Tibetan Rug Weaving Project Builds Schools in Nepal and Northern India

Chris Walter, the Tibetan Rug Weaving project coordinator, first became involved with Cultural Survival over a decade ago. On his extensive travels to Asia to study the art of rug weaving, Chris made connections with refugee communities all over Central Asia. Many of these refugees continued their traditional rug-weaving as a means of economic support and, in light of the success he had selling rugs at the Cultural Survival Bazaar, Chris approached Cultural Survival to start a rug-weaving Special Project.

Since its inception in 1991, the project has been sponsoring students to attend Tibetan Exile Government-run schools in Nepal and Northern India. Its first undertaking sponsored 60 students at the Strongsten Birkhuti School in Nepal. The Tibetan Rug Weaving Project provides financial support to sustain the Tibetan Exile Government-run school system and to ensure that all Tibetan exile children have access to an education, regardless of financial status.

In 1998, the Project helped fund the building of a K- 5 school (of 200-250 students) under the Tibetan Exile Government school system in Puruwala, in Northern India. This year the Project is sponsoring a similar school near Darjeeling in East India in a refugee settlement at Poakreobong. The new school, scheduled for completion this year, is a little bigger than the Puruwala school and has some boarding facilities. In addition to its work in conjunction with the Tibetan Exile Government, the Project has created another, smaller, school for the children of the rug weavers within the Project's workshops.

A newer development is a reforestation project in Tibet. The Potamo Region, in the remote southeast, was previously heavily forested but has been exploited by the Chinese for lumber. The reforestation project has built a nursery and sponsored eight local young people to attend schools in Tibet and China for forestry techniques. Two other young people were trained in traditional herbal medicine, plant identification, and the preparation of plants for medicine. 20,000 seedlings are currently growing in the nursery and these will soon be transplanted onto the hillside.

As Cultural Survival's Tibetan Rug-Weaving Project grows, entrepreneurs and producers in refugee communities are seeing opportunities for personal and professional development. The projects are reviving the rug-weaving industry in these communities and providing markets abroad while providing an education for the next generation.

Through the rug shop "Yayla," in Cambridge's Central Square, Tibetan and other Central Asian rugs are sold. A portion of the profits from the sale of rugs are put directly back into the rug-weaving Project and its endeavors.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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