This trip is an adventure of a lifetime and challenges people culturally, politically and physically. It is sometimes very exciting and sometimes frustrating as we travel through China, Tibet and Nepal with differing cultures, as we get out there and meet people, listen to them, hear their stories, breathe deeply and notice everything. Our longstanding experiences in these areas and our great local guides help us to negotiate our path.
Along the way between Beijing and Kathmandu, we have the opportunity to contribute as travelers to the local Tibetan community in the Thangkor nomad area, where the average income per year is about 1500 Chinese Yuan (£100) per family.
Here, along the banks of the Yellow River, access to education has been rare and difficult, due to the expenses of sending children to school and the traditional nomadic culture, however enrolments have started to increase in the last few years, due to the local Tibetan elders starting an education association, encouraging enrolments and offering full board to the Tibetan nomad children.
However with such increases in school population many resources are needed – basic things such as warm bedding and adequate meals to sports equipment and musical instruments for cultural activities.
In 2005 some of our groups donated world maps to the bare walls of 45 classrooms, and 10 Damye (traditional Tibetan guitars) to the music group. In 2006 the school is hoping to establish some vocational training for older students and the beginnings of a computer centre to help bridge the gap between basic education and more modern styles of learning and eventually help open up future employment opportunities for their young people. We can visit the school and play some basketball at lunchtime with school children who still dress in their traditional Tibetan clothes.
With Tibet having one of the highest incidences of blindness in the world, another project that we have visited for the past 4 years is Braille without Borders, based in Lhasa. Our groups have contributed by in varying ways: carrying parcels of difficult-to-find Braille paper from eastern China, frequenting the schools vocational massage clinicians, and making direct contributions. Many of our passengers take up the option of visiting the centre and view it as a highlight of their trip.
Other fun and practical contributions to the employment of Tibetans on our trips have been the introduction of a one hour Tibetan language class for our passengers (try saying Nga, Na and Nye and make them sound different) and also the opportunity to attend a Tibetan cooking class.