by Jacqui Shahsawary
This was my first chance to travel to India and finally meet Thinley. We had exchanged letters from the beginning and I had accumulated a range of photos from each school year, as I pulled these out I realised that she was born in 1984 and so was now 30 years old, a young woman.
I was feeling very excited about meeting Thinley, who came up to our hotel on Saturday morning, because she teaches English during the week at Shuksep nunnery. We greeted each other with big smiles on our faces and hugged like mother and daughter. On hearing that H.H. was leaving that morning for Europe, we took a taxi down to his residence and caught a glimpse of his smiling face. The feeling was electric, a transient moment that you could not grasp and hold. What a fantastic day.
The next day we went to see her sister Phuntsok, who is a nun. As we sat in the shade under a tree, listening to birds singing, enjoying the green pastoral surroundings, eating lunch from the nuns’ refectory, they told us their stories of their journeys from Tibet.
Phuntsok had come first, having endured 3 years imprisonment; when released she took the chance to walk to India, a journey taking 1 month. Thinley had come after that, taking 17 days, through snow, wrapping a scarf around her head to try to prevent snow blindness, unsuccessfully. The adults had goggles, but she had none, and they had to stop for a few days to recover.
After completing school she went to Bangalore, finishing her degree, she decided to take a teacher training course and was nearing her final assessments when TB struck. Unfortunately it was the drug resistant type. Luckily for Thinley she had her sister, who went and cared for her. Eventually she passed her final examinations.
She is very happy in her flat at the nunnery where she cooked us a feast. They thanked us repeatedly for all of our help and refused every offer of buying anything extra for them.
Finally the last day came and we said our goodbyes, both of us with tears in our eyes. We both felt so grateful that life had given us this opportunity to connect over the thousands of miles and make a difference to each others’ lives.
For as little as £50 per year you too can sponsor a Tibetan and support their education and future. As Jacqui discovered it is not only rewarding for them, but also for you, the sponsor.