Tsomo is an 8 year old nomadic girl from the grasslands of Tibet. She lives in a small mud-house at 3600 meters altitude (11,800 feet) together with her brother Gengtar Jie (13 y.o.), her 88 year old grandmother and her mentally ill mother (42 y.o.).
Tsomo’s family owns two yaks, and their only cash income in 2009 was 800 RMB (120 USD) in government support. The absolute poverty line for this family would be 7200 RMB (1150 USD) per year. The headmaster of Tsomo's primary school told us about this poor family, and we set out to visit them in early February 2010.
What met us was not a pleasant sight. It was -22 degrees Celsius (-8 F) when we arrived and Tsomo, who had dropped out of school some months earlier, was skinny, weak and seriously sick. The family did not have any money and had almost no food; the whole situation was pretty grim.
We took immediate action: we brought food to the house and convinced Tsomo to come with us to Xining (the provincial capital) to see a doctor. Tsomo had never been in a car before, had never seen a two or three story building, never climbed stairs or used a door-knob or toilet before, and had never taken a bath before. She was a walking habitat of lice which she generously shared with all of us. Tsomo was ready to take the journey of her life!
To make a long story short; the family now gets enough food and the kids have warm clothes and the school supplies they need. Tsomo is still skinny, but is slowly gaining weight. She is back in school, which she loves, and Gentar Jie is working very hard to fulfill his part of our “deal": in August 2011 he will start on his last year of middle school, and one year later he might be accepted to high school. He is strongly motivated and has many talents, but without help high school could only ever be a dream for him.
Children of Shambala has so far spent around 5000 RMB on this family, which over 24 months is not really that much, but enough to get this family back on track, a track that eventually and hopefully will lead the whole family out of poverty. Gentar Jie and Tsomo can succeed if they are helped, motivated and given a fair chance.
Giving children an important opportunity like this is what COS’ main program is all about.