Tibet Foundation

British schools warmly welcome young Tibetan refugees from India

Feb 7, 2005

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British schools warmly welcome young Tibetan refugees from India

A group of eleven Tibetan refugee children, together with two teachers from the Tibetan Homes Foundation in northern India are currently touring the United Kingdom at the invitation of London based charity – Tibet Foundation. Their tour is a part of Tibet Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations, which promote Tibetan culture and broader understanding of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Their historic tour began on 24th January and the six boys and five girls, aged between 13 and 15 have traveled extensively over the past 14 days in England, Wales and Scotland. The young people presented their traditional Tibetan songs, dance and music in various schools, colleges and arts centres. They have performed before 2200 British children from 24 different schools across the country so far. They will also interact with the university students in Liverpool and Manchester in the next few days before they travel back to London for Tibetan Losar (New Year) Celebration at the Tibet Foundation on the 9th February. The first leg of the tour started in Newcastle, where fewer Tibet-related events have taken place before. The children performed at the Sage Gateshead Centre at the invitation of the Northern Music Trust, who host comprehensive musical events at the purposely-built 60 million pounds concerts venue. Since the opening of the Gateshead Centre in December 2004 the Tibetan children are the first overseas group to have performed in this prestigious new British architectural landmark. Their visits to the region also included the Queen Elizabeth High School, Dilston College, St. Thomas Catholic School and Prodhoe High School, where the children have made many good friends. They exchanged their addresses with the local children and will be keeping in touch by post and email. Tibetan refugees have been warmly welcomed by their British hosts, wherever they visited. Some of the schools even expressed their keen interest to link up with the refugee community in the future. The young Tibetan teenagers were very impressed with the children at the Prodhoe High School, who had displayed collections of articles and Tibet-related news on their school notice boards. The children had also hung a Tibetan flag in the hall, where they performed and gave workshops during the day. The host students also made presentations including the play Cinderella and some musical concerts. Yvonne Clark, head of the drama department at Prodhoe said, “Music and dance are international. They bring people together.” Before their first public performance in the evening at the Queen Elizabeth High School, the Tibetan children played a friendly football match with the host children at the Prodhoe. The young Tibetan teenagers also had the opportunity to attend a meeting, organised by the Human Rights Group, a Students’ club within the Queen Elizabeth High School, which was chaired by their biology teacher and a keen Tibet supporter Andrew Brook. Andrew introduced the sponsorship secretary the Tibetan Homes Foundation, Kalsang Namgyal, explaining he maintains close contacts with foreign donors. “We are denied human rights in Tibet,” Kalsang said. “The Tibetan Homes Foundation was formed as a direct result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Many hundreds of Tibetan refugee children embark on risky journeys to India by crossing the Himalayas through Nepal for proper Tibetan education,” he added. He gave an example of a young Tibetan girl called Dhadon, who was left behind by her group on the way to India in the mountains to die, as she was unable to continue the journey along with her friends. Fortunately, a Scottish couple rescued the young girl from the mountains and she was later admitted to the Tibetan Homes Foundation, where she now receives her education. The Tibetan children noted that the local British children were very curious to learn more about Tibet and their culture. The young Tibetans also paid a short visit to Port Glasgow, which was an interesting journey for them as they enjoyed the beautiful Scottish scenery including the Frith of the river Clyde. In Scotland, the children performed at the Lilybank Special School near Glasgow. The second leg of the tour started in London on 29 January at the Steiner Theatre, where they met a number of Tibetans including children of their own age who were brought up in the United Kingdom. The next day, they took part in the International Festival at the American School in London, at the invitation of the school’s Students for Tibet club. Their short presentations at the festival enthralled the audience as they performed a Tibetan Yak Dance! In South West England, the children visited the Sedgemoor Major Junior School in Bridgwater and the Plough Arts Centre in Devon. Brad Murray, the head teacher of the School said that the Tibetan children’s performance was of “very high standard”. “Our children are enjoying it and all the staff are enjoying it too!” he added. On the morning of 1st February, the children paid a visit to the Great Torrington Comprehensive School in Devon at the request of head of the Religious Education section. They were taken around the school on tour by the children. On their way to North Wales, the Tibetan children stopped at Weston College in Weston-super-Mare, where they were warmly received by the waiting staff and students. Before their special dinner, the Tibetan children made a short cultural presentation to the staff and the drama students at the College. It is not the first time that the college has welcomed Tibetan refugees. The college had so far provided 6 scholarships to Tibetan refugees from India and Nepal for their further education including the author of this report, which was arranged by a Tibet supporter David Elsey. At 9.30pm, Peter Williams, a language teacher and co-coordinator for the children’s visit to the Dinas Bran School with the host families were eagerly waiting at the school campus to extend their warm welcome to the young Tibetans. The Tibetan children enjoyed home stays with a number of host families, with whom they stayed for four nights. The Dinas Bran School is well known in the region for its international links. David Phoenix, an International Adviser to the Denbigshire County Council said that the Tibetan children’s visit to the Dinas Bran was “first group to the school” from Tibet. He expressed his genuine desire to initiate and develop links with the Tibetan community. During their three days in North Wales, the children attended some school lessons and performed for music students and interacted in classrooms. They also performed at the Chirk Junior, a neighbouring school. The Tibetans also attended a live concert in the evening by some 20 children from Dinas Bran, who raised funds for the Tsunami victims in Asia. The visiting children cooked Tibetan food – popularly known as “momo” for the Boy Scouts at their Headquarters in Wrexham on their second last day, sharing the taste of Tibetan food with their hosts. On the final day of their stay in Llangollen, the children gave morning sessions workshops with the two music classes and performed to 60 children at the Royal International Pavilion in the afternoon. After an hour’s performance and the workshop conducted by the visiting children, Meurig Williams, chairman of the Denbigshire County Council expressed his “warm welcome” to the Tibetan refugees. He expressed his appreciation to the group for coming to North Wales and visiting the schools in Denbigshire County Council. He said that the link was “just a beginning and not the end”. As gesture of building a new relationship between the visiting school and the host community, Kalsang Namgyal offered a white Tibetan scarf to the chairman of the Denbigshire County Council and in return exchanged a gift for all the children. In the evening, the children presented their final performance in the region to an audience of over 150 at the Royal International Pavilion. After the outstanding cultural presentation by the young children, Tsering Passang expressed his sincere appreciation on behalf of the Tibet Foundation for all the support the British public has given especially over the past 20 years in supporting the work of this charity. “Tibetans have always looked towards Britain as a nation with which they feel so close. The people of Tibet and Britain have always maintained a close relationship through cultural links”, Tsering told the audience. “In 1925, six monks from Shelkhar in Dhingri from Western Tibet visited Britain and had participated in the Great Empire exhibition. The first UK tour by the Tibetan refugee children from the exiled community coincide the return of an historic event to this country after eighty years” he added. The spokesperson for the Foundation also said that as a British charity, Tibet Foundation is “very concerned about the plight of the Tibetan refugees in Nepal and those fleeing Tibet through Nepal to India.” Referring to the recent closures of the Tibetan welfare office and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representative office in Kathmandu, he “hoped that the closure was a temporary incident and there would be a breakthrough”. In addition to supporting the educational and healthcare projects for Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal, and to those inside Tibet, the Tibet Foundation is also helping the Mongolian people in Mongolia towards revival of their Buddhist tradition. For further information about the UK Tour by Tibetan Refugee Children from India and the work of Tibet Foundation, please contact its office on 020 7930 6001 or visit www.tibet-foundation.org Friday 11 February 2005 @ 7pm Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL A special celebration of the Tibetan New Year (Losar)