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Friday evening 30th November 2012, the Tibetan Cultural Center in Belgium (TCC) celebrated their 4th anniversary. At the same time, they remembered when His Holiness the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year, Tibetans around the world officially celebrate this day and they tend to include it in already existing festivities.About 100 people participated in this event, also representatives of different Tibet groups in Belgium and Tibet supporters from different countries.

The TCC was founded in 2008 and became a registered organisation in 2011. The aim is the preservation of the rich Tibetan culture in all his aspects, for example by teaching the Tibetan children born and living in Belgium about their language and culture.

The TCC has established Tibetan schools in 3 cities: Brussels, Antwerp and Ostend. The classes are on Saturday in Brussels (30 students; 2 teachers) and on Sunday in Antwerp (40 students; 3 teachers) and Ostend (16 students; 1 teacher). The schools consist of 3 different levels. The youngest pupils (from 3 to 7 years old) learn vocabulary, how to draw, do colouring,  play educational games, tell stories and are also taught good manners. From 2013, the first and the second levels will be taught the same program as the children in the schools in Dharamsala in India.  The books used as a teaching guideline will be those published by the Department of Education on the Tibetan Government in Exile.  In general, the children are taught about the Tibetan language, culture and buddhism, but of course they also learn Tibetan songs and dances and play together.  There are plans to open another such school in Leuven in 2013.  Discussions have already started between parents and TCC members.

There is also an annual Summer Camp for the children (one week).  During this week, TCC’s program includes: introduction to buddhism, morning prayers, exercise, language classes and an introduction to the holy places of Tibet. They are also encouraged to watch Tibetan news on the internet (Voice of America etc.)

In October 2012, TCC also started organising classes for adults, the parents of the children attending Tibetan school in Brussels.  It is very important for those people, many of whom are newcomers in Belgium, to learn the basics of the language as well as how things work in the country here. There are plans to teach the Dutch language to the parents in Antwerp and Ostend.

TCC also organizes debates for students every other month.  The schools take it in turn to host these debates and the subjects vary according to what the teachers have prepared.

Introductions to buddhist teachings are another important part of the curriculum.  Every month, TCC organizes teachings in various buddhist centres and sometimes via Skype when a Geshe in Dharamsala is available.  Whenever a Geshe visits Belgium, he is invited to come to a school and give basic teachings there.  Some of TCC’s teachers such as Yishey Monlam are qualified buddhist teachers and they sometimes ask him to provide teachings in the classes.

The board of the TCC consists of more than 10 people.  This year saw some changes amongst board members. Some members had to resign due to heavy workloads and new members replaced them. On this occasion, the resignations and new appointments were officially declared. Leaving members were offered khatas while new members were welcomed with khatas.

A new initiative of the TCC is Lhakar. Very soon, from 5th December 2012, the TCC is organising weekly Lhakar activities for adults in a Nyingma temple in Brussels each Wednesday evening. Lhakar is a homegrown people’s movement that emerged in Tibet, a strategic nonviolent resistance. Every Wednesday, the Tibetans wear their traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat Tibetan food etc. In Brussels, the Tibetans will receive Dharma teachings. A Tibetan buddhist monk will teach the Tibetans in Belgium about the Dharma, the importance of meditation, how to practice meditation, explaining buddhist texts and mantras, vizualisations etc. From time to time, teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be shown as well, and explained and discussed afterwards.  

The celebration of the anniversary of the TCC started with a cup of Tibetan butter tea and a small plate of rice as welcome, and a tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, by a khata offering. Afterwards, the Tibetan National Anthem was sung in a modest way, followed by one minute of silence to commemorate the victims who died in Tibet, and to remember all the people suffering in Tibet. After the Long Life prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a well documented overview was presented about the TCC and the activities. In his speech, Mr. Ngodup Dorjee, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the European Union, expressed his appreciation and respect for the TCC and all the people involved. Mr. Ngodup Dorjee explained the importance of the organisation and the importance for the Tibetan children and their future. He ended his speech with the wish for growth for the Tibetan schools in Belgium and wished the TCC good luck.

At the celebration there was a small exhibition of drawings, colorings and writing samples (calligraphy) of the TCC children. This was a first ever event.  They aim to show parents how important it is to encourage their children’s efforts and to appreciate the creative talent some of these children already show.The best students won a prize. There was also a competition for the most beautiful chupa (Tibetan dress). All the prizes that evening were donated by the Belgian Tibet group Lights on Tibet.

After a delicious dinner, a range of Tibetan dishes, it was time for some music, as music is also a part of the culture. The great musicians Norbu Tsering (vocals and dranyen) and Tenzin Norbu (gyudmang) accompanied different dance groups. The children of the Tibetan schools also performed some songs that they had learned.

With this celebration in Brussels, the organisation has given a very good presentation of the operation and activities of the association. The TCC does a great, necessary and useful job. We wish the TCC all the best, good luck and success!

Donations for the TCC are always welcome, especially to finance school materials.

By Dennis Barbion and Denwa Jigmey, Belgium, 1st December 2012.

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