Empowering nuns to tell their own stories

Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Most of us take for granted our ability and opportunity to tell and share our stories. In wealthy nations, we’ve been privileged to have access to the education and tools such as computers and cameras that allow us to document our personal stories, messages and creative projects.

Not everyone has this opportunity. The Tibetan nuns have been among the world’s most disadvantaged in this regard. Not only did they face horrific human rights abuses prior to their escape, many of them received little or no education in Tibet and were illiterate on arrival in exile.

picture of 4 Tibetan Buddhist nuns at computers

Computer and media training at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute. Photo courtesy of Harald Weichhart who spent a month at Dolma Ling in May 2013 and has visited the nunnery 2 other times to offer training to the nuns in film-making, video editing, photography, design and Photoshop.

“I was 19 years old when I reached Dharamsala and was first introduced to formal education,” says Delek Yangdron. Delek was among a group of 40 nuns who arrived in Dharamsala from Lithang, Tibet in 1990 after a 28-day escape to Nepal, trekking over the Himalayas at night to avoid capture.

“There are many others like me in my village who are deprived of their basic freedom to education or may never be getting a chance to study. So I deeply wish to share my knowledge with people living in more remote areas of Tibet,” she said.

Thanks in part to Tibetan Nuns Project donors and volunteers, Delek Yangdron has not only received 15 years of academic studies, she has also taken a leadership role in learning and teaching new technology and media.

“Technology in the classroom is important because it is the pen and paper of our time and the lens through which we experience much of our world.” 

Delek Yangdron was among the first nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute to receive training in computer skills and desktop publishing. She soon went deeper in her studies and is now making videos and taking pictures for the nunnery as well as teaching other nuns. We regularly use her photos in our Facebook updates. She does many other things with her technical skills, such as making MP3s of Buddhist teachings for the nuns.

One of the nuns that Delek Yangdron has helped teach is Ngawang Choedon. “My best opportunity was learning from the Tibetan Nuns Project’s Media Section staff like Delek Yangdron, Gen Lhakpa Tsering, and our volunteer teachers Hamilton from Canada and Henry from Austria. Through their guidance, I was able to make a movie of the inauguration of Shugsep Nunnery.”

3 photos of the nuns using media and computers

A compilation of photos by TNP volunteer Harald Weichhart showing the modern education and training that Tibetan Nuns Project supporters can make possible for the nuns

Ngawang Choedon fondly recalls her experience filming and photographing that historic event. “At that time His Holiness the Dalai Lama was there. I could not believe that I could do such a great [important] job like taking photographs very near to him. After that I felt so great. I think that it’s like a miracle.”

So far about 9 nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery have been trained in new technology and media arts and a further 20 nuns have received training on image editing and layout using Photoshop and InDesign, allowing them to produce their own newsletters and brochures. There are many more nuns who wish to learn these types of skills,

The Center: Building for Empowerment

Tibetan Nuns Project supporters like you can continue to enable the nuns to tell their own powerful stories, to capture and preserve their culture, to record historic milestones and their unique voices, and to share their community with the world.

We have launched a special campaign to create a purpose-built media facility at Dolma Ling Nunnery near Dharamsala. The Center is the final building project at Dolma Ling and will include a special language learning facility, a media-learning center and an income-generating restaurant run by the nuns.

Although English-language learning has always been an integral part of the Dolma Ling program, it is hard for nuns who are studying Tibetan language and philosophy intensively to also become fluent in English. The language learning center will help put other languages – such as Hindi, Chinese and European languages – within their reach.

Already the nuns have accomplished great things. “Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute is quite exceptional when it comes to computer and media knowledge,” says Harald Weichhart, an Austrian volunteer who provided training at the nunnery. “I have yet to find a Tibetan monastic community in India or Nepal where there is such a level of expertise in this field.”

There are many ways that you can help the nuns’ fulfill their aspirations to have a vibrant media and language-learning center and income-generating restaurant at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute.

photo by Harald Weichhart showing 2 Tibetan Buddhist nuns at a computer

Photo courtesy of TNP volunteer Harald Weichhart showing two of the Dolma Ling nuns during their media studies

GIVE DONATIONS:

Please donate:

  • online at www.tnp.org
  • by phone by calling (206) 652-8901, 10 am to 4 pm weekdays, PST
  • by mail with a check or money order to the Tibetan Nuns Project, 815 Seattle Blvd. South, Ste. 216, Seattle, WA 98134 US

HOST A HOUSE PARTY FOR THE NUNS:

If you’d like to host a house party in aid of the nuns, we have an information kit with everything you need to host a successful event. Contact us at info@tnp.org.

FUNDRAISE FOR THE NUNS

This fall we you will have the opportunity to create your own online fundraising page for the nuns so that you can support them on special holidays and on your birthday. Watch the section https://tnp.org/youcanhelp/ for more details.

 

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