Tibetan Children’s Village: Step One to Success

Dharamshala, India. When China illegally annexed Tibet in 1949, up to a million Tibetans are said to have perished. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959, trekking across the Himalayan Mountains, 85,000 of his people followed him into India.

IMG_1776Boys reading in the library. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Welcomed by then Prime Minister Nehru, the Tibetans were safe. However, among them were thousands of orphaned and destitute children ravaged by war, hunger, and the psychological devastation of losing their families, homes and country. His Holiness quickly recognized that the future of Tibet and its people depended on the next generations.


He asked his older sister, Tsering Dolma Talik to direct an effort – a home and school – for these children, which she did. Starting in 1960 with fifty children, what today is the Tibetan Children’s Village School (“TCV”) began. Mrs. Talik soon passed away and her younger sister Jetsun Pema took control of the nascent institution.

IMG_5111Photo: Stewardship Report.

Today, there are 1,208 border students and 121 day-school students cared for by over 200 staff. Since inception almost sixty years ago, 52,000 young Tibetans have graduated from TCV, most of them returning to the community and taking jobs in business, government, health, education and the non-profit sector. They are the future of Tibet.

TCV is the single largest educational set-up in the exile community, playing a pivotal role in shaping the younger generation in keeping with the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Tibetan people.

IMG_3347Photo: Stewardship Report.

Former TCV president Tsewang Yeshi said on the occasion of their Golden Jubilee in 2010:

The cultivation of positive human values such as kindness, compassion, integrity, and concern for others is given due focus along with intellectual pursuits and skills. In short, the emphasis is on the development of the head, heart and hand, so that each individual can develop his/her abilities to the fullest potential. Without loosing the simplicity of our exile life, we shall further try too improve the quality of our children’s education and their upbringing.


Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura, a long-time supporter of the Tibetan community and early child sponsor at TCV, and I recently met with Mr. Tsultrim Dorjee, director of the Tibetan Children’s Village School. He thanked Dr. Kazuko, saying, “You have many years of service to the children of Tibet.”

IMG_5183The author and Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura meeting with Tsultrim Dorjee,
director of the Tibetan Children’s Village School. Photo: Stewardship Report.

The director grew up in a nomadic family in Tibet herding goats. Tsultrim shared with us his joy at visiting the Tibetan community in Colorado the other year. “I thought America was full of buildings, but in Colorado there was so much space. It reminded me of Tibet.”

IMG_7049Photo: Stewardship Report.

“In Colorado, you get the smell of Tibet. The Rocky Mountains are similar to the Himalayas. The air of Tibet, the grass of Tibet – even much of the same wildlife of Tibet,” he enthused.

IMG_1842His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked his sister to begin the orphanage
when they arrived from Tibet in exile. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Tsultrim explained that the school’s 1200+ students, spread out across multiple campuses, study 8 hours a day, from 7am to 4pm, as well as half a day on Saturdays. TCV is graduating young global leaders who learn three to four languages before they leave for college or university, as most of them do.

IMG_4872Typical in Dharamshala, the school spreads slowly up the mountain side.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

From Montessori (Kindergarten) through the fourth grade they are taught only in the Tibetan language. From fifth grade, English is introduced as their second language. Living in India, they are introduced to Hindi as their third language from the sixth grade. And for those who desire to learn Chinese as a fourth language, a special branch campus is available.

IMG_1956Girls reading in the library. Photo: Stewardship Report.

It is imperative of TCV for the children to be well grounded in Tibetan cultural studies including morning prayers. For this reason, foreign visitors are welcomed but not encouraged to volunteer. The campus is built up and down and all around the mountainside with steps and balconies and tunnels connecting it all in an architectural adventure. Monkeys and feral dogs roam the campus, living in harmony with the children with the occasional mishap.

IMG_7173The institution’s early exposure to  Hermann Gmeiner’s SOS-Kinderdorf is evident.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

All children need the love, warmth and security of normal family life along with education. All the kids live in a group home called Khimtsang – a typical Tibetan home with foster parents. Each home is a self-contained family group with its own kitchen, living space and bedrooms. Here, children are raised as brothers and sisters and share the household chores with their house parents. The institution’s early exposure to SOS-Kinderdorf is evident.

IMG_2001Photo: Stewardship Report.

In addition to looking after the physical, mental and spiritual needs of its children, TCV seeks to impart the best of modern education along with a deep and intimate understanding of Tibet’s rich cultural heritage. TCV helps young bays and girls become self-reliant, contributing members of their society and the world at large. Finally, TCV works to cultivate a sense of national identity that will enable the children to share the hopes and aspirations of the Tibetan people to return someday to their homeland.

IMG_2996The Tibetan Children’s Village motto from the Dalai Lama: Others Before Self.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

Hollywood, literary and Washington elites have visited the Tibetan Children’s’ Village over the years including Harrison Ford, Pierce Bronson, Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Richard Gere, Alice Walker, and Maria Shriver. Prominent organizations supporting TCV include CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Enfants du Monde, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Save The Children, SOS Kinderdorf, Students for a Free Tibet, TCV Alumni Association NYC, The Tibet Fund, Tibet House USA, and World Council of Churches.


As His Holiness the Dalai Lama charged to TCV graduates in 2010, “Remember and preserve your Tibetan identity while at the same time keeping in mind that your education has prepared you to be participating citizens of the twenty-first century.”


  1. The Dalai Lama & Dr. Kazuko: A 47-Year Friendship
  2. Tibetan Children’s Village: Step One to Success
  3. India: Great Protector of the Tibetan People
  4. With Incredible Tibetan Orphans, Reflecting on How I Got Here
  5. Meet Japanese Grandmother of Tibetan Orphanage in India
  6. Lama Thupten Phuntsok: Tibetan Monk’s Life Outside Monastery 
  7. First Trip to Tibetan Orphanage High in Himalayas
  8. Dharamshala for Americans: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Hometown
  9. Himalayas: From India/Pakistan to Bhutan & Nepal + Chinese Tibet
  10. Himalayas: Once Greater Tibet, Now Tragically Divided 
  11. Meet American Lobsang Sangay, President of Tibet
  12. Dr. Kazuko: Planning Nine Orphanages Globally Through Gaia
  13. Viewpoint: Whatever Faith Tradition, It’s All About Kindness
  14. Orphanage Burns in Indonesia; Matt Luce Pledges to Rebuild
  15. At Fifty, I Gave Away My Wealth; at Sixty, My Possessions
  16. Autumn Elegant Evening to Highlight Charity Efforts Around World
  17. New Look: Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness at Tenth Year
  18. Luce Leadership Experience Looks to Israel after Greece, Indonesia Trips
  19. Charities at Twenty Confer Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Kazuko
  20. New Look: Orphans International Website Refreshed for 20th Anniversary


  1. On Pilgrimage: Following the Footsteps of Buddha Across N.E. India
  2. Under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya Where the Prince Became The Buddha
  3. Photo Essay of Bodh Gaya, Where Buddha Became Enlightened
  4. Next Step of Indian Pilgrimage: Vultures’ Peak Where Buddha Preached
  5. Touching the Untouchable in a Rural Indian Village
  6. Rediscovering the World’s First Great University in Buddhist India
  7. Buddhism for Beginners: Insights from a Non-Buddhist
  8. Buddhism and the Universal Concept of Social Responsibility
  9. Help Me to Support Education & Orphan Care in Bihar, India
  10. Most-Photographed Man in the World Prepares to Retire
  11. Yoshimitsu Nagasaka Photo Exclusive: The Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya
  12. Varanasi: Holy City of Buddhists – As Well as Hindus, Jainists, Jews
  13. On the Banks of the Ganges: Reflections of a Journey in Time
  14. My Pilgrimage Complete: Life Continues Like a Wheel
  15. Pilgrimage Postscript: Pneumonia and Possible T.B.


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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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