Maarten Regtien
“A dream has come true!”
Every year Gesar Fund’s board member Nyima Kunga travels to Donda and Yushu in the Kham district for the Gesar Fund Checking our Aid campaign. He just returned this week and we spoke to him at home were he was recovering from a 2-day stomach sickness: “I ate too much spicy food.”
Nyima checked the three projects the Gesar Fund focuses upon: education, health care and the Family-to-Family project.
“The law regarding primary school education changed last winter. Chinese schools now provide 24-7 education. As we wanted to organize out-of-school care in our newly built Gesar Community Center, we had to postpone these plans.”
Nyima talked to the heads of the nomad families that the Gesar Fund supports, and asked them what we now could do with the money that was reserved for the out-of-school education program and kindergarten.
“The answers I got struck me with joy! We of the Gesar Fund, the board and the local Tibetan volunteers, always try to stimulate the nomads to think about the future, to take care for their own income, to help out their fellow nomads. NOT” – Nyima emphasizes, “to wait for the Gesar Fund to give them money and take that for granted. We do not want them seeing the Gesar Fund as a foreign bank, another NGO.”
“The heads of the families said they wanted to earn money to support themselves and each other in need. In wintertime everybody stays in their home for months and there has to be enough food in stock. So they had some wonderful ideas. Ideas that we planted years ago as seeds are now finally growing into plants bearing fruits. A dream has come true!”
Nyima refers to the family meetings he had in the year after the 2010 earthquake, which destroyed everything the nomads possessed. The nomads came up with ideas for how to improve their living conditions, but – so it appeared over time – had difficulties implementing them by themselves. The Gesar Fund helped out and stimulated them first by setting up a Gesar General Store (where good quality groceries were sold, the profit then available for the community) and a few years later the Gesar Community Center. Original Nomad initiatives were almost never carried out without the help of the local Gesar volunteers. But now, it seems, the tide has turned.
“Years ago one of the older women suggested they could make souvenirs for the tourists who come on the buses and have a mandatory stop in Donda. When I arrived, one of that woman’s daughters was making souvenirs in the Community Center room that we had planned to use for the out-of-school care. They make bracelets from Yak hair and sell balls of Yak wool.
“One nomad man suggested a very good idea, which was carried out immediately. He overheard a conversation in Yushu in which a cafe owner wanted to sell three pool tables. He asked if these could be purchased for another Gesar Community Center room. Pool tables attract a lot of people, and people spend money on food and drinks! To make the Gesar Community Center an even more popular meeting place, we started building a small prayer-wheel house in the courtyard. Prayer-wheels always attract lots of people.
“Again I say, ‘A dream has come true’, as I believe the nomads are finally starting to take care of their own. The Gesar Fund will always be there for support, will always help out when the winters become too harsh, and will always help out when plans do not work out as hoped or expected. But I really believe the tide has turned.
“I want to thank everybody who donated money to the Gesar Fund, and trusted the board and local volunteers. I hope their dreams also may come true!”
See photos of the building of the new prayer-wheel house by clicking here.
See photos of the nomads’ handmade souvenirs by clicking here.
Help the Gesar Fund to make the nomad family’s dreams come true, make a
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In 2000, Ineke de Wit founded a fundraising organization in order to help the people in Surmang, a region in Kham, where the monasteries of Trungpa Rinpoche resided. For many years, this foundation successfully fundraised substantial amounts of money for health care in the region. After several years the area where the Foundation had access to had increased to the entire region of Kham. Also the scope of projects carried out was broadened from health care to education and alleviation of poverty. To underline this change of scope, a new name was chosen in the spirit of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition: on December 1, 2008 the Gesar Fund was born.