The snow was up to his hips and each step was difficult. Finally the guide stopped. “We must turn back,” he said. Almost everyone turned around and followed the guide. But not Dorjee. He wasn’t about to go back. He wanted to go forward. To freedom.
Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the mid-1950, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have fled their beloved homeland in search of freedom. Many are children and teens who risk imprisonment, injury, and death. What awaits them after their dangerous trek across the border? What will their life be like in exile?
Using stories, interviews, and photos from Birgit van de Wijer’s Child Exodus from Tibet, Naomi C. Rose Portrays the compelling truth about these brave youth.
A provocative and inspiring book!
Naomi C. Rose has been a student of Tibetan culture and wisdom since1994. Her first book, Tibetan tales for little Buddhas(2004), won a Nautilus Book Award and a storyteller World Honor. Her other books include Tibetan Tales from the Top of the world (2009) and the forthcoming where snow Leopard Prowls (2011), and Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure (2011).
Naomi travels extensively to bring her programs on Tibet to schools and other venues for children and adults.
Birgit van de Wijer has been active in the Tibetan cause since 1998, with a particular focus on the fate of children. Her first book, Child Exodus from Tibet (2006) has been translated into French and Dutch.
Birgit delivers lectures for adults on several subject concerning Tibet. She also visits school to inform children about the situation in Tibet. Birgit is financing several projects in Tibet and Nepal for Tibetan as well as Nepalese Children. She also works to help and support Tibetan refugees in Belgium.
It all started in March 2003. I was researching an article about the Tibetan Children Villages (TCV) in India, network of school for children who escaped from Tibet. My Tibetan friend Sangpo advised me to visit the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center (TRRC) in Kathmandu (Nepal), where all child refugees stay before leaving for India.
When I visited the centre, its classroom was packed with children of all ages. One teacher was dressing the youngest ones up as little fairies, while another teacher taught the English alphabet to the older ones. I was struck with how many child refuges there were. Some were quite young, too. How had they managed to make the 1,000-km journey across the Himayas?
Then I went to Dharamsala (India), where I met a young woman with her two month –old baby. She related the story about her journey and the capture of her husband and five year-old son. Images of this imprisoned boy kept haunting me, spurring me on to find out more.
In 2005, I traveled to Nepal and India again to interview the newly arrived children and to complete my research. I listened to story after story of the horrors these young people faced. It becomes hard to stay insensitive.
Now Naomi C. Rose has adapted my book for youth. I hope this will help inspire more and more people to do what we can for these brave young Tibetans who risk everything for freedom and education.
Along with learning about the peaceful and wise ways of Tibetans, I learned of their suffering. I learned of the painful losses since china began its occupation of Tibet in the mid-1950.
I’ve felt deep sadness about the situation in Tibet and the plight of Tibetans and their culture. I’ve been tempted to slip into anger, blame, and hatred,too. But my encounters with Tibetans wouldn’t allow it. Over and over, they’ve told me: “we do not hate the Chinese. It is not our way. We hold them in our prayers.”
When I came upon birgit van de Wijer’s book Child Exadus from Tibet, I admired her noble labor of love. And I agreed to do this adaptation, not out of sadness or hatred, but out of love for all beings from all cultures.
Most of all, I write this book out of love for the Tibetan Children. What beautiful, brave, and remarkable spirits they are! They inspire me to love and care even more. I hope they inspire you too.
In 2005, seventeen- year-old Dorjee labored in the snow along with others in his large group. The snow was up to his hips and each step was difficult.
Finally the guide stopped.” We must turn back,” he said.
Almost everyone turned around and followed the guide. But not Dorjee. He was not about to go back. He wanted to go forward. To freedom.
For fifteen more days, Dorjee and several others continued on. Finally they reache d the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center in Nepal.
Dorjee suffered painful frostbite, but doctors expected his wounds to heal. He hoped to travel soon by bus to India where he would begin a new life.
Dorjee was not the first and certainly not the last Tibetan youth to risk his life in search of freedom. More than 2000 Tibetans each year flee Chinese- occupied
Tibet. Many who flee are children and teens. These youngsters often make the dangerous journey without their parents, and sometimes without any adult at all.
Many parents want to flee with their children, but can’t. They must tend to the elders and the younger children. Some parents escape with their children and then return home. Others entrust their children to a guide. Some children flee without telling their parents.
Like dorjee, all these Children risk injury, sickness, and death as they cross the tallest mountains of the world. The way is icy and snowbound. Many travel on foot with little food, no tent, and poor shoes. To avoid getting caught, most travel during winter and at night.
The journey to freedom may take days, weeks, or months. Some children don’t make it. They die of hypothermia, hunger, and exhaustion. Others are caught by the Chinese army.
The children, who do make it, face new lives in a foreign land, away from loved ones. They face new lives as refugees.
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