Tibetans learn skills to improve their livelihoods
In the Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) National Nature Preserve of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetans are learning hospitality and culinary skills to benefit from tourism and increase their family incomes. With support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, the Pendeba Society led a series of training programs for 65 Pendebas, Tibetan for “workers who benefit the village,” in hospitality, English language instruction, and eco-tourism.
In March 2011, the training program culminated with a job fair and a ten-day study tour in Lhasa and Shannan Prefecture, where 11 of the most outstanding Pendebas traveled to learn from other regions of Tibet and to put their new skills to practice.
The training series began with a focus on hospitality and culinary skills. From October-February, 41 Pendebas from Tingri County participated in three 10-day training sessions. Trainees learned hands-on skills in comprehensive Tibetan-style hospitality, including food preparation and guesthouse design. They learned kitchen basics, from hygiene and knife skills to ingredients and recipes. They also studied the principles of hotel management and etiquette. The key trainer was Mr. Badun, who has nearly 20-years of culinary experience and currently works as the Chief Chef of the Mt. Everest Hotel.
In December, the Pendeba Society began a three-month intensive English language program. Participants included 28 villagers, 14 from the remote Qudang Village in southern Tingri County near the famous Gama Valley. The program increased practical skills in the English language with a focus on eco-tourism and hospitality. The Deputy Governor of Tingri County, Mr. Tsering Zhandui, expressed his support during the opening ceremony of the training session by highlighting the characteristics of Tingri County, “One Mountain (Mt. Everest), One River (Pengqu River), and One Culture (Tibetan Culture).” Tingri County’s Director of Tourism, Mr. Gama, emphasized the importance of developing tourism in the region and encouraged participants to appreciate this opportunity to help them take advantage of the tourism resources in their surrounding communities.
On March 16, the Pendeba Society hosted a farewell dinner and job fair. At this event, trainees performed skits in English to demonstrate their accomplishments. All attendees expressed their appreciation and recognized the value of the trainings in their own lives. One participant said: “Before this training, I knew very little about English and barely wrote any English words. But now I can communicate in basic conversational English. This will help me greatly.”
The training series culminated with a ten-day site visit to Lhasa and Shannan Prefecture. The most outstanding 11 students were invited to participate. For many, this trip was their first time in Lhasa, where they visited the Potala Palace, Barkhor Street, Jokhang Monastery and the Tibet Museum. One Pendeba noted, “Without the Pendeba Society, I can hardly image that I might be able to visit Lhasa and other places in Tibet this soon.”
A highlight was a field trip to the Lhalu Wetland National Nature Preserve, a 1,650 acre wetlands in urban Lhasa and one of the largest wetlands within any city in Asia. A manager of the Preserve led a walking tour of the wetlands, known as the “Lungs of Lhasa,” where many protected species, such as the black-necked cranes, overwinter.
These training programs are part of a comprehensive strategy to build the skills of local people living within the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve so that they may benefit economically from increasing tourism to the region. With a network of more than 270 Pendebas, the Pendeba Society prepares local people to manage tourism so that it minimizes harm to the environment and benefits communities. New Pendeba-run eco-tourism businesses aim to create a sustainable income base for Pendeba volunteers and their villages.
As the first non-government organization to be registered in Shigatze Prefecture and founded by an alumnus of the Future Generations Graduate School, the Pendeba Society builds local capacity to integrate environmental sustainability with primary health and community development.
In 2011, Future Generations China, based in Beijing, aims to help start-up more local Pendeba Societies in the Four Great Rivers region of southeastern Tibet. See china.future.org for more details.
For more updates and news from the Pendeba Society, please visit their website at: www.pendeba.org.