I came into this week thinking I would learn the basics – What is going on in Tibet? How does China oppress Tibetans? And what can the U.S and people around the world do to make our chants of “free Tibet” a reality. I did in fact learn all this, but something that is more cliché, and equally important, that I gained through the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program is a sense of belonging, empowerment, and an experience of humbleness. Though I grew up in a large Tibetan community, I felt this new sense of world-wide community that Tibetans are so fortunate to have. Though we do not have a physical piece of Earth that is recognized as our homeland by some people in power, the places we have come to inhabit all makeup another type of home. A home that is built upon the restless and concrete backs of our grandmothers and grandfathers and the generations of Tibetans that came before our own. From the East Coast to the West Coast, and all the land in between, I was able to (virtually) meet truly outstanding Tibetans from across the United States that helped create a sense of this world-wide Tibetan community.
The feeling of empowerment that I felt came to actualization as I listened to Tibetans who worked in the government, and those who served in their own unique ways, give talks about their experiences in public service. This sense of empowerment comes from seeing Tibetan representation within many different career paths, that I (in my personal experience) am not often exposed to. If there is no space on the table, I now have confirmation and evidence that Tibetans can make the space for themselves, and our community, in spaces where important decisions are being made – and in doing so also making positive impacts within different career fields.
My time as a Tibetan Youth Leadership participant also humbled me – I still have so much to learn, not just in terms of the Tibetan language itself, but in terms of personal growth that will allow me to become a version of myself that is equipped to make active change, no matter how small. Though much is still a work in progress, I have learned that this does not mean I cannot contribute to my communities, it is not an exclusive relationship – one can make a positive impact in the world and still be working on oneself. I have learned through the amazing speakers and experiences that ICT was able to provide me with, that I can make important changes and positive impacts in my community while also learning and growing as a person.
I have learned so much about myself, my hopes and goals, and my Tibetan community through this experience provided by ICT. I truly think that any Tibetan who finds themselves wanting to learn and grow in any area of their life, would benefit from this program and the amazing people they will meet and get to learn from through it.
Thank you to all the dedicated and hardworking ICT staff that came together to make this program truly an invaluable experience!
By Tenzin Chodon Dorje, TYLP 2021