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Project focus:

Tibetan Education

Photograph: The 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, made this image for his family.

ROKPA supports thousands of students in schools and universities from destitute Tibetan families


ROKPA supports over 120 projects in

ROKPA Projects In Tibetan Areas of China


45.65% of the population of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) over the age of 15 are illiterate or semi-illiterate.
(source: 2007/2008 China Human Development Report by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP))

The per capita annual income in rural areas of the TAR is only 2,434.96 Yuan - approximately £218.
(source: 2007/2008 UNDP China Human Development Report)


The area where the Tibetan people live in China is equal to half the size of Europe - about 2,108,700 sq km - mostly at an altitude between 3,500 and 5,000 metres. The southern gorges can be as low as 1,700m and the Himalayas can exceed 8,000m. The average altitude is around 3,000m.

Being on a high plateau it suffers extremely harsh winters and is one of the poorest areas in the world. Healthcare is generally unavailable in rural areas and too expensive for most people. There are many parts of the country with no roads that are only accessible by jeep or horseback, and nowadays motorbikes are sometimes used.

Most Tibetans are nomads or farmers, though few crops grow in the thin soil and extreme cold. The Tibetan population in China is now just one ethnic minority among many others and statistics measuring their life expectancy, literacy and infant mortality are no longer available for the whole population and only on a province-by-province basis. However, figures for the Tibet Autonomous Region (“TAR”) are illustrative of the region as a whole, as can be seen above. Most of our knowledge comes from travelling extensively in the area over many years and communicating with the many people we support.

The Tibetan language is disappearing in many areas and the traditions unique to the plateau are in danger of dying out.

ROKPA supported projects are mainly in the area traditionally known as Kham and Amdo, now devided up into 5 Provinces: The Autonomous Regions of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu.

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£10 - Gives a Tibetan child a start in life at primary school for a month.

£25 - supports a child at residential school, funding food, clothes, medical care and bedding.

There are many children in Tibetan areas who are orphans or whose families are so poor that they cannot afford to send their children to school. Although the government now contribute towards educational costs for the first nine years, this does not cover the full cost of food, nor of clothes, bedding, medical care, transport or for care of the orphans during the school holidays.

Education is also becoming increasingly unavailable in the native Tibetan language. Also, education after lower middle school has no government support, so that the whole cost has to be met by the family.

ROKPA needs your help

  • To provide an education for children who would otherwise not be able to go to school.

  • To give particular support to children who are orphans, at risk, or disadvantaged by poverty.

  • To encourage the education of girls wherever possible.

  • Through education, to give students a higher level of skills enabling them to support themselves through life (including vocational skills where appropriate).

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Culture & Heritage

For hundreds of years Tibetans evolved their own rich language, arts, medicine and philosophy. As well as seats of spiritual accomplishment and training, monasteries were the heart of all social, educational and medical provision. Most were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and, whilst some have been rebuilt over the last 15 years, with the recent influx of other ethnic peoples into the area the Tibetan culture and traditions are now seriously endangered. In some areas Tibetans are now unable to speak their own language.

ROKPA supports Tibetan culture in many ways. Where possible we ensure that the Tibetan language is taught in the schools we support. Children are encouraged to learn traditional crafts, dance and song, college text books are printed in Tibetan, the art of woodblock printing is funded, Tibetan medicine factories and clinics are supported, students are sponsored to become doctors of Tibetan medicine and ROKPA supports the training of monks and nuns.

Read more about Tibetan Culture & Heritage

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Up to 1998, tree felling took place in a number of Tibetan areas and there was subsequent erosion and flooding. Climatic changes caused further difficulties to the nomadic way of life and hunting led to the extinction of some species and endangered others.

ROKPA supported projects to set up tree nurseries, plant trees, employ local people as rangers, protected the flora and fauna and educated villagers about their environment. Sites are protected that are considered sacred and in danger of being used for mining or other exploitation.

More recently, with the increasing popularity of Tibetan Medicine (in China and the West), medicinal plants began to be harvested in large quantities by locals without training, which has subsequently led to a number of species becoming extinct or endangered.

ROKPA has embarked on a unique project to save these endangered species and train others in maintenance and harvesting. Tibetans Medical Doctors have been brought to the UK for training in the conservation of some of the most endangered medicinal plants on the Tibetan plateau. We work closely with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Scottish Agriculture College and are seeking funding to support three students, two of whom will stay until at least September, 2011.

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Health Care

Affordable and adequate health care is still not available to the majority, particularly in rural area and most cannot afford the medical help available. Large numbers die from easily treatable conditions like dysentery and pneumonia, and are forced to live with untreated trauma such as broken limbs.

Tibetan medicine was successfully practised for hundreds of years but nearly died out around the time of the Chinese cultural revolution. Produced mainly from locally available natural materials, Tibetan medicine makes health care affordable and accessible to local people.

ROKPA is helping by training health workers and doctors, in both western and traditional Tibetan medical methods. Over 300 medical students have now graduated and have set up clinics in their own villages. Over 20 health centres have been started in areas where people would otherwise have no access to healthcare.

£50 a month will support a clinic.

£70 per month will pay for the highest training of a medical student.

Tibetan Healthcare Project - Yushu area

The Tibet Healthcare Project aims to provide free basic health care to people living far below the absolute poverty line (as defined by the World Health Organisation). The disciplines offered are optometry, dentistry, midwifery and general health and safety. Western practitioners volunteer in the region annually and we are currently raising funds to sponsor the higher education of six ROKPA students who will run the clinics in the future.

Find out more about the project at www.tibethealthcare.com

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Most rural Tibetans live far below the absolute poverty level as defined by the World Health Organisation. The per capita annual income in rural areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region is only 2,434.96 Yuan – approximately £218. (source: 2007/2008 UNDP China Human Development Report)

The traditional nomadic and farming way of life is now becoming more difficult to sustain, and Tibetans find it hard to compete in the modern job market. Unemployment levels are high, there are no government pensions and virtually no social services.

ROKPA helps by supporting the old, the sick and those who are destitute, such as the villagers of Cha Den who suffer from Kashin Beck disease - a chronic and painful inflammation of the bones, and are unable to work.

£21 a month supports a sufferer of Kashin Beck disease in our home in Cha Den.

New Project: Help For Women In Distress

Help For Women In Distress, established by Dolkar Lhamo, aims to help and support Mothers who have borne children through being sexually assaulted, or who have been abandoned by their husbands.

Location: Tibet and rural Asian areas

Read more about this project ...

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ROKPA UK Overseas Projects | Kagyu Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir, Langholm, Dumfriesshire DG13 0QL
Telephone: 013873 73232 Ext: 230 | Fax: 013873 73223 | email: charity@RokpaUK.org
ROKPA Trust Reg. Charity No: England & Wales (1059293): Scotland (SCO38628)