Monday, September 16, 2013

A Himalayan Girl: Lhakpa Dolma Lama

Lhakpa Dolma Lama (right) with friends from SMD School in Kathmandu, Nepal

My name is Lhakpa Dolma Lama and I am a student from Nepal currently studying in Melbourne, Australia at Ivanhoe Grammar School under a full scholarship for year eleven and twelve. I want to be a health worker when I grow up. I am the only member in my family who has been to school. For that reason I do work hard on my studies and English is my fifth language after my mother tongue Nubri, Tibetan, Nepali, and Hindi.

Lhakpa with her second-oldest sister who is a nun
I was born in one of the most remote areas in the northern Himalayas in Nepal (Lho, Nubri) where there is not any infrastructure to be found, such as running water, schools, health centres, and transportation. I have seen many children die, including my two older sisters, of easily curable diseases, such as the common cold and diarrhea. Luckily I still have two other older sisters. My father passed away in 2008 when I was in Shree Mangal Dvip School. I don’t know what disease caused his death. We do not have a hospital in the village. If people get sick the choice is to rest and try to eat sufficient food. People lack knowledge about hygiene and nutrition. Life is really hard there. If you get sick it takes seven days to come down to the city by foot. It is expensive to book a helicopter and thus many people cannot afford to do that. Because of this I have the dream of studying nursing so that I can go back to my birthplace and provide medical services there. In this way I hope to save many lives in my community and make a real difference in a place where it is desperately needed.

This video is of my birthplace. You can see in the video that people depend a lot on farming and life is primitive. The houses are mostly made of stones and wood and we use firewood as our a main fuel. You can see smoke coming out from a few houses. That shows where people are cooking inside. 
Lhapka's mum, oldest sister, brother-in-law, and
their children in Lho, Nubri Valley
My mother is a subsistence farmer. I do not receive much support from my family, since they themselves are struggling to survive. I am the only member from my family who has received the opportunity to attend school, so my family has put all of their hope in me—an incredible responsibility, as you can imagine. When I was in the village, I helped my mother at loom and collecting firewood. I also helped my mother in the field. I began doing this when I was five years old. Children in the village learn how to work from the moment they are able to talk and walk.

Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche 
 with SMD schoolchildren
(Lhakpa is on the left)

In 2000 when I  was six years old, I moved down to the city and entered into Shree Managal Dvip (SMD) School. SMD School was built by the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in 1987 and it is a Buddhist school. We have monks and nuns from the monastery studying with us. We pray every day for thirty minutes and we have Dharma class (Buddhist teaching) from time to time. City life is so different from where I was born. I saw new forms of transportation and big buildings for the first time. I used to wonder how those big things move which I now know are called buses. It was a huge difference and I got confused as well. For the first few months I really missed my mother and I did not even know how to speak Nepali because people in my village have their own dialect (Nubri), which is similar to Tibetan. So language was a barrier at that time as well. Life at SMD School is the best part of my life up until now. I love that school so much; I lived in that school for about eleven years. Even during my summer break, I went back to Nepal and volunteered at SMD in 2012 and 2013. It has become my second home. I had a sponsor until class ten at Shree Mangal Dvip School (SMD) in Kathmandu, Nepal and moreover, the school provided everything for me.

After completing year ten I gave service to SMD for one and half years and then I got a full scholarship at Ivanhoe Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia for my year eleven and twelve in 2011. I will finish year twelve in November 2013. My time in Australia has had ups and downs. In the beginning there were moments that I felt like crying because I could not understand the class very well and I felt homesick as well. But there are some good parts. My host families are really nice and helpful and I love my school. I especially like the teachers at my school. They are so helpful and I seek their guidance. It was pretty hard in 2011 but gradually things got better and better. Now I do not feel like I am an alien here. I love sports and I made a lot of friends from the sports team as well.
Lhakpa and friends at badminton practice
When I was in Nepal I was the top student in the class and also in a national exam I was the top in the class. Here, in Melbourne, I am in the top ten even if I compete against students who are native speakers, while English is my fifth language. Besides academics, I also participated in many leadership activities. I was school captain and sports captain in Nepal. I was leader of the Eco Club and executive member of student council in SMD School. Here at Ivanhoe Grammar School I am also one of the school prefects and I am a member of the international student council. I was also Elicos mentor in 2012. Furthermore, I actively participate in sports. I played in my school's first soccer team in 2012, in girl’s first team in badminton in 2012, and now in girl’s second team in basketball. I really enjoy sports as well as school.

Lhakpa Dolma Lama
In order to be able to further my studies I have to find a way to university by myself, a daunting task. I really want to study further and cannot even imagine not being able to go to university because I know what can happen to me if I don’t have a proper education. I will be working part time when I go to university, but I know that income won’t be sufficient without help. Whenever I don’t feel like studying I think about my sponsors, I think about those who helped me, whoever has put so much hope in me and cares about me very much. More importantly I think about my village where many children are not getting an education like I have. All of this encourages me to move forward in life during times of difficulty when I feel like giving up. Thank you for reading this essay, and please visit my website to learn more about my life and how you can contact me.

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