Our international partners accomplish amazing things with volunteers. Read their stories.
Volunteer assistance is critical to enabling our international partners to create change in their communities. Many of them have shared the work they were able to accomplish with the help of international volunteers. Read their stories below.
the teacher and the taught, together create the teaching’ print story
June 20, 2012
Educational Support Tibet, India
LET ME EXPLAIN – KEN TOWNSEND E.S. TIBET VOLUNTEER
I have been a teacher in England for 32 years and I’ve taught in many contexts: from High School to Higher Education. The words of the Chinese sage, Lao Tse, have always been of the utmost importance to me and have been my guiding principle throughout my teaching career. It is somewhat ironic that a Chinese philosopher could have been instrumental in bringing an English teacher to work for a Tibetan cause based in North India, but I delight in that irony!
Those words had inspired me to enter teaching many years ago and at the beginning of 2011 had led me to seek a way of leaving teaching in England and to find inspiration elsewhere. I had promised myself that if ever the teaching experience ceased to be a mutual affair between my students and myself then it would be time to move on. I believe that a good teacher must always be learning from his or her students: he has a wealth of experience to pass on but it is the enthusiasm and the commitment of his students and their desire to learn that stimulates the teacher to give his best. This joint activity between student and teacher is what has always made teaching such a rewarding career to me and has made it my life’s purpose.
When I came across the E.S. Tibet website in January 2011 I was inspired! I read accounts by young people who had decided to risk everything in order to gain an educational opportunity in exile in India. These young Tibetans had been prepared to leave their loved ones and to trek across the Himalayas in the most hazardous conditions so that they could learn, improve their English and gain a qualification that might give them an opportunity to gain employment back in their native Tibet. I was reading about an opportunity to serve young people again with my skills and I could feel Lao Tse breathing over my shoulder and saying – his English had become very good! – ‘Go for it!’
I contacted an organisation called Working Abroad, this works in partnership with E.S. Tibet, and my application was accepted. The rest of 2011 was spent planning my departure from teaching and England and preparing for my journey to India. My children are in their 20s and 30s and knew that I wanted to travel further afield but they were rather 2 surprised when I told them I was going to India to work with Tibetans – when they read the website of E.S. Tibet they understood: ‘This is just what you are looking for, it’ll keep you young!’
I’ve been in Kunpan Cultural School of E.S.Tibet for two months now and all that I’d read about the school and the students is proving to be wonderfully true. I had been in touch with previous volunteers before coming to India and all that they had said has been shown to be exactly the case. I have been welcomed into a family and not into an institution. Kunpan Cultural School of E.S.Tibet is a community that has love and generosity at its centre and is inspired by the most wonderful of educational ideals: to enrich our lives with learning so that we may enrich the world.
The first is the Student Presentation that takes place on a Saturday morning before we finish for the weekend. I’d had a visit from Kalden on Friday evening and he was seeking some help in completing his script for the following morning’s Presentation. Every Saturday morning one group organises a Presentation on a theme of their choosing. This Saturday it was to be Nyima’s turn (the word means ‘stars’ in Tibetan, as in the sky) – and I’d already had Gonpo approach me to sound me out on electromagnetism and the relationship between Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell in the invention of the first motor – I kid you not!!! So a very earnest Kalden opened with the words: ‘Ken – he’s one of the few who feels comfortable with using my name instead of my title! – I wish to be a tree tomorrow and to address the students – how shall I do this?’ I had the most delightful time planning and directing Kalden through his project and Nyima’s theme became wonderfully clear the next morning: our human responsibility for this beautiful planet of ours and how we must respond urgently to the needs of Mother Earth.
Kalden – who had been in the monastery for 17 years, having been presented to the Dalai Lama by his mother at the age of 4! - is from a province in Tibet where acres of forest is being destroyed by the Chinese in order to build roads and to mine for minerals to drive the monster economy that has now superseded the US in terms of global exports. As a 3 modern day Chief Seattle Kalden wanted to address the madness that puts greed above responsibility to our brothers and sisters – brother air and sister sky, sister water and brother fire, sister lark and brother polar bear, the whole family that inhabits the blue planet - as a tree. He promised to continue to take seriously his responsibility to feed the oxygen into the air and to keep that air pure but he begged us (all human beings) to wake up to our responsibilities too! He brought the house down, as they say.
Gonpo’s take on Wind power as one solution to the crisis we’re in had him take us through the physics of energy conversion and it was superbly done. Many of these Tibetan students have just had a few years of formal education and yet their ability to communicate complex ideas in a very accomplished way and in a foreign language is humbling. And the wonderful thing is that there is a celebration in their performance; they love performing because they so want to communicate! These young people have so much to teach people in the West about the nature of true education!
The second event was one that I had long looked forward to because I had read previous volunteers’ accounts of them.
The Momo Party
The attempted consumption of about 300-400 of these tasty mini pasties – the artistry in the construction of these crescent moons, little bags of gold and Cornish Pasty shapes defeated this person; I can still hear: ‘No teacher this way’!! – began at 7 p.m. Well, what a special evening!
There’s no place for inhibitions amongst Tibetans and there are no hiding places. Everyone is family and as family you’re in there! The Momos were delicious and are eaten with a chilli paste that is also homemade – they can be steamed or fried, ours were steamed but were still crispy, somehow. Having consumed a reasonable number the fun now started for the singing of songs started only to be halted periodically, at which point anyone not able to freeze completely, suffered the forfeit of having to consume another Momo. So this was how the 400 were to be polished off! Momos are very filling and the humour now generated by having to avoid movement when the singing stopped, having to avoid certain student faces who were guaranteed to make you laugh, having to cope with the anxiety 4 involved in the consumption of yet another pasty – well it was simply wonderful. I guess Kalden – the Tree – consumed about 25-30 and though Choekyi tried her best to make me crack up, I survived!