We are so happy to announce that a shipment of books has successfully arrived at the “oasis in the desert,” India’s most remote Tibetan Children’s Village near Leh, Ladakh, in the northern province of Jammu-Kashmir.
The mountainous region is known as “Little Tibet” because of the great influx of Tibetan Buddhists crossing the border as refugees into India. Children are often sent by their parents, but without them. “[W]hile some children have no living parents,” SOS Children Villages explains, “others have parents who are in Tibet, autonomous region of China, in other locations throughout India, or even further away.” All the children at TCV Ladakh have thus lost parental care.
This marks yet another collaboration between Snowlion and the wonderful Tibetan Children’s Village, an organization that operates in part thanks to SOS-Kinderdorf International. With the season of thanks upon us, we wanted to extend our gratitude to its founder, the inspirational Hermann Gmeiner (1919-1986).
Struck by the horrors of World War II, both as a soldier and a child welfare worker met with the suffering of homeless children and war orphans, Hermann created an organization dedicated to providing destitute, orphaned and otherwise abandoned children with a permanent family structure. Founded in 1949, today SOS provides loving new homes for over 60,000 children all over the world.
A typical village is made up of ten to forty homes, each housing around ten children under the care of an SOS mother. At TCV Ladakh, the number of children runs higher than average. “Due to the great number of children who have lost parental care,” the website reads, “families may have up to thirty members and sometimes even more. In order to allow the mothers to spend more time looking after the needs of the children, all the meals are prepared at a central kitchen and then distributed to the families.”
TCV Ladakh includes a kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, a Medical Centre and a Vocational Training Center with courses in arts and crafts. There’s also a library, which we’ve now contributed to.
“We have some amount of Tibetan books,” TCV Ladakh’s librarian Dorjee Wangdue wrote to us via our Snowlion site, “but most of them are teacher’s reference books and religious books. Students hardly get storybooks in Tibetan.”
Hence Snowlion’s mission. We continue to do our best to bridge the storybook gap and fill bookshelves throughout the Tibetan refugee community. Thank you to Dorjee Wangdue for reaching out to us, and Hermann Gmeiner, HH the Dalai Lama and all the SOS moms and family members for making our mission possible. Hermann started with one Children’s Village; today, there are 135 across the world. In the words of HH the Dalai Lama:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
We are very excited to say we will be sending a new shipment of books to the Tibetan Children’s Village in Ladakh, the northernmost point in India that Snow Lion has reached yet.
And to wrap up the year, in honor of all children everywhere, a few words from our inspiration:
On Wednesday evening in Quebec City, the Snow Lion Storytelling Initiative was awarded the Projet par Excellence, the highest recognition at the Forces AVENIR gala. What a thrilling and inspiring privilege to meet the other finalists, young activists from across the world led by the common conviction that individuals have the power and duty to transform the world for the better.
Thank you to my family, Dalai Lama Fellows, McGill University, our collaborators in the children’s book world and the Indian and Tibetan communities — this award is for you! The $15,000 grant propels Snowlion forward. I cannot thank Forces AVENIR group enough for their kindness and generosity.
Forces AVENIR has nominated Snow Lion as a finalist for the prestigious Arts, Literature and Culture grant, a program that celebrates young peoples’ commitment to social engagement and community building. The grant comes at a most exciting time for us: having completed and exceeded our original goals for Snow Lion, we are now ready to build the Tibetan chapter and possibly expand our literacy model to communities across the world. The judges will announce the award winner at the September Gala in Quebec City. Fingers crossed!
How does a culture divorced from its native land survive? The conversation after my presentation at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair delved into this question. Snow Lion’s goal of actualizing languages so as to inspire children to learn their mother tongue resonated with audience members. Ilse, an illustrator in the audience, spoke of her experience as a child growing up with Latvian parents in the United States. She never learned Latvian because there were no ways to practice the language.
Ilse’s story reminded me of the critical role that storybooks play in all cultures, even in those that do not come to mind when we think of endangered languages and cultures, like the communities of immigrants around the world. Language is the glue that keeps families and communities together. The site ourmothertongues.org offers a record of the current movement to safeguard Native American languages. In one video, a Navajo mother speaks about the special relationship that her own mother and her son share: while she never learned her native language from her mother, who was punished for speaking Navajo in the government boarding school she was forced to attend years ago, her mother now teaches her grandson.
And thank you again to Lynne Rudolph for helping with travelling costs. Lynne grew up in a family that valued books and learning. Her mother was a librarian and, following in her footsteps, she became a librarian too. During her 30 years as an elementary school librarian, she developed a deep love, appreciation and respect for children’s literature, its authors, translators, illustrators … And most importantly – its audience. “Bringing the love of books and story to children was the thing that I loved most about my job,” she says. “Making that connection was so profoundly important to me. I am proud to be connected with the Snow Lion Project.”
A belated note to wish you all a Happy New Year! Thank you again for taking part in the Snow Lion Storytelling Initiative. The project is now almost three years old and could not have happened without your generous participation. The books have successfully arrived at most of the schools involved in Snow Lion. Soon we will be sending out your copies as well.
For those of you travelling to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year, I will be presenting Snow Lion on Monday March 24th and would love to give you your copies in person. I look forward to seeing you there!
AND A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO LYNNE RUDOLPH FOR CONTRIBUTING TO TRAVEL COSTS TO GET TO BOLOGNA!
Here’s a letter we received that perfectly manifests what Snow Lion is all about. From Namgyal Yemphel, headmaster of STS Shillong:
Dear Ms. Nelly Buchet-Deák,