I wrote the following for Tibet Fund for its special publication on the occasion of its 35 years of service. It is on page 27 of the publication.
Empowering Tibetans in More Ways than One
Bhuchung K. Tsering
As with all Tibetans of my generation, my choice of a career was shaped more by the availability of funding/scholarship rather than by my own personal ambition. Growing up I had an interest in science (wanted to be a medical doctor, no surprise there as everyone then wanted to be one!), but when the time came for me to choose my field of study in the last two years of my high school, the only option provided to students of my group was in humanities and not science.
I then developed an interest in journalism. My choice, after my undergraduate study, included applying for a job with a media organization or applying for admission to a mass communication school. I did both.
Around that time (in the early 1980s) I had somehow heard that the Office of Tibet in New York (within which Tibet Fund was housed in its initial years) was providing scholarship for further studies. I therefore wrote a letter to it explaining my interest in studying journalism.
I was greatly encouraged to get a positive response that my scholarship request was accepted. But by then I had also heard from Indian Express newspaper that they were going to hire me. So I did not need to avail myself of the scholarship from Tibet Fund.
I am relating this personal experience only to illustrate how Tibet Fund has been impacting the lives of Tibetans at the fundamental level in its 35 years of service to the community. When I applied for a journalism scholarship, I had no awareness of the other areas in which Tibet Fund was planning to be involved in. It was only in subsequent years that I came to learn more, particularly after I joined the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, D.C. I saw at close quarters how Tibet Fund and ICT worked together in order to provide concrete help to the Tibetan people. For years, ICT (in support of the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama) worked with the United States Administration as well as staff and members of Congress who cared deeply for the Tibetan people to support initiatives that would provide funding to empower the Tibetan people, in the fields of education, culture, health and socio-economic development, etc. Upon fruition of the initiatives in the form of scholarship, humanitarian assistance and development grant programs, etc., the Tibet Fund assumed the major responsibility of implementing the programs within the Tibetan community in exile. They did this in close coordination with the Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India.
Today, to me, Tibet Fund’s impact on the Tibetan community can be placed in three broad categories: Empowering Tibetans in exile; Strengthening Tibetan institutions; and Impacting Tibetans in Tibet
Empowering Tibetans in exile
The Tibet Fund came into being at a time when the Tibetan people had, through the foresight of H.H. the Dalai Lama, been able to lay the initial foundation for the preservation and promotion of their identity, including their religious and cultural traditions. The people had the will and the determination and needed resources to enable them to initiate programs. Since then, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says in his message to Tibet Fund in 2015, “The Tibet Fund has raised millions of dollars to help our people to build schools and provide housing and infrastructure, health care and education ….”
Through a variety of grants, the Tibet Fund has been empowering the Tibetan community to resurrect, promote and sustain its culture and tradition.
Strengthening Tibetan institutions
The second area in which Tibet Fund has been contributing to the Tibetan society is by strengthening Tibetan institutions by enabling them to provide much-needed short-term and long-term services to the people.
At the topmost is its close working relationship with the Tibetan leadership in Dharamsala, particularly in the fields of education, health, religion and culture. A significant part of this relationship is the operation of the funding provided by the United States Government. While the humanitarian assistance is enabling the Central Tibetan Administration to provide health care and other socio-economic programs to the Tibetan people, I feel the scholarships for Tibetan students from the Indian subcontinent to undergo further studies in schools in the United States is having a long-term impact in the development of the community.
One drawback of the Tibetan governance in the past has been the lack of exposure of the administrators and leaders to systems other than that of the traditional Tibetan one. Even in the post-1959 period while there were sporadic cases of Tibetans being sent abroad for specialized education, there was nothing in the scope of the Tibetan Scholarship Program. Since its inception in 1988, graduates of the program have gone back and are virtually forming the backbone of the Tibetan leadership, both in administration as well as in the education field.
Impacting Tibetans in Tibet
The above mentioned programs of the Tibet Fund are predominantly in the Tibetan community in exile. But the Tibet Fund has also been implementing both socio-economic welfare and educational programs for our brethren inside Tibet. Over the years, I have met Tibetans from Tibet who have benefited from educational opportunities that the Tibet Fund has provided to them. In fact, it was also encouraging to hear a comparatively high Tibetan official refer to this program in casual conversations during one of the visits by envoys of H.H. the Dalai Lama between 2002 and 2010.
If and when there is a solution to the Tibetan issue I am sure Tibet Fund has the potential and the capability to expand its programs in Tibet so that the majority of the Tibetans there can also be empowered.