A brief story of Samphelling Tibetan Settlement, Walung
The forceful intrusion of Communist China into Tibet in the year 1949 and the wake of abortive Tibetan National Uprising March 10th 1959 forced hundreds of Thousand Tibetans to leave their motherland in order to escape from Chinese tyranny and terror. At the same time many Tibetans from Tinge and Gampa Districts of Utsang, Tibet crossed the formidable YangmaGangla (Dangla Pass) measuring 6462 Mount pass and stayed in the region scattered through the upper region of Taplejung District. As soon as the Tibetan Administration in exile under the leadership of H.H. the Dalai La-ma got settled in Dharamsala in India. Tibetan Refugees worldwide began to resettle in the camps with help and guidance from the respective host Nation and aid from various foundation and organizations. Under the auspices and co-ordination of Nepal Government resettlement of Tibetans roaming in Nepal began in 1960. In 1964 under resettlement program the Walung Sampheling of Pholey, was established at the height of 3140 meter from the see level, and this settlement is located in one of the most remote regions of Nepal where we have Tibetan settlements established in the Kingdom of Nepal. The settlement 0fficer was appointed to look after the Tibetan Refugee families living scattered cluster areas of Walung, Yangma and Taplejung. Few families are also living District Sangusawa. Under rehabilitation program, sampheling Tibetan Settlement was established at Pholey at a place near village called Gunsa, a remotest place of Taplejung District under MechiAnchal a border with Indian State of Sikkim in East. This settlement is situated having no link of motorable roads from any big city of Nepal. It has a land aggregate of 275 ropanis at temperature below 15 degree centigrade and rain maximum of 40 cm. For any one visiting Pholey Tibetan Settlement, it can be reached by traveling from Via Biratnagr upto Suketar (Taplejung) by air or Kathmandu to Bithamore by air and then by road up to Taplejung. From Taplejung one has to trek for five to four days by passing Mitlung, Tawa, Churwa, Tapetok, Banphuk, Japan Tar, Zawubari, Jimjelesa and Gyablha. 0ne can find places for night halt in respective mentioned above places.
In 1967 Catholic Relief Service (CRS) stationed in New Delhi had sent representatives to the area to see the feasibility of Settlement. Their representative recommendations the sanction 30000 Dm for set up agriculture- animal husbandry project for the refugee at Pholey. With funds sanctioned by Catholic multiple projects were executed like purchasing 275 ropanis of land for farm. Wooden plank walls with shingle roof were built. A small handicraft Centre was also set up for economic survivable. Majority families were evolved in yak rearing as it was the easiest work to do in an alien country. Besides that, the high land in the region was fitted to the people for looking after the yaks. A primary school was set up for the children to study modern education. In addition, two monasteries forming an essential part of the Tibetans’ life were established with volunteer labor. At the time of first resettling of Tibetans in Camp there were 36 Tibetan families.
This Tibetan Settlement is situated in a remotest area of Nepal no relief measures could be made available to the settlers. Due to the remoteness of the location of the settlement in one hand and lack of transport and communication facilities in other hand made it inaccessible to the higher authorities to reach the area. This settlement and its scattered cluster area remained economically poor.
However, over the year, due to booming business in Darjeeling and also carpet busi-ness in Kathmandu valley, many rich and enterprising people had left Pholay settle-ment towards greener pasture. The success in business in the Darjeeling and Kath-mandu area achieved by those people who had left earlier from Pholay became an instigating beckon who still lived in this remote place of MechiAnchal. No amount of motivating and regulating efforts applied could retain these people who in fact cannot be blamed for themselves. Thus, the number of people moving away from the settlement continued increasingly in the subsequent years and following the decline in settlement population the quality of community life took a downward swing. Now only 22 families are living in the settlement and 15 families are living Walung. 9 famlies are living Yangma at the height of 4550 a highest human living area in Nepal. 17 families are living in Gunsa at the height of 3340 meters from sea level. 2 families are living in at Gyabla at the height of 2630 meters. 5 families are living at Taplejung at the height of 1840 in a District Headquarters. 4 families are living in Sanguwa District with a total population of 227 people (refer to table given below) are living in Pholay Sampheling Tibetan Settlement.
As for their economic life, yaks and dzo (high breeding of Yak and cow) and animal husbandry and handicraft centre serve as their main source of income. The entire community is greatly required a close assessment and adequate materials to improve their overall facilities. Within the community, there is a need for the generation of hope and motivation among the people for progress towards making the settlement self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-supporting and worthy of living by the year 2020.
These people are mostly doing business between Tibet and Nepal, yak rearing and dzo train transportation. From the very beginning their children were given education in the Pholay Tibetan school which has up to class five and till 1998 none of children from these areas could joined further studies in any Tibetan school in India and Nepal. Since we took charges of Walung areas we did our best to educate children from very backward area as one of the pillars of any society the education is back bone of them. Tibetans are minority community in exile a people without country it is our aspiration to preserve our unique heritage and ethnical identity while simultaneously existing within a foreign country and culture. We sent children to the best Tibetans schools in different places. Now children are studying in Pokhrapong, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Gangtok in India and in Kathmandu children are studying in Tibetan school like Srongtsen and Namgyal Middle school.
Sampheling Pholay settlement is trying its best to preserve its Tibetan community’s identity and working hard in this harsh, backward and remote are. The settlement, as mentioned before, has 275 ropanis of land for agriculture and animal rearing. Besides, there is a Day school, small handicraft centre, Health Clinic, two monasteries and a Co-operative shop.
Tashi Chophel Ling, a Gelukpa monastery, has six resident monks. On every full-moon day, the monastery provides sojong communion service besides family social prayer services as and when they need. The monastery has sacred JangphungJowa (Buddha from Jangbhug area of Tibet) as its main deity. This protector-deity is be-lieved to prevent wind disasters or wind storms in the area. It is over 900 years old im-age. However, the monastery has no regular income. The main sources of livelihood of the monks are the offerings or fees they receive through conducting prayers servic-es to the Tibetan families.
Chaktrul Monastery, a Nyingmapa Monastery was built by former Chaktrul Rinpoche is having no residential monks following his demise, all the monks disrobed and left the monastery and joined mainstream of laymen’s life. The monastery is presently taken cared by an elderly man who is incidentally the relatives of the present Chaktrul Rinpoche who is studying Buddhist philosophy in Shechen Monastery in Budha. He is keeping not well as having blood problems. On every 10th day of Tibetan lunar calendar, people gather at the monastery and perform Tsechu puja (prayer of 10th day) at their own expenses. This monastery too has no regular income source.
The day school of the settlement was established and being run with financial aids provides by Tibet Fund, UK, through the Kathmandu based show Lion Foundation besides the His Majesty’s Government of Nepal. In addition to the running expenditure of the school, the salaries of the two Tibetan teachers of the school are being paid by the Tibet Fund, while the salaries of the two Nepalese teachers are being paid by the HMGN. Kanchenjunga school project is also actively involved in financing the day school. In late nineteen’s, six rooms with G.I sheet roofing have been built with help of an American Cherrie. The school has five teachers: one Nepalese Headmaster-cum-teacher, two Nepalese teacher and two teachers with 18 Tibetan students. Hence, at present, the school has only six classes including the class of kindergarten. The school has up to class four now due to miserably lacks in educational standard and basic modern facilities we degrade classes at there.
Due to family economic problems, many young children cannot afford to join higher schools in India and Kathmandu after the completion of their schooling in the settle-ment. Many young boys are now working as shepherds or doing petty businesses for their family, and young girls working as weavers and house wife. They obviously forget everything they entirely what they learnt during their school days. In view of this problem, two young Tibetan teachers of the Day School impart adult education to them every evening. This greatly benefits all the young people in the settlement. The social elements of the Tibetan culture are sustained through active participation by these adult students in performing traditional songs and dance on important days like Tibetan New Year, H.H. the Dalai Lama’s Birthday and other special days. The present adult education drive directly benefits 12 youth from the settlement. This project is also having acute financial problems as we do not have funds for paying wages to teachers who teaches the adults.
Thanks to the cold climate and sparsely-populated environment of Pholay. The majority of the Tibetan settlers are comparatively healthy. There is not even a single case of TB. However, the health complications due to vitamin deficiency, parasitic diarrhea, VTI disease, and cold and cough problem are quite common in summer. The Department of Health, Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama had trained and employed a Health worker’s salary and all the running expenditures of the health clinic. However, for severe illnesses, the patients have to go to Taplejung Hospital which takes a grueling journey of four to five days on foot or on porter’s palanquin. Since there are no trained nurses, women face hardship and complication during child birth and after birth. In fact the great God saw the problems so there has been no case of death relating with birth till now.
Over the years, the primary source of income and economic backbone of the settle-ment has been handcraft and carpet sales, yaks and dzo rearing, transportation by dzo and farming. Only few families are engaged in small-scale businesses. A few el-derly people are getting nominal old age allowance of Nrs 1000/00 per person is get-ting from different aid organization. Although rupees one thousand is not enough to meet all needs of the old people but we have no alternative to get more funds. For in-come and making available green vegetables during the winter and cold season we set up individual green House in 2007. This project made sufficient green vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbages, radish, carrot, and potatoes during winter and any type of green leafy. People consumed available vegetable in cold season and surplus they could sale to the local customers. We do belief it made good income and even they could give the rest vegetables or green leafy to the domestic animals during the winter days to keep poor animal healthy too.
STM PHONE LINE
To make accessible to the out world and in the country through communication system people need phone line. To solve communication problem we installed STM phone line at Sampheling Settlement in 2009. This project made the people easy for calling to their relatives easy. Now people are accessible to their dear and near once. They are link with world. People can contact our Camp through phone number 977 – 993244513.
Pholay Tibetan Settlement falls on the tourist route which leads trekkers and mountai-neers directly to Mt. Kangchenjunga. Normally the tourists’ halt for their lunch break at the settlement while trekking to Kanchenjunga and returning back. Since the Nepal had declared these places to fall under Nepal’s Eastern Conservation Area by building a new and easier trekking route, the trekkers’ night halt will be at Pholay Tibetan Settlement. This has increase the possibility of high profit if a tourist lodge could be constructed as income source for the entire community. In view of moment, Pholay Tibetan Community is planning to build a lodge for the tourists to offer a comfortable stay at the settlement during their trek. Towards this end, we already have land available for such a lodge with a capacity of 6 rooms in each of its three stories and one kitchen. But it is hard to build as we have no fund for such big project.
REROOFING OF SETTLEMENT HOUSES
The majority of the settlement houses were built 4 decades ago. Since then no major repairing works has been carried out. With small funds from aid organization we could only do small repairs. Now all the houses are in dilapidated condition so it is felt an urgent repairing with wooden walls and GI sheet roof. For this project we have already submitted project proposal to Department of Home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If our project is materialize new wooden planks with wooden walling and GI roofing will done soon to avoid living quarter problems. Now a day people are facing living quarter problem as during the winter water leaks from shingle roofs and badly require reproofing with GI roofing sheets, besides other major renovation works.
Tibetans fled their homeland with the hope that they will one day they will be able to live in an independent Tibet. The Tibetan settlements had been established as an im-portant means by which these people preserve their heritage and convey it to their younger generations. Because of economic pressures and difficult living conditions, the populations of these communities have declined over the years with so many people moving to the cities where they often find an easier and more profitable livelih-ood. As these communities erode, so does their cultural cohesion and, in due course, their Tibetan identity.
In the case of Sampheling camp, if the much needed improvements and changes are brought in with a sense of urgency there remains no doubt that the Sampheling com-munity will rise once again as one of the best Tibetan settlements in Nepal. There will surely come a time, in the near future, when the Tibetan refugees struggling in the cities will opt to come and live in Sampheling – an easier and more peaceful life – where they can propagate and preserve their unique heritage. We still work towards the day when the Tibetan refugees will return to live happily in an independent Tibet.