Sonam Choedon ’14 writes about his experience at Machik Weekend.
Machik Weekend is an initiative started in 2007 by Machik, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes meaningful social change in the Tibetan plateau by working directly with communities inside the region. The weekend-long annual conference aims to build awareness and understanding for Machik’s unique approach to the complex challenges facing Tibet and to update its network of supporters on the progress of the organization’s work. The theme of this year’s conference was “Engaging Tibet: Conservation and the Plateau” and the goal of the meeting was to highlight some of the environmental issues facing Tibet, and their impact on local communities. The conference kicked off with opening remarks from Machik’s co-founders Dr. Lobsang Rabgey and Dr. Tashi Rabgey about their Machik’s mission and their personal interactions with conservationists inside Tibet, and continued with panels such as “Education for Change,” “Conservation,” and “Tibet Through the Lens.”
Before attending Machik Weekend, I had only watched documentaries about Tibet as it related to the independence movement or Buddhism, but during the conference I was exposed to a new wave of documentary filmmakers who focus on issues that affect Tibetans inside of Tibet. The most intriguing presentation was that by Lynn and Nelson Walker and their film “Summer Pasture,” focusing on the problem of displacement of nomadic lifestyle due to modernization and rangeland degradation via the story of a nomadic couple in the Zachuka grasslands. The movie puts a human face to the environmental problems facing Tibetans and the difficult decisions they must make.
Although the conference mainly focused on issues inside of Tibet, it also shed light on issues facing Tibetans in exile. Tenzing Jigme and Stephen Wang from the Mosaic Institute, a “think and do tank” from Canada, presented their program, “New Beginnings: Young Canadians’ Peace Dialogue on China and Tibet” which combines peace-focused inter-community dialogue with collaborative community service projects by bringing together Canadians of Chinese and Tibetan descent to engage in constructive dialogue about the issues that divide these communities and about Canada’s relationship to the region. Another project,“Lamton,” was founded by two college students Tenzin Norzin Waleag and Tenzin Tsetan Lobsang. The Minnesota-based program connects college students with Tibetan high school students by providing guidance, support, free biweekly tutoring session and encouragement to pursue higher education.
It was truly inspiring to see young Tibetans engage in their communities and to learn about the conservation efforts led by Tibetans within Tibet. I am grateful for the Middlebury College Community Engagement Mini-Grant to attend Machik Weekend 2013.
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