Our work in Tibet

  • Conditions in remote areas of Tibet are some of the most basic in the world
  • Education in remote areas is minimal and many Tibetan children have to go to Chinese schools as local Tibetan schools are forced to close
  • Working inside Tibet is very difficult due to close scrutiny and monitoring by Chinese authorities
  • Those trying to carry out work may be harassed, refused permits, or have trouble getting funds into the country legally
  • We work with small local grassroots organisations which “fly under the radar” of local authorities

Our limited work in Tibet focuses on healthcare and economic empowerment.

Nomadic Survival

Nomadic Survival work to reduce the deaths of mothers and babies during childbirth in Tibet. The rate is high in Tibet, with four in nine births leading to the death of mother or baby. The remote regions that nomadic families tend to live in have very few medical facilities. For most of these communities an expectant mother’s journey to the nearest hospital takes, on average, ten hours – if transport is available at all. When there are complications during labour, many mothers do not survive the journey.

Nomadic Survival provides a lifeline for nomadic and semi-nomadic mothers in eastern Tibet. They provide health services and training to save the lives of mothers and babies, and we have worked with them for over a decade to help this happen. The mortality rate in the communities they work with has already reduced to three in 10 and is falling.

A special thanks to Gary Heads and Mindfulness UK for their tireless fundraising for this project.

Local women and men attend a training programme which teaches them the basics of maternal healthcare and hygiene. They are taught:

  • How to conduct antenatal checks
  • How to recognise potential complications early on
  • How to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy
  • How to assist with a clean, safe home birth

Once they have completed the programme, each trainee is given a birth pack. This gives them all the tools they need to help deliver a baby in a safe and hygienic environment.

The birth attendant can then help mothers in their community give birth safely, and spot warning signs during pregnancy which mean they should travel to a hospital or the maternity clinic. We have funded the birth attendant training since 2012. In 2019, there were 17 births across the five communities where Nomadic Survival had trained attendants, and for the first time all mothers and babies survived.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, training has become particularly difficult to carry out, and we are funding a birthing book to fill this gap.

Training is currently difficult in Tibet due to intense surveillance by the authorities. To meet the needs of the more inaccessible communities, we are funding a birthing book in Tibetan. The book is currently in production and will provide the information needed to care for women and their babies during pregnancy, labour, birth, and post birth.

A new maternity clinic to serve 14,000 nomadic Tibetans was built in 2014 under challenging circumstances, including having equipment confiscated by local authorities. The clinic is a beacon of hope for the local nomadic population and shows the dedication of Nomadic Survival to saving the lives of mothers and babies.

Mothers who are likely to have a difficult birth can now come to the clinic to give birth in a safe environment. Traditionally Tibetan mothers give birth in the cattle shed, so this offers a hygienic alternative. The clinic is also used for the birth attendant training and ante-natal checks.

We part-funded the purchase of a new ambulance for the maternity clinic in 2020, which can withstand the rough terrain and is expected to last six to eight years serving the nomadic communities.

Completed projects

In 2016 we gave seven microloans to help Tibetans affected by the Yushu earthquake get their small businesses off the ground. Their ventures ranged from incense production to motorcycle repair and selling yak dung.

Working with Tibetan Village Project, we ran a two-day business workshop for the 16 entrepreneurs. They learned essential skills such as financial literacy and bookkeeping, business plan development, marketing and team building.

On successful completion of the workshop, each business received a $2,500 microloan. The loans were given at a minimal interest rate with nothing to pay back for the first two years. Loan recipients received ongoing support and training for the two year duration.

Pema grew up as a Tibetan nomad, herding yaks, making dairy products and trading as a way of life. However, many Tibetan nomads are being relocated into resettlement camps by the Chinese government, and they are losing their traditional way of life. So Pema studied for two years to become a Tibetan thankga painter, with the dream of establishing a thangka business and becoming financially independent. Pema was the most talented student in the class and some of her paintings were sold in an art gallery in Shanghai.

Pema and her fellow art student Lobsang received a $2,500 microloan which meant they could buy painting materials, start making money from the paintings, and eventually open their own thangka store.

This project in Rega village, Amdo, trained 13 local women and men in tailoring skills, so they can earn extra income and make clothes instead of buying them at the expensive Chinese markets.

This is particularly important in a place like Rega, where there are hardly any opportunities for women to earn income, especially work that can fit around childcare and household chores. Four women are now earning regularly with their new skills and the rest are able to make and repair clothes, saving them money.

Perba is one of the trainees. Her son and daughter are middle school students and she and her husband earn their money from temporary work like milking. This income is totally inadequate to cover their living expenses and send the children to school.

Since Perba trained as a tailor, she has been able to earn more and make her family’s life more comfortable.
“Now I have a fixed customer from Hongyuan County store, every day I can earn an average of 75RMB (£8) and this order does not affect my household chores, because I can finish these orders in my home.”

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