Schools Receive the Books: It’s Story Time for Tibetan Kids!

Just in time for the season of giving here in the West, Tibetan refugee children across India are receiving copies of the Snow Lion books in their school libraries and community centers. We’ve received acknowledgement from the different Tibetan refugee schools of India: the Central School for Tibetans (CST) and Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society (STS) and the SOS Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV). SOS Tibetan Children’s Villages is a member of SOS Children’s Villages International, an international organization dedicated to providing “quality alternative care for children who cannot live with their biological families.” Our Snow Lion translator Khawabu Lobsang Tgupten graduated from SOS Tibetan Children’s Village Gopalpur, a school that sent us a letter of acknowledgement last week!

On December 12th, the headmistress of Sambhota Tibetan School in the Northern town of Paonta sent us these photos of her students exploring the books.

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Reception Letters from the Schools

Success!! We’re receiving confirmation that the books are now in the hands of Tibetan children! Hurray! Our distributor in India is forwarding letters and emails to us acknowledging the reception of the books in schools in far-away states of India, proof that the books are reaching their destinations. Here are two such letters from the northern states of Himachal Pradesh, where I spent my two summers launching Snow Lion, and Uttarakhand, an area that suffered a devastating earthquake last June.

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CST-Munsoorie

From: Central School for Tibetans Chotta Shimla

Date: Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 3:19 PM

To

The Director

Sherig Parkhang Trust

R-28,Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar Delhi 92

Dear Sir,

We received the books sent by your esteem office for our school,

We would like to convey our heartfelt thanks for contributing this kind book for our children.

Thanking you

Yours Sincerely

Dealing Staff

Dhundup

CENTRAL SCHOOL FOR TIBETAN
SHIMLA-171002
HIMACHAL PRADESH
INDIA

Books Ready To Cast Off!

It is with enormous pleasure that we are proud to announce that the books are ready for distribution! Our printer, New Delhi-based Full Circle Books, will be sending just under 2,000 books to our distributor, the Tibetan Cultural & Religious Publication Centre (TCRPC). From their head office in New Delhi, TCRPC will then send copies of each high-quality and study book to every one of the 50 + public and private schools of the Tibetan refugee community throughout India, Nepal and Bhutan. The number of books allocated to each school depends on the school’s population. And while some books will arrive in the kids’ hands sooner than others, the farther destinations will take a little while to reach.

We are so excited about these most recent developments. We cannot thank enough Full Circle Books, TCRPC, Dalai Lama Fellows, our publishers, designers, and translators, and all of you who have dedicated time and energy to the realization of this project. Your endless patience and resilience has made this crucial next step possible.

We plan to send copies of the books to our friends and supporters as soon as possible, hopefully just in time for Christmas! For now, here are some photos of the books from our friends at Full Circle. Aren’t they beautiful?

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Social Work vs Social Reform

Inspiration feeds the resilience that we must cultivate as we continue to patiently anticipate the books getting published. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) comes to mind as an exemplar of someone whose tremendous energy implemented social innovation. Dr. Ambedkar was inspired by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, a nineteenth century revolutionary thinker who pioneered women’s education in India with his wife. Babasaheb, as he came to be known, was the principle architect of the Indian Constitution who campaigned against the Hindu caste system by sparking the Dalit Buddhist movement. Born into the Dalit or “Untouchable” caste himself, he dedicated his life to social justice and reformation.

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B.R. Ambedkar

Shakti Bhise, the 2013 Dalai Lama Fellow from TATA Institute of Social Sciences of Mumbai who I met at this summer’s Ethical Leadership Assembly, told me about both activists after I gave my presentation at the ELA. As someone who is familiar with the Tibetan refugee community of India, Shakti celebrated Snow Lion’s tangible goals by alluding to a distinction that Phule was aware of back in the mid 1800s. Shakti presented to me the profound difference between social reformation and social work. The idea can be summed up in the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As Shakti put it, feeding a man one day is social work but providing skills is reformation, and Snow Lion is a good example of social reformation.

By providing books to children, Snow Lion is planting a seed and joyfully giving the shoot the space to grow as it will. In other words, the “tangible results” with which funders preoccupied themselves will manifest in ways that we cannot expect—and this is the reformation part of it. We cannot foresee what will transpire on a generational scale, but what we do know is that education is the roots of empowerment. At risk of condoning warfare language, and yet comfortable with my decision to use the quote because Nelson Mandela said it: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Grizzly Landing

For those of you who aren’t aware of the funding that has made Snow Lion possible, the project is the product of McGill’s 2012-2013 Dalai Lama Fellowship, a highly competitive global program that grants up to $10,000 to students at select universities to design and launch ambitious projects in communities of their choice. Fellows come together for a week at the start of their Fellowship year to prepare launching their projects. The next year, Fellows return to report back at the Ethical Leadership Assembly in California.

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The tawny rolling hills of Petaluma look like the fur of a giant slumbering grizzly bear. As we drive up to the Institute of Noetic Sciences retreat center, I can’t help but wonder: “If the golden grass is the bear’s fur, what are the oak trees?”

“Burs,” Alex says.

I look out the window at the trees dancing in the wind. It’s difficult to conceive of the oaks as mere burs. Our first appointment confirms my hesitancy about this newfound analogy. Miwok Elders Joanne Campbell and Gene Buvelot open the ELA with an introduction to the history and heritage of the land where we are to spend a week together. According to the Elders, the oak has played an invaluable role in the flora and fauna of the land where the Miwok tribe lived for 10,000 to 13,000 years. Elder Joanne Campbell draws our attention to how the ground used to be covered in acorns fallen from the ancient oaks. Before their forced departure of these lands during California’s Mission Period that spanned from 1769 to 1824, the nut nestled in the acorn shell was a staple in the diet of the native tribes of Petaluma.

The land that surrounds us comes to life as we explore the baskets and jewelry that Joanne distributes among the audience. The Miwok Elders’ inspire us to dedicate this week to those who’ve come before us.

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Introducing Naomi C. Rose

imagesIt is my pleasure to introduce Naomi Rose. She is the author/illustrator of award-winning Tibetan-themed books that we hope to share throughout the distribution network that the Snow Lion Storytelling Initiative has secured. Naomi contacted me a few months ago and we are thrilled to collaborate with her on getting her books into the hands of more Tibetan children.

The Forces AVENIR grant that I mentioned in my last post would go toward distributing Naomi’s books. Not only are they beautiful and perfectly themed, but three of the four picture books we intend to include are already published and available as bilingual English/Tibetan books!

Take a look at these gems:

Praised by all, TASHI AND THE TIBETAN FLOWER CURE tells the story of “Tashi, a Tibetan-American girl, misses her precious time with Popola (her grandpa) who has become ill. Determined to help him get well, Tashi remembers his stories about a flower cure used in his Tibetan village. She recruits friends and neighbors to re-create this Tibetan healing tradition. But will the flower cure work in America? This story is about diverse people coming together in the spirit of healing and community. It’s based on a true story, “Downwind from Flowers,” written by Lee Paton. Lyrically told and illustrated with impressionistic paintings, this story also shines a light on the special bond between grandchild and grandparent.”

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With forewords written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Naomi’s TIBETAN TALES FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD and TIBETAN TALES FOR LITTLE BUDDHAS offer a collection of enchanting stories from Tibet. Naomi’s awe-inspiring illustrations will transport the children and Tibetans of all ages through time and across borders while celebrating Tibet’s ancient wisdom of compassionate responsibility.

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In addition to the illustrated stories, TIBETAN TALES FOR LITTLE BUDDHAS includes a map, a glossary, and the transcription of a Tibetan chant.

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I am particularly excited about Naomi’s new book. Published by Dancing Dakini Press, WHERE THE SNOW LEOPARD PROWLS is an interactive book about Tibetan wildlife. Beside Naomi’s beautiful water color illustrations of full-grown and baby versions of Tibetan animals like the Snow Leopard, Wild Yak, Himalayan Tahr, and Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, the book offers activities for the children to explore their homeland’s fauna. Perfect for a classroom environment, the book will not only allow refugee children to exercise their native language skills, but also foster an environmental consciousness that is growing in children all over the world.

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We are so grateful that Naomi reached out to collaborate with SLSI. Her books embody everything SLSI is about: practicing Tibetan language, exploring cultures, exercising wonder through story. Unfortunately, as is the case with any project, funding determines how far we can go. And while we are excited to participate in the grant competition, we also recognize that, with all the great projects out there, these kinds of competitions are tough to win. So if you have any ideas for funding, let us know! I’ll keep you posted on what happens with the award. Until then!

Exciting New Developments

A quick progress report to our supporters all over the world: I just got back from an event at McGill University where I learned that the Snow Lion Storytelling Initiative will be moving on to the regional level of a prestigious award and funding opportunity that would allow us to expand in important, exciting ways. The Forces AVENIR award in Arts, Literature and Culture “aims to recognize, honour and promote the commitment of young people in projects which enrich knowledge, arouse the desire for success and for surpassing oneself, encourage the development of community thinking and thus contribute to the development of socially conscious, active and responsible citizens who are both dedicated to their community and open to the world.”

We are thrilled to go forward in this competition, as the grant would allow us to continue to distribute books from other cultures throughout the refugee network, but also to facilitate access to books about the children’s homeland, namely folktales and an interactive book about the wildlife of Tibet.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more information to come about the Tibetan-themed books and the author/illustrator we are working with to implement this new facet of the SLSI literacy initiative.

In the name of animals and wildlife, I’ll leave you with a photograph from last summer of me sharing a moment with a special friend outside the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, the Tibetan headquarters of India.

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