Tibetan Road Builders

$9,600 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 54 people in 31 months
Tibetan Road Builders- the untold stories of the earliest Tibetan rufugees 

The earliest Tibetan refugees who fled Tibet found themselves on an extremely dangerous and unforgiving path to exile. As the situation in Tibet worsened and news of Chinese atrocities spread across all three provinces of Tibet, more and more Tibetans geared towards an exilic life.

Tibetans, eventually numbering almost to one hundred thousand, began to pour into the areas bordering India, Nepal, Burma and Bhutan. Struggling against great odds with their minds heavy and bodies often almost lifeless, they entered foreign lands. These first Tibetan exiles suffered from depression, shock, malnutrition, and a sense of existential crisis due to being torn away from their native land. Additionally, the stark differences in the diet, customs, language and weather took a severe physical and mental toll. 

These emotionally strangled, physically battered, culturally uprooted and financially drained Tibetans placed their undivided faith and solidarity toward the very young spiritual and political leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. These first Tibetan refugees with guidance and fatherly-care from His Holiness, slowly began to stand on their feet as they embraced hammers, spades and dynamites, and chiseled and carved through the stubborn and hostile mountains of northern India, Nepal, and Bhutan and Tibet. Thus Tibetans began exile as lam-so wa, “Tibetan Road Builders.”

H.H the 14th Dalai Lama giving audience to Tibetan Road Builders in India

In 2011, I recorded several interviews with my late maternal grandfather (he passed away in 2012). In those conversations he talked about his experiences as a road builder in Shimla, India in the early 1960s. From the very moment I heard his story, I realized its importance and thereafter started working on this project.

Though, the Tibetan road building events were historically important which succinctly captures the earliest formative and traumatic exile experiences of Tibetan refugees, surprisingly little to no historical research exist on the road builders. Extensive research and discussions on the Tibetan road builders was conducted with numerous experts on Tibetan history and it is the overwhelming consensus that no significant research is done on this key and formative event in Tibetan history.

A mother with her children at a road building site

I have completed 80 in-depth interviews so far. Each interview is four to six hours long with a follow up interview requiring another two to four hours. I have interviewed individuals from various social backgrounds: Rinpoche, Monk/nun, Aristocrat, teacher, scholar, nomad, farmer, Tibetan government officials along with the officials and staff members who had worked at the Tibetan road building sites.  Additionally, I have found many governments, institutions and non-governmental organizations that were involved in the facilitation of the Tibetan Road building projects. I have collected and continue to collect the documents pertaining to the history of Tibetan Road Builders. 

H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama with the Tibetan Road Builder supervisors

The next phase of interviews will be conducted in United States, Europe, India, Nepal and Australia. I intend to interview as many Tibetan road builders as possible before they all pass-away with their important and precious stories. Every story so far has been inspirational and I think Tibetans and people around the world could learn from their tumultuous yet comprehensive experience of being the earliest Tibetan refugees. Given the huge task ahead, I hope to complete the project by late 2017 to early 2018.

Tibetans Road builders, India

Your kind support will help me and my small but dedicated team to carry out the 2nd phase of the project to conduct 100-150 more interviews of Tibetan road builders.

An average of USD$300.00 covers the whole expense of taking a complete in-depth audio/video interviews of one individual and collect additional information, photographs and articles pertaining to Road building history. So far I have worked on this project on my own but at this phase, I would like to humbly request your kind assistance.

Thank You and Happy New Year 

Tenzing Rigdol
January 1st, 2017
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In the early 1960s, Tibetan Road Builders- the earliest Tibetan refugees participated in solidarity with the Tibetans in Tibet to commemorate and recollect the March 10th uprising in Tibet. This is one rare photograph capturing the sprit and aura of then Tibetans. They literally had nothing, except truth and honesty!
In early 60s...March 10th, Road Builders
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More updates coming soon- whenever possible support the Road Builders project. Best regards- Tenzing Rigdol
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Dear Tibetans- Extend your helping hands! Show interest, if not in your own History, then at least in your parents' history.
Kindly support this project by donating any small or big amount- If I couldn't raise the proposed fund by the end of February, then I would NOT be able to continue working on this important project. And I might have to resort to a wishful thinking that someday, someone will in near future invent a technology that would bring our long gone Popo las and Momo las back from the other world to tell their stories to reconstruct OUR history with FACEs.
Thank You

VOA Interview- Art and Road Builders
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THANK YOU ALL - for being funders of this very time sensitive project. So far we have raised $1360 and I am hopeful that things will pick up slowly. I will post updates and news about the project in coming days. Please share the project.

Professor Elliot Sperling / TOPRAJ GURUNG / Tenzin Choklay / CHUNGPO TSERING / Sarah Magnatta / TSERING GOMPO / Toru Hisatomi / ANONYMOUS / soonyoung kim / ZABGYAL ZABGYAL / Thupten Chakrishar / TENZING DAWA / Anonymous / RACHEL WEINGEIST / Tashi Dhundup / TSERING THAKCHOE / Tenzing Sonam / KRISTI TETHONG / Anonymous / PEMA YORK / Tenzing Thabkay / DANIELLE LANDRY
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Read a Previous Update
Tashi Lodoe
30 months ago

Tenzing Rigdol la, thank you for your amazing work and I hope and wish soon this project turn into reality and successful ...

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$9,600 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 54 people in 31 months
Created January 1, 2017
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24 months ago
kalsang doma
27 months ago
Fabio Rossi
29 months ago

This project is the most important one by any contemporary Tibetan artists so far: please, support!

Emma Martin
29 months ago
Jane Stein
29 months ago
Tseten Phuti Allemann
30 months ago
Tashi Lodoe
30 months ago

Tenzing Rigdol la, thank you for your amazing work and I hope and wish soon this project turn into reality and successful ...

Jane Robinett
30 months ago
Tsepa Bayul
30 months ago
Tashi Lodoe
30 months ago

Tenzing Rigdol la, thank you for your amazing work and I hope and wish soon this project turn into reality and successful ...

+ Read More
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