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Inside Tibet

Nomads living on the Tibetan plateau have little more than their determination, their Buddhist faith, and their yaks. They subsist by growing what they can in the short summer months and shepherding their animals from one pasture to another. Few have ever seen a doctor and, though the plateau is crisscrossed with rivers, clean drinking water is hard to come by. In this challenging environment, our partners persevere, supporting elderly Tibetans and Buddhist nuns, and quietly building bridges, clean water systems, and clinics that benefit thousands of Tibetans.

On the plateau, Tibetans often winter in loosely-clustered villages, above the spring floods and below the worst winter weather.

Rivers become life-threatening torrents when the snow melts. To move their families and livestock across the vast grasslands, nomads must frequently cross these treacherous currents or walk for days to find a ford. The 36 simple but sturdy bridges we’ve helped construct are critical to safely reaching pasture land. They also open up trade routes and access to schools and medical care.

The task of collecting water falls to girls and women, who must negotiate steep terrain to reach streams that are often dirty and contaminated. One of our Tibetan partners builds water systems that pipe fresh spring water directly from high in the mountains. Villagers, eager for this improvement, ferry supplies and dig the trenches for the pipeline. These water systems, 23 now, improve health for people and animals and allow more time for girls to attend school.

In concert with the village water systems, our partner holds health and sanitation talks, assists with building simple toilets, and helps the villages form local committees to manage and maintain the pipeline: small things that make a big difference.

We provide Tibetan elders with food and other small comforts to take the sting out of living in Tibet. And support for Buddhist nuns allows them to survive without having to beg during the year.

The remoteness of the plateau means few health services, and where basic facilities do exist, the geography makes them difficult to reach. To respond to this need, we build clinics and community health centers, and support the doctors and health workers who run them. Thousands of farmers, monks and passing nomads now have access to crucial care and health education, often for the first time.

We also helped build 13 schools, complete with dormitories, making it possible for the children of nomads to be the first in their families to go to school. And ongoing support for school gives Tibetan children an education—in their own language.