About the School
Xieqing Charity Orphan School is a non-governmental organization. The school is located on a beautiful grassland at the foot of snow-capped mountains in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, southwest China.
The school is located at the foot of snowcapped mountains
The founder and principal of the school, Gongxia Rinpoche has been dedicated to establishing the school since 2004. After two years of hard work and with the assistance of donors and volunteers from Tibetan communities around the world, Rinpoche completed the construction of a modern school for Tibetan orphans on a highland with an altitude over 4,000 meters.
Gongxia Rinpoche with Tibetan orphans.
Rinpoche completed the first phase of the school construction in the summer of 2006. The first 50 orphans entered the school in September 2006.
The school is very important to the Tibetans. Living conditions in these areas prove difficult because of high altitude and isolation. Local people lead a traditional life of nomads and farmers without access to education. Due to harsh conditions, many children lose one or both parents and become orphans. Although local people are kind-hearted and provide them with basic shelter and food, they are unable to provide the orphans with a nurturing and healthy living environment and an opportunity for comprehensive and modern education.
Children at the opening ceremony in September 2006.
The school will be a warm home for orphans and provide them education in Tibetan, Chinese, and English languages, as well as in mathematics, natural sciences, ethics, arts, etc. Children will also receive vocational training such as greenhouse farming, growing medicinal herbs, animal herding, environment protection, handicraft arts, tourist services, etc.
Through providing the orphans with education, the school also hopes to introduce advanced concepts and technology of the outside world to these isolated villages in order to gradually influence the education and life in rural Tibetan areas. Furthermore, as more and more volunteers and supporters are involved in volunteering their time and skills for the school, more and more people will be able to benefit from helping others, experiencing a new way of life and building friendship across ethnic, national and cultural differences.
Student Stories: from July to August 2007
Lotus student Spencer Jemelka (from Occidental College, USA, joined Lotus for the 12 week summer program in 2006) and his friend Tom Gray (from Marietta College, USA) volunteered in Xieqing Charity Orphan School for three weeks from July to August 2007. The followings is feedback from them regarding the school, volunteering and their life while in the Tibetan highlands. The following pictures were taken by Spencer and Tom.
Transportation: The school is located in a village about 26 hours' drive from Chengdu, capital of China's Sichuan province. To get to Chengdu, students can take either plane or train from Beijing. It takes about 8 hours from Chengdu to Kangding (capital of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), 14 hours from Kangding to the town of Ganzi, then 4 hours from the town of Ganzi to the school. The nearest small town where one can find restaurants and a few shops is 1 hour's walk away from the school.
Population and languages spoken: The area is mainly populated by Tibetans, with few Chinese. However in the orphan school, most of the volunteer teachers and staff speak Mandarin Chinese. One of the deputy principals also speaks English.
Temperature: During the summer, the weather is nice; the temperature is from 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. During the day, wearing T-shirts and jeans is OK. At night and when it rains, one needs to wear long sleeves or rain jackets.
Classes: The students have classes every morning. They take Chinese, Tibetan, English and Math. They also take classes in Tibetan traditional dances everyday.
Facilities and Utilities: Electricity and cell phone reception are available in the school. Students can therefore bring their cell phones and laptops. There is also a telephone line in the school but no internet connection available; the nearest place where are internet cafes is about 5 hours away. There are faucets and running water but no shower; however as boiling water is always available in the school, one can take bath with a basin. The nearest place one can take shower is in the town of Ganzi.
Living conditions: Volunteers live in shared dormitory with other teachers. The dormitory is facilitated with beds, bed sheets and blankets, etc, desks and toilets.
Food: For breakfast, Zangba (Tibetan food made from highland barley). For lunch, rice and meat, sometimes cabbage. For dinner, porridge. Volunteers and teachers can also cook by themselves, but Spenser and Tom chose to eat with the children.
What the volunteers do: Spencer and Tom taught for 2 to 3 classes of English everyday. For the rest of the time, they explored the surrounding areas for the natural beauties: hills, huge mountains, grassland, etc mainly by hiking. They also learned about Tibetan culture by visiting Tibetan Buddhist Temples, attending temple assemblies and learning the Tibetan language from the students. As the school is in the second phase of construction, they also helped with some construction....
What is urgently needed? Education on environmental protection and health care. The Tibetan area is of incredible natural beauty, but it is being polluted. As the locals haven't been educated about non-disposable trash and pollution (In traditional Tibetan life, things they used were naturally disposable; but now it is totally different), they throw trash away on the roads, behind their houses or even throw used batteries in rivers which are also the source of their drinking water. Volunteers with health care knowledge as doctors and nurses are lacking in the school.
Spending and money exchange: Most daily necessities can be purchased at a low cost in the small town one hour's walk away. Students need to bring some RMB if they wish to buy souvenirs and Tibetan stuff there. One can exchange money only in Kangding. The town of Yajiang is recommended for buying souvenirs by Spenser and Tom for the shops there are reasonable. In the town of Ganzi, there are ATMs available for drawing from Chinese a/c.
Tips to avoid sun burn: Wear long sleeves. Don't stay outside for too long. Bring suntan lotion if necessary.
Tips to avoid high altitude disease: the altitude of the school is about 4,000 meters. To avoid high altitude disease, please drink a lot of water and rest when first arriving.