Gaining Cultural Competence

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Gaining Cultural Competence….

Tashi Delek and Hello

Please remember to click on the title of this post and you will go directly to the blog where there are compelling photos and more.

So there has been quite a delay since I posted and much has happened here in the Tibetan community. First I have to say much cultural competence has been gained in the last two in half weeks. First there was the Losar (No Losar) which is the Tibetan New Year. I had the opportunity to engage in some of the annual delights as I mentioned in the previous posts. It is much like our Christmas/New Year although from my understanding I missed a lot of their traditions due to the campaign which I hope you understand is a way of expressing civil disobedience since the Communist Chinese are trying to force Tibetans to celebrate. They chose not to celebrate this year because of the many Tibetans (estimated number over 200) who died last year during the uprising.

There was a special meeting of all the top Buddhist leaders from the different religious sects so all the very important and high lamas were in town( I was unable to take my camera in without a media pass so there are no photos of the events attended by the Dalai Lama ). This could be compared to something similar to Bishops and Cardinals of the Catholic Church gathering for special religious meetings. During this time there is also the celebration of Monlam which is known as The Great Prayer Festival. Since Buddhism is so prevalent in the Tibetan culture large crowds participate in the events/prayer sessions. There was one day in which the Dalai Lama gathered with all the leaders, monastic community and the public for a special prayer to honor those who have died in Tibet.

Then there was a special prayer on March 9th that was considered a long life prayer for the Dalai Lama. These events are very special and I am so happy to have been able to experience and learn more about this time of the year in the Tibetan culture. To learn more about Monlam do a search online.

Following Losar and Monlam is the historical day of the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising. In 1959 after many years of Communist Chinese invasion a large population joined together to protect their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. They feared what the Chinese would do to him. When the Chinese invaded Tibet there was much blood shed and since then has been oppressive conditions of Tibetans. Last year as Tibetans attempted to exercise freedom of expression the Chinese military cracked down on Tibetans. Violence broke out although there skepticism as to who was actually responsible for the initial outbreak. The Tibetan people have endured horrible conditions in the past year due to a strike hard campaign by the Communist Chinese Government. They have had controlled movement in the country, monitored phone calls, restricted media and the Chinese government has even closed the country to foreign travelers and journalists.

Photobucket I would like to challenge you all to think about something… If the Chinese Government has nothing to hide regarding human rights in Tibet then why do they NOT allow journalists in to report the truth of what is going on. If the truth will not hurt the Communist Chinese and they journalists would not find human rights violations then why the restrictions on media? Why is the country closed to foreign travelers if there is nothing to hide? Why the increased military presence and the strike hard campaign if the Tibetans are being provided their basic human rights? These are all questions we need to be asking as well we need to be pressing for answers. For a more specific historical review go to the following link

I have one more concern for you to consider…If we as a nation in the United States value our freedoms why do we not think others should also have the same rights? If the Chinese Government continues to bail us out of our debts as a country we should be concerned for our future. The Communist Chinese Government is very powerful and gaining more power in the world sometimes through trade agreements and economic bailouts.

chinese speaker This past week I had the opportunity to hear three Chinese speakers who are supportive of the Tibetan cause. The Chinese speakers express their concern not only for the human rights violations of Tibetans but for the entire Chinese population.

I plead with you to give consideration to why more than 100,000 Tibetans have fled into exile and why there are so many in Tibet that would like to still get out. How can we hear their voice if we do not listen to those in exile who are trying to help a voice that has been silenced to be heard by the International Community? It is our responsibility as free people to hear the cry of those who are not free. Here is a recent write up of the efforts of our government to assist and I commend Congress.

There is a recent movie out titled “Murder in the Snow”. It was filmed by some climbers who witnessed the murder of a Tibetan while on the escape route. I urge you if you can find it to watch it.

Prime Minister Samdong Rinpoche speaks in the YouTube video above. He is the political leader of the Tibetan government in Exile.

This is reality and what is happening to Tibetans who are trying to find a quality of life that will allow them basic freedoms as you and I know. Without these freedoms one cannot reach self actualization and reach their full potential. A few days after the film was shown I was walking down the road to go visit my friend in the hospital and a young nun about the age of sixteen was walking in front of me, as I walked up beside her we exchanged a Tashi Delek and then walked a little while quietly side by side. Then she started to speak in broken English to me. Eventually the conversation brought me to the question of when did you come to India. At that time she began to tell me the compelling story of how her friend was shot by the Chinese military while they were trying to escape. I just couldn’t believe I was talking to this young beautiful girl who experienced first hand the murder in the snow and it was a friend of hers. She began to tell me how sad she feels.

I have to say I have never experienced a walk like that before. She asked me if I would come visit her and so I will need to follow up on that. She lives in the community of Norbulinga at the nunnery Dolmaling.

Stories like this are heart wrenching. I have thought a great deal about the nuns I interviewed last summer who had been imprisoned. More to come on what came of the interviews with the two women I interviewed. Stay turned because it is really good news for them and for me…..

lh tibetan resized 450 Also take a look at the newest photos – Leann’s Photobucket link. Also any photos from this trip are in the main folder of listed in albums starting with number 1…..

Thanks for reading and considering the questions posed.

Leann Halsey


More from Murder In The Snow

Another YouTube video clip from the movie Murder In The Snow,

Dramatic movie trailer for the film Murder In The Snow,


Nytingtob Ling Project

Hello and Tashi Delek. Remember to click the title and go directly to my blog and have access to photos, news and more.

Today I want to share with you information about a home I visited at the end of my journey last summer. In the Tibetan community of Norbulingka in India there is a place named Nyingtob Ling. It is a home for children with disabilities and or special needs.

Please see the attached website that was created today so others may become aware of their project as well as their needs.


It is a beautiful place and I am happy to be able to have assisted them with new exposure on the worldwide web. It is my gift to them for showing me around and being so kind to all.

Thanks to my good friend Daniel (who assists me with my India blog) I was able to create the site.

Please check it out.

Please Join the International Solidarity Movement

Tashi Delek and Hello.

I apologize for the delay in keeping up with the blog but would like to take a moment to address a very important movement of solidarity with the Tibetans. The below information is taken directly from the Tibetspace blogsite which is in the links to the left.  This is an excellent blog which is managed by one of the professors, Dr. Burris, who was responsible for the TEXT (Tibetans in Exile Today) project in India.

On Saturday Tibetans and supporters around the world will observe a 12-hour prayer service and symbolic fasting to reinforce their commitment to non-violence. Please try participate in any way possible to show your support for Tibetans. If you can not fast then please join the Tibet supporters worldwide in prayer.

Here is Dr. Burris’ write up….


Dalailama_2His Holiness has agreed to join an international non-violent action on Saturday, August 30 sponsored by the Tibetan Solidarity Committee.  The movement begins at 7:00 a.m., and will come to a close 12 hours later.  Participants may choose to fast in whatever way is most amendable to them–they may avoid all food and liquid for the 12-hour period, or varying degrees thereof, but all are encouraged to spend the day reflecting upon those who are currently suffering under oppressive regimes.  Fasts of this sort, particularly in America, allow us to develop, however minutely, a sympathetic awareness of deprivation.  And if this seed develops into a stronger commitment to alleviate human suffering within our own orbit, then so much the better for all of us.

“We consider this as extremely important non-violent action taken by Tibetans under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a very critical period for Tibet, particularly the post-Olympic period,” Kalon Tripa Prof Samdhong Rinpoche said.

The Tibetspace posting points out the importance of the non-violent action and the reflection of all who suffer under oppressive regimes. This can also be a reminder of those who suffer in Darfur.

Thank you for your consideration to joining the international day of fasting. Please visit the links listed on the left more current updates. Phayul always has current updates on the issues of Tibet.

Thank you,


The Beauty and the Beast

Tashi Delek (Hello)

Well some of you may be wondering why I have not posted recently and all I can say is I have been very busy trying to take it all in. I have become aware of the increased need for cultural competence in order to proceed on the global social work path. I will explain more in detail below but first I want to share some of the delightful scenery of the area.

While the TEXT group was here from the University of Arkansas we took a hike to Triund which is at 2900m/ 9570 ft. McLeod is at 5841 ft so it is quit a climb. Of course all the students who made the trek went to the top but me. Unfortunately I was not able to make the entire trek up but instead was blessed with the presence of my teacher Geshe la Dorjee and his friend Gyurmey who trekked at a slower rate with me. I was so glad they were along because I was very concerned of holding back the group knowing that I was not in shape to be able to keep up. After stopping at the half way point and resting we went a little further up the mountain and I found a great boulder to perch myself on as the two monks went a little further up. This was a great time for me to sit and reflect on the time spent with the TEXT group and think about the amazing experience we were provided on this new study abroad program sponsored by the U of A. As I have written we encountered some incredible people and places. There are photos on my photobucket page of some of the beautiful scenery even though it was cloudy most of the hike. It was an unusual feeling sitting on the boulder by myself as a cloud encompassed me and I had little visibility. I just thought you might enjoy seeing the photos.

Then click on slide show…………..

Now I want to share with you some of the social work perspectives from my internship. As I mentioned before I was given the task of continuing research of the Drapchi nuns that are ex-political prisoners and their current situation in exile. After first doing some online research and discovering that there were two currently in India. I found them at Gu Chu Sum which is an agency that assists the ex-political prisoners. When traveling with the TEXT group we had an interview with the General Secretary of Gu Chu Sum of whom I contacted and inquired about the two nuns. He arranged for me to interview the two of them last week and yesterday. Their stories are compelling and very sad to know they have and still suffer so greatly due to the repressive ways of the Communist Chinese who restrict the freedom of speech and religion.

They spoke of their efforts to speak out in support of freedom of religion, in support of the Dalai Lama and for a free Tibet. Rigzen Choekyi was put in prison for a total of twelve years for participating in a peaceful protest and part of the term was an extended sentence due to her involvement in composing songs in prison with other nuns. One of the other ex-political prisoners, Lhundup Sangmo, who was a nun that also participated in peaceful protests in support of basic Human Rights, was imprisoned for a total of nine years. She also was a part of the group composing songs in prison that received an extended sentence. This is how they got their name as the “Drapchi 14 singing nuns”.

Both women spoke of their personal experiences enduring such treatments as being hung and beaten as they were requested to denounce their religion and beliefs. They spoke of the harsh conditions in the Chinese prison and the way in which they suffered physically and psychologically. They both spoke of mostly being fed bread and tea but when they were provided vegetables they were covered with human waste. They spoke of the human waste from the buckets in their jail cells used for growing vegetables and the visibility that the food provided had not been washed. One of the women said they were forced to eat it this way and since they were starving it became necessary for them to eat, even though it made them sick. They both spoke of the decline in health due to the conditions in which they survived for many years. Both still suffer today from such things as physical disabilities and psychological distress. Both women need health treatment for such things as pain management and kidney failure. Some of the psychological effects they struggle with today are lack of memory and the inability to learn due to lack of concentration. They spoke of the inability to sleep, bad dreams, increased anger, lack of trust and social phobias. As one of them told her story she struggled to hold back tears. She lost her composer and tears began to flow as she expressed her concern for the Tibetans that are currently being held as political prisoners by Chinese forces. We took a moment of silence before continuing with the interview and discussing what Buddhism means to her today. They both still hold Buddhism as an important spiritual aspect of their life and although they do not wear the red robes of nuns they consider themselves to be Buddhist nuns inside. When they were released from prison in 1999 and 2002 they were prevented from returning to the nunnery and faced many difficulties in the country. Their decision to escape into exile was in hopes of finding a life with some freedoms.

I wanted to share a few of these details with you as the women have great desire to tell their stories to the world. They ask for the continued support of the global community to create awareness of the human rights concerns in Tibet due to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. For more information on the efforts of the Gu Chu Sum Movement please visit their website:

Also I would like to continue the efforts of the Pennies for Partnerships fund raising and anyone interested in sending a donation can e-mail me at or and I will inform you of how to contribute. At this time I would like to focus my efforts on developing a contribution for the ex-political prisoners at Gu Chu Sum. The organization provides such things as basic needs and educational programs to assist the victims.

There are photos of two Tibetan women and myslef and individual photos of these ladies. They provided me permission to display these photos and if you want more details to the interview feel free to request it by contacting me via e-mail and it may be possible for me to e-mail you the transcription. Their stories are very compelling and as I mentioned they want to share it with the world.

Thank you for your continued support for the Tibetan cause. Your contributions and prayers are much needed and appreciated.

Thu-je-chhe (thank you),


Once again I appreciate you overlooking any typos and errors for I post without editing.

Learning About the Tibetan Culture

Tashi Delek (Hello)

It has been almost a week since I posted last and I apologize for the delay. I have been taking some time to get acquainted with the area and the new responsibilities of my internship. I will try to back track and give you a review of the things that have happened since last week.

I have a Tibetan man that I am working with to develop his ability for conversational English. The Tibetans have a very strong desire to learn English as well as practice the language every opportunity that comes their way. So my teacher at the University of Arkansas arranged to work with someone he knows. We get together almost everyday and work on conversation. In one week I have been approached by at least five Tibetans asking if I can teach them. Unfortunately with working at least 9 hours a day at the Tibetan Women’s Association for my internship it is difficult to take on anymore than the one student I already have. There of course some great organizations here which focus on teaching English. So I have also encouraged my student Tashi to enroll in the English classes at Louisiana Himalayan Association (LHA) for the daytimes when I am at my internship. LHA is a social work initiative with an affiliation to Tulane University in Louisiana. The man that I met at the agency is Neil and he holds a MSW from Tulane. For more information on LHA you can visit the website at

On Thursday June 26th I was invited to attend a cultural event of a spiritual and political leader H.H. Gyalwang Karmapa. This was a very special invitation as it provides the insight to the spiritual values of the Buddhist culture. The Karmapa is said to be the third most important leader of the Tibetan people. The Karmapa recently spent time in the US and is highly regarded by Tibetans of the monastic community and also lay community. The day started with a ceremony at Gyuto Monastery and then moved to another monastery approximately two hours from Gyuto. First at Gyuto Monastery they served lunch to everyone who attended after a prayer session in the morning. In the picture you will see a lot of shots from the road because our taxi driver decided to take a short cut which allowed us to meet up with the Karmapa’s entourage and travel the rest of the way in his entourage. This was actually a lot of fun.

It was very exciting to see all the faces of the communities as we passed through many small villages on the way. I also had an opportunity to see the respect of the Indian communities as they bowed and showed respect to the Karmapa as he drove by. When we arrived at Drubten Pedme Gyeypai Gatsal Institute, another monastery, the nuns, monks and lay people welcomed him with cultural banners and music as they lined the walk way. It was very much a pomp and circumstance that you would see when someone like the president or the pope arrived in the US except obviously different cultural acknowledgments.

Everyone moved into the prayer hall where they participated in prayer and chants. Then they served rice and tea to everyone and H.H. the Karmapa addressed the crowd with thanks. There was about an hour break and then everyone reconvened for a two hour teaching from the leader. His talk was focused on the importance of choosing a teacher. This talk was very good but when speaking with my friends from the monastery Gyurmey and Pasang they commented that it was an easy teaching. I think because there were so many foreigners present he may have kept it more simple. I was most surprised when the Karmapa asked for the foreigners to come forward to receive a gift from him. What an amazing experience. Keep in mind this is someone the Dalai Lama looks to possibly take over for a time period when he passes on.

After the teaching there was cake served outside the prayer hall to all the attendees. The entertainment provided was from Taiwanese group who gave song and dance in honor of the Karmapa’s birthday. I learned that usually there would be Tibetan dance and music but due to the conditions in Tibet this is a year of mourning. This is a very important subject- the Tibetan people are not celebrating any of the traditions as usual because of the hundreds of lives that have been lost in Tibet this year since March 10th. The situation in Tibet is grave and many Tibetans have been killed for speaking out for freedom of religion, and other basic human rights. In addition there are hundreds maybe thousands that have been imprisoned since March 10th as political prisoners. They are faced with horrible conditions in the Chinese prisons and they need the global community to support the concerns of human rights violations.

Tomorrow I will be interviewing nuns from the “Drapchi 14” which is a group known as the singing nuns. This is the current project I am working on for the Tibetan Women’s Association. In conjunction with the TEXT project I have compiled a number of questions for the interview that will focus on their life in Tibet and their life in exile. I hope to provide more details to this project as it progresses.

On Saturday June 28th I had the privilege to participate in a leadership workshop sponsored by the Tibetan Women’s Association. This workshop focused on the empowerment of women. The presenters were two amazing US citizens Ambassador John McDonald and Dr. Eileen Borris. All I can say is WOW I had no idea I would be sitting in a room with such quality leaders from the US and also from the Tibetan community. First I would like to give a little information on Ambassador John McDonald. He is a US diplomat first appointed by President Jimmy Carter. He has worked in UN affairs and is a major peace keeper. He has been working all over the world as a conflict resolution specialist. Ambassador McDonald has been working on a project known as the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy for over sixteen years. For more information please visit the website at

At the workshop there was diversity in representation from western countries as well as many women leaders of the Tibetan community. It was such a great experience and the workshops dealt with qualities make a good leader. Also in the afternoon the workshop switched topics and dealt with Trauma, Healing and Reconciliation. It was at this time that the discussion opened up for the women to share their personal experiences of trauma and how they have dealt with it in their lives. I heard stories of the long journey over from Tibet and what emotions were experienced as a young child that felt abandoned because their parents sent them into exile. It was also addressed that their spiritual development was the means in which brought them comfort and understanding of why their parents sent them to India. I also heard a young women talk about how one time the local India population became outraged at the Tibetan community and broke into their homes. The main discussion presented by Dr. Borris is the importance of telling your story and having it heard. The steps to healing start with telling the story. It made me think about how important it is to sit and listen to the Tibetans tell about their time in Tibet, their escape and the hardships they endured in getting to India and also their longing for a return to their family and home in Tibet. I believe that I am right where I am called to be with regards to my future as a social worker in the global community. My first lesson is to sit and listen to the people and then try to give a place for their stories to be heard.

I would like to thank you all for your time in reading about their stories and your continued support for the Tibetan cause. Please check out the photos on the photobucket site to see the cultural celebration and also the pictures of the magnificent women that attended the leadership workshop.


Also a big thanks to the Tibetan Women’s Association and all the Tibetans for their time in sharing with me.

Thu jeche (thank you),


As always thanks for overlooking any typos or grammar errors.