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The Inspirational Karuna Girl

By Matthieu Ricard on September 11, 2018

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In 2005 we visited a remote area of Eastern Tibet to check on the progress of our Karuna-Shechen projects there and look for new ways in which to help.

While visiting one of our small clinics, I happened to enter a dark kitchen with my camera. In a dark corner near the hearth, was a little girl whose smile and direct gaze, completely devoid of shyness lit up the room.

I immediately took a single photo before she continued eating tsampa (roasted barley flour). A few minutes later, I saw her again with her uncle, one of the doctors at the clinic, who was taking her pulse. Charmed again by her ingenuous manner and the openness she shared with her uncle, I photographed them together.

Her open smile and complete lack of affectation are very typical of Tibetans in the region. Her image reminds me of the reason why we work in Tibet and our mission to bring education and health to the Tibetan people and, especially, to young girls. We felt that she could be the symbol of our work. And so she became the cover image of our 2009 Annual Report and the main icon for our website and activities.

A few years ago, we wanted to find her again and thank her for helping us, so we asked her uncle if he could locate her. We did not realize know that to meet us, she had to walk for one and half days down from the high altitude pastures of the nomadic area where she was spending the summer with her parents.

She is now thirteen years old. Her name is Druk-kar Tsho. In Tibetan druk-kar ("six stars") is a poetic name for a very beautiful and special turquoise, and tsho means ocean. So her name could be translated as "Beautiful Turquoise Ocean".

Eight years later, she still had the same natural, kind demeanor of the little girl we had met in 2005, and we hope our work continues to reflect the hope and meaning it had when we first met her.

We thanked her for being the smiling ambassador of our humanitarian work. We told her that many people around the world have seen her image. Naturally, this seemed quite unreal to her and she humbly paid little attention to the idea.

We now keep in touch with her family and look for ways to be of further help to her. In particular, we would like to provide her with an education and at the same time avoid disturbing her life with her nomadic family.

We are grateful to her for lending her gracious smile as a symbol for so many children in need throughout the Himalayas.

Help bring opportunity and quality education to children in remote places in the Himalayas.
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