August 2011

TRAS Partners with UBC Economics Students!

From January to April of 2011, TRAS participated in the Community Service Learning Program at UBC ( TRAS was partnered with a 3rd-year Economics course on Poverty and Inequality taught by Dr. Catherine Douglas. Dr. Douglas’s goal was for her students to develop a deeper understanding of what poverty means to people in developing countries by volunteering with and for an organization here in Vancouver that assists those in such circumstances.

In early January, TRAS President Jennifer Hales gave a presentation on TRAS to Dr. Douglas’s class. 18 of her students chose TRAS as the community organization for which they wanted to do a volunteer project. Working in four groups, they:

  • made two short videos about TRAS
  • researched and wrote about the economic, political and social context of project sites in the Himalayas
  • researched major foundations as potential sources of funding, and
  • helped with TRAS’s 5th Nepali Film Festival

And now that the course is over, some of the students are continuing to volunteer for TRAS! They helped us with our AGM and transcribed interviews for another TRAS film, and will be sending out email “e-blasts” in the coming months for us. We are thrilled to have their continued help and involvement.

A huge thank you to UBC Community Service Learning, Dr. Douglas, and, especially, to the following students of Economics 317 (Spring 2011) for their contributions to TRAS:

Alex Baranovschi, David Basche, Phil Chou, Thomas Heister, Jessica Jiang, Stephen Kane, Grace Kim, Lauren Kong, Dorothy Lee, Kailey Metcalfe, Arezoo Payvar, Steve Shields, Diondi Tan, Gina Tan, George Ting, Edbert Wee, Gloria Wong, and Si Xin (Ada) Zeng

It has been a pleasure and honour to work with such enthusiastic, talented and committed young people.

The videos produced by 6 of the students can be viewed below:

In the fall of 2011, TRAS will renew its partnership with Dr. Douglas and begin working with a new group of students!

A Visit to Little Flowers Crèche – May 3, 2011 by TRAS member Shelley Ugyan

Shelley and the Secretary, Passang

I had a wonderful visit to this Tibetan Crèche while visiting Dharmasala, India, this spring. I was greeted at the front gate by Passang Chokpa, the secretary of this parent-run Crèche, who walked me to the facility located in the Tibetan government-in-exile complex just beside Sambhota Gankyi Model School. Passang was only recently elected secretary in the annual Crèche elections, which take place in February. There are 4 members on the executive – a president, a secretary, a cashier and an accountant.

The President and his Daughter

The newly elected president, Kunga Gyaltsen, was also there to meet me. He had been in India since 1983 and involved with the Crèche for the past 4 years. Kunga and Passang introduced me to 5 mothers who had taken time out from their regular jobs to come to meet me. They were all very appreciative of my visit and gave me many thanks for the work TRAS has done. They all commented that without TRAS there would be no Crèche and they don’t know what they would do.

These parents work for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) of the Tibetan government-in-exile, as do most of the Crèche parents. There are 7 different departments (such as health and education) in the CTA, and most of these parents work in the clerical sector. The others work for local Tibetan non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Many of the parents came on their own from Tibet as young people, or were born elsewhere in India, coming to Dharamsala to work for their government. So they have no family members to rely on to care for their children. Their salaries are minimal, but they do all contribute financially to the Crèche. The Department of Health gives a grant towards meals for the children. Apart from that, TRAS is the main source of funding.
Children at Play

The great benefit of having the Crèche within the government compound is that it is so easy for parents to access, as they live andwork within walking distance. The parent-run administration committee changes annually in order to include all the parents in the decisions and discussions about the Crèche. Each parent is expected to take turns stepping up to help out in some capacity. They have meetings when necessary to discuss different issues that come up. For example, recently they had to change the provider of the Crèche food as the café nearby was not working out. Another restaurant has agreed to supply the meals until October but at this time they may need to hire an outside chef. Of course this will affect the budget and is a concern for the parents. The parents also look after the facility, whitewashing the walls, building shelves etc.

Lunchtime at Crèche

Four women work in the Crèche. There are 3 babysitters and 1 preschool teacher who works in a separate room with children 2.5 years of age and older. Presently she is teaching them to talk and play and is working with some manipulatives, such as blocks, and some toys but is lacking in resources in this area. One parent commented that her daughter has learnt so much, such as prayers and Nursery Rhymes. There are no books at the daycare at all. There is one chalkboard in the “classroom” area but it is not easy to write on and the teacher is hoping for a white board here. There are insufficient funds for this upgrade. At present there are 15 children in the Crèche, though there have been up to 25 at a time, depending on the size of the young families working for the government.

View of the Crèche

Children are welcome to come to the Crèche after 3 months of age. Maternity leave is provided by the CTA for up to 3 months, therefore it is very important these parents have somewhere to bring their children after 3 months. Kunga Gyaltsen explained that it is very expensive and unsafe to find outside help and without the Crèche, parents would have to leave their jobs to mind the children. Children can stay at the Crèche until they are 3 years old or until the next school year starts after this point. For example, Kunga Gyaltsen’s daughter is 3 in June but the next school year does not start until March so she can stay at the daycare until then. Most children attend the “Sambhota Gankyi Model School” which is next to the Crèche. It goes up to grade 5 and is directly run by Sambhota Tibetan School Association (STSS).

It was wonderful to talk to the parents of the Crèche and hear how well they feel it is working. Their gratitude is immense and I was greeted with such kindness and generosity. They took time out of their busy jobs to come to meet me and on parting gifted me with a Tibetan white scarf (the traditional honor) and a book written by His Holiness in order to show their gratitude to TRAS.
It was a beautiful, touching experience which I will never forget and I feel so lucky to be part of an organization committed to helping with such a beautiful and necessary cause.
Children at Play
Toy Shelf
Nap Room
Play Room

December 2011: Desiring to help the Crèche buy some books and white boards, Shelley hosted a musical evening with friends on Sunday December 11, 2011 and sold TRAS handicrafts.  She raised $500 which, when matched by our generous donor, will be $1,000 for the crèche.  This will pay for the needed supplies, with the balance helping to fund the annual maintenance. Wonderful! A great big ‘thank you’ to Shelley and her friends!