Gerong Luobo has just finished his studies in cinematography at the Colorado Film School when he visits us at our library to tell us about his plans for his return to his hometown in Batang:
“I want to make a trilogy,” he says, smiling from ear to ear and pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Inspired by the 1968 Italian Spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West, his dream is to one day produce an epic that will combine historical events, religious stories, and his own experiences.
First, though, he wants to capture on film the stories, traditions, songs, and dances of the older generation of his hometown.
“The people in my hometown and the surrounding areas have a lot of stories to tell. There’s a cultural gap between the older generation and the younger generation. I want to pull back and start documenting those things before it’s too late.”
The students we’ve introduced you to through our project reports over the last year had one thing in common: they were all training to become teachers. But teachers are just a portion of the thousands of students we’ve supported in pursuing degrees in all fields—science, business, law, information technology, and film.
Gerong has become the latest addition to a storied pool of Trace alumni, filmmakers and cinematographers who include Pema Tseden (Silent Holy Stones) and Sonthar Gyal (The Sun-Beaten Path).
“I felt I could use this tool to tell a lot of the stories I’ve heard and seen in my part of the Tibetan Plateau.”
For us at Trace, it’s a win-win. We are as proud of Gerong Luobo’s achievements as we are excited to see what stories he has to share with the world.
Each year, we support more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses. With your tremendous contributions, we've raised $25,668 for our project since December 2012 ($22,168 through GlobalGiving and another $3,500 through other donations). With your continued support, we know we can transform education on the Tibetan Plateau from the ground up, one donation, one student like Gerong Luobo at a time.
Tenzin, one of our recent international fellows, has just a few days left in the States when he sits down with a cup of green tea and explains: “Trace gives students from very remote places the opportunity to see the bigger world. The young generation in these remote counties is the future. If you can open their minds, if you can give them a hint of what’s going on in the world, that’s the beginning of change. You ignited that.”
At the International Language Institute, where he studied first, mornings were devoted to grammar and vocabulary, and afternoons were devoted to poetry, to art, to music. His favorites. That’s how he learned that teaching English is not just about reading, writing, and speaking, but about opening his students’ eyes to the bigger world. It was here that he fell in love with country music, and it was here that he read Robert Frost for the first time. He went on to a masters program in teaching English at the SIT Graduate Institute, then an internship at an immigrant-learning center, where he taught English of all ages.
Teaching all ages is not new for Tenzin. In the nomadic area he grew up, it’s not uncommon for middle schoolers to be as old as nineteen. If a kid’s family needs support at home—whether it’s in herding sheep or running errands—school can wait. In his school now, he is one of five English teachers, and the only teacher who has taken the road less traveled, the only teacher who has studied English abroad and the only one with a graduate degree. He smiles. “This opportunity and this scholarship totally changed my life, in terms of my future plans and profession. This will be my lifelong treasure.”
Sit down with any Trace Foundation fellow, and they will tell you the same thing: There's a teaching style common in Tibetan areas of China called “Jug and Mug.” The teacher—the full jug—pours knowledge into the students—the empty mugs. And this teaching style is the single biggest challenge facing Tibetan students today.
“The teacher is the knower, and he or she transmits knowledge to the students by lecturing," one of our recent fellows, Kelsang Gyi explains. Since we supported her a few years ago to study teaching methodology and English in the United States, she has been winning her colleagues over, one at a time. The problem with Jug and Mug, she tells them, is that no student is ever an empty mug; and that's why she advocates for facilitating discussion, creating a safe learning environment, and encouraging students to become self-learners.
Each year, we support more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses. With your tremendous contributions, we've raised $20,548 for our project since December 2012 ($19,048 through GlobalGiving and another $1,500 through other donations). Moving beyond Jug and Mug is no easy goal, but with your support, we know we can transform education on the Tibetan Plateau from the ground up, one donation, one student, one teacher like Kelsang Gyi at a time.
Get a head start on your holiday shopping with a gift to our scholarship program!
In 2011, around 900 senior middle school graduates applied for our Tibetan Medium Senior Middle School Graduate Scholarship. Of these, one third were female. Of the 300 females, only 80 were enrolled in science-related majors. That's why we have just developed new postgraduate scholarships programs, one for women in the sciences and another to support female professionals to pursue graduate degrees in law and business management.
Now your support can make more of an impact than ever.
With your tremendous contributions, we've raised $20,323 for our project since December ($18,823 through GlobalGiving and another $1,500 through other donations). We're more than a quarter of the way to reaching our end goal, but now we need your help again. Our next challenge is to raise $5,000 to become what GlobalGiving calls "superstars"—an organization picked out of thousands to receive corporate sponsorship recommendations, social media attention, and much more.
What does $5000 mean?
Your contributions mean more opportunities for making a difference in the lives of young women on the Tibetan Plateau like Kelsang Gyi, a young woman whom we supported to study in the States a few years ago. Now, she's back home teaching in Qinghai. While she’s faced considerable challenges back home—packed classrooms, a rigid teaching style she calls "jug and mug," and subpar teaching materials—her scholarship has steeled her for the future. She always gives her students the chance to think for themselves. She listens to them, respects them, and asks for feedback. And the students respond to this style wholeheartedly.
“My students love me and are very close to me,” she reports proudly.
Stay tuned for a full story on Kelsang Gyi in our next report.
Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like Kelsang Gyi to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically, and that's where your help will make the biggest difference.
Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation for your ongoing support.
It’s the kind of trip you see in the movies. Pack your bags, load up the car with bottled water and snacks, and drive ever west into the sun. In Norbu Wangyal’s case, everything he knew of California before then was limited to what he’d seen in the movies. After growing up in nomadic area on the Tibetan Plateau, he’d spent most of his time in the States in Massachusetts and Vermont, first at the International Language Institute in Northampton, then learning English at Boston College, and finally at the SIT Graduate Institute.
After days on a road that seemed to stretch on without end, he and his friends were nearing California when they stopped at a rest area for lunch. A lonely older trucker approached them, set down his lunch box, gave them pointers on what to see in California, and then explained the best way to hunt and cook deer. This kind of experience, Norbu laughs, is not something you could replicate in any classroom. “I learned both inside and outside the classroom. At colleges in China—you always learn inside the classroom. In the States, you go to a party and learn different things. You’re learning the culture,” Norbu adds.
The son of a taxi driver and a middle-school cafeteria cook, Norbu came up in school the way most Tibetans do in Qinghai: At boarding schools, kids and teachers alike wake every morning at 5 for memorization and go to bed at 11 p.m. exhausted. There are no weekends, only long stretches of homework and testing (four per year), broken now and then by seven-day holidays. Even today, while there are many wonderful teachers, schools are also filled with professionals who didn’t make it in medical or military careers and are looking for easy job opportunities. Without formal training, many teachers fall back on the teaching methodology they grew up with, one that stressed testing, memorization, and corporal punishment; they simply don’t know any way but the one they themselves were taught.
And what did Trace Foundation’s support mean to Norbu? “Teaching is a lifetime job. I couldn’t do anything else. After coming to SIT, I’ll be able to teach with an awareness about the influence I make on the students. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without this scholarship.”
Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like Norbu to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically and that's where your help will make the biggest difference. With your generous support, we've raised $20,148 for this project since December ($18,648 through GlobalGiving and another $1500 through other donations). We still have a way to go before we reach our goal of $78,000. But when we come together, even small contributions have the potential to make a profound impact: to help us give access to education and transform a generation. Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation.
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