Back in 2012, I volunteered with a non-profit organization called “Rogpa.” I taught English and creative arts to children (from single parent households). The curriculum had an emphasis on peace building and preserving the Tibetan culture since most of their guardians escaped Tibet to settle in India.
One of the aims at Rogpa is to learn what “peace” is from a young age through drawing, sculpting, painting, storytelling and music. The premise was to teach values of cooperation, tolerance and compassion for all living beings.
What is ‘Rogpa?’
- In Tibetan, Rogpa means “trusted helper or friend.”
- Tibet Rogpa is an NGO focused on preserving Tibetan culture, independence, and assists Tibetan families in exile through empowerment and co-operation.
- Many unpaid volunteer positions available such taking care of infants, teaching Tibetan peace arts and/or working in the cafe.
The power of a smile
Even though there was a language barrier at first, I was happy to communicate through smiles, hugs and even tickles. Likewise, there was also a Tibetan teacher, (let’s call her Daisy to protect her privacy) who translated for the students. Equally important, I learned some key Tibetan words such as “Ma-che,” (means, No, don’t do that!), “Ma-de” (means sit down), “De-show (means come here), “Gou-da” (means wait) and “Ssa” (means eat), I was good to go!
Children do know best
Before every meal, the children say a prayer of thanks for all of life’s blessings.
Take a deep breath and let it go
Before there were unicorns and mermaids
There are thirty basic letters in the Tibetan alphabet. This printed form of the alphabet is known as the “uchen script.”
What peace means to children
When we asked the students what the meaning of peace was, most replied “to live in a happy world.” Through Tibetan art and music, the students shared the many ways they practice “peace” in their lives such as:
- Making art and sharing it with others
- Keeping our world safe
- Having something healthy to eat
- Being kind to oneself and others
I was the student, the children were my teachers
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day.” ~Dalai Lama
Volunteering at Rogpa was a very humbling experience and living in Dharamsala was a spiritual place we called “home”. I have the utmost respect and admiration to all the teachers, parents, and caregivers because keeping the “peace” at home and in school is definitely an art. Physically, I was teaching the students something new everyday. All things considered, I was also learning something new about myself and the world in return. You could say, I too, was a humble student.
The United Nations declared Sept 21 The International Day of Peace. This years theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” There are several ways the younger generation can act as leaders and peace-makers; through volunteering, welcoming refugees in their community and making new friends.
Please visit ROGPA for volunteer opportunities and to find out how to make a positive difference for the children of Tibet.
What are some other ways to promote peace in your lives, communities and at work? Please share in the comments section. Thanks.
Daisy, our Tibetan teacher taking a moment to play with some of the kids during recess.
Last updated: June 23, 2017
Darlynne founded Live Love Backpack to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world through traveling, volunteering, and self-awareness. Darlynne has traveled to over 76 countries. Family adventures include backpacking off the beaten path, hiking in Ontario and creating happy memories.