This year in Tibet, we found our ‟Karuna girl” !

By Matthieu Ricard on September 09, 2013

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In 2005 we visited a remote area of Eastern Tibet, checking on the progress of our Karuna-Shechen projects there and looking 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 her « 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. Again charmed 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 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 image for our website and activities.

This summer 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 know that to see us, she had to walk for one and half days 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.

We thanked her for being the smiling ambassador of our humanitarian work and mentioned that her image has been seen by many people around the world. Naturally, this seemed quite unreal to her and she hardly paid attention to the idea.

We will now keep in touch with her family and find out how we can 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.

For the humanitarian activities carried out by Karuna-Shechen, see the section of our website dedicated to them: