Beernem, Belgium: After a shoe project for the Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala (2011), the renovation of the new TIPA Museum in Dharamsala
(2009-2012), the construction of a mortuary for the Old People’s Home in Chauntra (2012), and a diapers project for the Jampaling Elderly Home in Dharamsala (2012), the Belgian association Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends (Tibetaanse-Vlaamse Vriendenkring) has started projects in Mainpat, one of the poorest Tibetan Settlements across India.
The people in Mainpat encounter many problems because of the impurity of the groundwater. Because of the bauxite mining in the area, the groundwater in Mainpat is contaminated. The monsoon rains are also a cause of the contamination of the water, with diseases like malaria as a result. Therefore, the Belgian organization has set up a water filter project last year.
During the visit of the president Dennis Barbion in July 2012, the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends were able to buy 114 water filters for Mainpat in total. All the families in four of the seven camps in Mainpat have received such a water purifier, and there were also water filters donated to the Tibetan School, the Pre-Primary School, the School Hostels, the Phendeling Tibetan Settlement Office, the Indian School and the meeting place of the Tibetan Women’s Association.
However, it was not possible to give a water filter to all the families then, or at places who didn’t had one yet, but with the support of the Province of
West-Flanders in Belgium, the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends have collected enough funds in 2013. In April 2013, 89 water filters were purchased and distributed in Mainpat, with the help of Mr. Chime Youngdung, Director of Tibetan Social Service in Dharamsala, who is from Mainpat and who has helped Dennis Barbion with the project last year.
On 12th April 2013, all the 64 families in Camp no. 1 in Mainpat got their water purifier, but also the School Teachers, the Health Staff (Nurses, the Health Worker and Pharmacist), the Staff of the Old People’s Home (for cooking), the Staff of the Men-Tse-Khang Institute (the Doctor and Pharmacist), the Guest House in Mainpat, the Accountant of the Settlement Office, the Hospital and the four monasteries.
Dennis Barbion: “Mainpat is located in Central India,south of Varanasi. It’s a very remote place and it is one of the poorest Tibetan villages across India. This Settlement was founded by the Indian government in 1962 and it consists of seven different camps. The living conditions are very difficult and there is much poverty. About 850 Tibetan refugees are living in Mainpat. Such a water filter has a capacity of 20 liters, it purifies the water of all bacteria and is completely ecological. It really is essential for the health of the people in Mainpat.”
Dennis Barbion: “In 2010, the families in Camp no. 2 and 3 in Mainpat received a water filter from the French association APACT (Association Paloise pour l’Art et la Culture du Tibet). The people in Camp no. 4, 5, 6 and 7 got their water purifier from our organization in July 2012, and the families in Camp no. 1 in April 2013. Last year we donated 114 water filters, last month 89, so this makes a total of 203 water purifiers.”
Apart from the water problem, there are also many other needs in this remote Settlement. In July 2012, Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends have also financed a solar light spot at the main square in Camp no. 1, the central meeting point, the repainting of the Nyingma temple in Camp no. 1, and a new printer-scanner-fax for the Tibetan Settlement Office.
Another project that is realized in Mainpat recently, is the covering of the schoolyard of the Tibetan School.
Dennis Barbion: “The schoolyard was not covered, and this was a big problem in periods of very hot weather (no shade) and during the monsoon
period (the rainy season). Our association has financed a construction for the covering of a part of the schoolyard, with the support of the Province of West-Flanders in Belgium. The works are finished in April 2013. The students and staffs are using the new courtyard now already during the morning assembly. Nowadays in April-May the weather is very hot, even in the morning, so the morning assembly is now in the shade. Also during the monsoon period this covering will be very useful.”
During his visit in Mainpat last year, president Dennis Barbion has witnessed a lot of very difficult living conditions in Mainpat.
Dennis Barbion: “Because of the fact that Mainpat is a remote place, the situation there is very unknown and there is not much help. It’s also an old Settlement so many houses are in a bad condition, with broken windows, cracked walls and leaking roofs. Another problem is the poverty, because of the very few possibilities of work and logistics. Last but not least, lots of people have very serious health problems, because of malaria and HIV. For all those reasons, last year we have launched sponsorship programs for the most needy people in Mainpat.”
The Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends offer the possibility of a financial adoption of a person or family in Mainpat.
Dennis Barbion: “At this moment, one poor family is sponsored through our organization, the education of three youngsters from Mainpat and one elderly single woman who is living alone in a broken home. For her, the sponsorship is for the necessary and urgent repairs of her house in the first place.”
For all the projects in Mainpat, the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends works very closely together with the Phendeling Tibetan Settlement Office in Mainpat.
Dennis Barbion: “We always prefer to work together with the Tibetan Settlement Offices, the Central Tibetan Administration, as they know all the people and the situation on the spot. They also do the coordination of all the projects and they know the needs, which persons or families are sponsored and by who. The coorperation is fantastic!”
The Belgian association has also financed chupas, the traditional Tibetan dress, for all the children of the Pre-Primary School in Mainpat.
Dennis Barbion: “The 25 children of the Pre-Primary School don’t have a chupa yet. The Tibetans wear a chupa on official celebrations like Losar (the Tibetan New Year), the birthday of H.H. the Dalai Lama, visits of dignitaries like Lamas etc. They also wear a chupa each Wednesday, Lhakar (White Wednesday). Our association has financed chupas for all the children, 16 girls and 9 boys. The chupas are going to be made by tailors in Mainpat. In this way the children can also participate in Lhakar. The materials are purchased already, and the chupa clothes for girls are given to tailors in Camp no. 1 and the boys chupas to tailors in Camp no. 4. The tailors are now busy making the chupas.”
In Belgium, the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends organize cultural events, lectures about Tibet (also in schools), workshops Tibetan cooking and buddhist prayer sessions.
During the visit of Mr. Chime Youngdung in Belgium at the end of November 2012, a public lecture about the living conditions in Mainpat was organized in Brugge (Nelgium). Dennis Barbion and Mr. Chime Youngdung also presented a photo report.
Dennis Barbion: “Finally I want to launch an appeal for more help for the Tibetan Settlements in India, especially the most poor, as the living conditions are so difficult there and the needs are huge. This is not only the case in Mainpat, but for example also in Orissa, Bandara and Miao Choephelling (in Arunachal Pradesh). We were very happy to see the help for the Miao Choephelling Settlement by my Austrian friend Wolfgang Skerlec. He has visited that place in 2011, he was inspired by our water filter last year and contacted us some time ago for more information. This year he also set up a water filter project there. We really hope that more and more people and associations will do something, or something more for those poor Settlements at remote places. I recommend that they take a closer look at the living conditions in those Settlements and to investigate it well, but the best way is of course to visit one or more of those places, to see the needs. When they contact the local representation of the Central Tibetan Administration (the Settlement Office) and talk with the people there and visit the places, I’m sure they will be inspired for offering help.”
For more information about the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends:
– the Facebook page with information in English: www.facebook.com/
– the website in Dutch: www.tibetvlaanderen.be
– the online photoalbum on Picasa: https://picasaweb.google.com/
– email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dennis Barbion in Brussels, Belgium
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