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Annual Report 2009

We need your help. Please send a donation now! Thank you. 29th year / October 2009

Postkonto 80-19029-5

Content TIBET Severely Handicapped from Birth


NEPAL Games Workshop in Kathmandu


SWITZERLAND 2009 Gala Event


© Regula Knellessen

Dear Friends of Rokpa Imagine this: you find yourself on a multi-day hike in a beautifully scenic, remote mountain region. The next village is at least 30 kilometers away – finally, peace from hectic civilization! Majestic mountain peaks and gurgling, crystal-clear rivers all around and the steel-blue sky stretching overhead. The sun gently caressing your face. Pure nature! As a city resident you’re enjoying this adventure to the fullest. But then you take a wrong step, twist your ankle and are unable to go any further because of the pain. In the blink of an eye you feel lost in the middle of nowhere. No mobile phone reception, no car, no emergency supplies and no pain killers. You can’t call an ambulance to come and rescue you from this terrible situation – what can you do? What sounds like a nightmare to us is daily life for the Tibetans who live in the most remote, rural mountain valleys – far, far away from medical help, electricity or grocery stores. It doesn’t matter in how much pain or how hungry they are – they must make do with what they have. In the bitterly cold winter months they eat what can be eaten, even when that means their “food” is moldy. And if there isn’t enough money for a doctor, all they can do is pray for healing. Those who really do live “in the middle of nowhere” have no other choice. In recent years, more and more relief organizations have been moving out of the Tibet region and back into China. ROKPA INTERNATIONAL is one of the few aid organizations that is still committed to caring for the needs of the Tibetan people today, right where they live. Now more than ever the most destitute Tibetans living in Chinese territory rely on our charity and active support! ROKPA is now the only hope for innumerable, desperately ill Tibetans. Without our help and support they have no chance of pain relief or of being able to find a way out of their difficult situations. ROKPA is doing everything it can to actively support these people “in the middle of nowhere,” while helping maintain their culture and lifestyle. In order to do that, though, we need all the help we can get! Every Euro counts when it comes to trying to sustain one of the most neglected peoples in the world, right there where they live. Sincerely yours, Lea Wyler

WHY ROKPA? Here’s how you can help! Barbara Pfeiffer’s Testimonial

Imprint Editorial Board: Marie-Luce Le Febve de Vivy, Layout: Caroline Hösli Laportosa Photos: © ROKPA INTERNATIONAL Run: 8000 copies Published 4 times annually


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In Cha-Be Tibetans who suffer from Kashin-Beck disease can grow old with dignity despite their pain.

Severely Handicapped from Birth They are small, underdeveloped and deformed. Having Kashin-Beck disease or scoliosis has had a massive effect on the physical development of thousands of people living in Tibet. Those who are affected often have to endure a lifetime of pain, because they cannot afford the necessary medicine or operations.

By Marie-Luce Le Febve de Vivy

Numerous people are born in Tibet with a puzzling affliction that drastically alters their quality of life. The condition is known as KashinBeck disease or “Big Bone Disease.” Experts suspect that around 2 to 3 million people in Eastern Siberia, North Korea and especially the Tibetan regions of China are afflicted with this endemic illness. The deformation process begins when they are small children, as the joints in the hands, elbows, knees and ankles become stiff. Later the bones begin to deform. Children stop growing, reaching a height of one meter at best. Their bodies become so crippled that they can only get around with the help of a walking stick. “Rustic Chemone,” as it is called by the Tibetans, is most often found among poor people who live in remote areas. The real cause of this painful disease still hasn’t been properly researched but the main

contributing factor appears to be malnutrition, as these, regions lack selenium and iodine. Another possible cause is mold, which flourishes when farmers harvest barley – the main ingredient for the Tibetan national dish, “Tsampa” – and store it while it’s still damp. “Cha Be”: Living Life Small One thing is certain: Kashin-Beck disease cannot be healed. The best the afflicted can hope for is some pain relief, yet most of them have no access to pain medication. The reason for this is that they cannot afford a doctor’s visit and they are unable to travel the countless kilometers to the nearest medical station. With the help of the Irish government, ROKPA has built the Cha Be clinic in Cha-Ya Tunde village to try and tackle this problem, offering in-patient treatment for 20as well as a day clinic. Almost everyone living in this region has contracted

“Big Bone Disease.” A doctor visits the patients regularly ROKPA has additionally made sure that all furnishings – such as beds and tables – have been made with the patients’ size in mind. Everything is made a bit smaller. This kind of environment helps the patients feel more dignified. In addition to the medical treatment, ROKPA places a lot of value on nutrition: fruits and vegetables are grown in the clinic garden in order to fight malnutrition, which is rampant throughout Tibet. Scoliosis Affects Organs Tibetan children who have contracted scoliosis are also tormented by their fate and the terrible pain that goes along with the condition. The causes of this spinebuckling ailment are also unknown. Unlike the incurable Kashin-Beck disease, however, scoliosis patients are able to escape the inferno of suffering. If the deformation is caught in its earliest stages, as happens with us in the western world, it can sometimes be treated with simple physiotherapy. In Tibet, however, children with advanced cases can suffocate, when the contorted vertebrae press on vital organs. 3

ROKPA in Tibet Their hopes were soon dashed when they found out that only a very expensive operation could save their daughter's life. Thanks to ROKPA's help, Dorje was saved. Her spine was straightened in several complicated operations.

ROKPA President Dr Akong Rinpoche Visits Cha-Be.

Urgently advised to have a life-saving operation: Tsering Jurme (13, left) and Mo Jee (18, right).

One of these children was the Tibetan girl Dorje Dolma (see "Lea's children write" on the right). When her parents realised how bad things were for their daughter, they left for Kathmandu to get medical help.

Operation only possible in China Now two other Tibetan children are hoping for a life-saving operation: 13year-old Tsering Jurme from Zatu and 18-year-old Mo Jee from Nangchen. Like Dorje, they both suffer from advanced scoliosis and urgently need one or more difficult operations in order to survive. On the basis of the X-ray images which Lea Wyler brought from Tibet, Prof. Dieter Grob (of the Schulthess Clinic in Zurich) would have been prepared to treat the children free of charge (thank you!). Unfortunately it is very difficult to obtain an exit visa from Tibet and an entrance visa for Switzerland. ROKPA is now in contact with Prof. Yong Hai of Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing. He has said he is prepared to operate on the two young patients. Extensive preliminary examinations are first necessary in order to carry out the complicated interventions on the spine successfully. To this end, the kids must go with a parent to Beijing – a long and difficult journey. The hospital stay will cost approximately CHF 20,000 for each child. High travel and accommodation costs will be incurred too. These children will not be able to survive without ROKPA's help.

Save Mo and Tsering's lives To finance Mo and Tsering's life-saving operations as well as the high additional expenses, ROKPA urgently needs CHF 40,000. We ask our donors to listen to their hearts and help these two children as well as other seriously ill people. Donations – ref.: Emergency aid Tibet No. 7740 – gratefully received to: • Account: ROKPA, No. 0065-0455090-11-1, at Clariden Leu AG, Bahnhofstr. 32, 8022 Zurich • Post office account: ROKPA 80-19029-5


Lea's children write

I was born in a small village in Dolpo, the eldest of eleven children. Five of my brothers and sisters died when they were very small owing to malnutrition. We lived off what we could grow and produce from 4500 metres. There were no shops or hospitals. If we were ill we had to rely on prayers and herbal medicine. In 1995 my family walked with me for a month from our village to Kathmandu, because I was suffering from severe scoliosis. I could hardly breathe any more and was in constant pain. My parents realised that I needed help as soon as possible, because I wouldn't survive in the village. The first two months in the city were awful. My parents tried everything to find treatment for my back but the doctors said an operation would be very expensive and only doctors in the West could operate on me. My parents finally decided to go back to the village, but I didn't want to die young! I thought about leaving my family... When I saw Mummy Lea in the soup kitchen, I went straight up to her and tugged at her sleeve to get her attention. Life changed from that moment on! Mummy Lea found an American sponsor family and a year later I had four big operations. The doctors said, if I hadn't come to America I would have died within a year. Dorje Dolma recently completed a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She has financed her family in Dolpo with her painting since the age of fifteen.

ROKPA in Nepal Promoting women To the ROKPA donors who wish to donate to the Nepal women's workshop.

"ROKPA Kids" at the Theatre Festival in Poland The week-long theatre festival "Brave Festival Against Cultural Exile" (, the proceeds of which go to ROKPA, has taken place in Wroclaw every July since 2005. It is organised by the prizewinning director Grzegorz Bral, who is one of the heads of ROKPA in Poland. This year, six children from the children's home in Kathmandu also took part: together with a break

dance group from Uganda and Polish girls from the poorest families (picture), they staged a production which got standing ovations from the public! The "ROKPA Kids" then travelled to Switzerland, where they recorded a song with star harpist Andreas Vollenweider to celebrate ROKPA's 30 year anniversary next year. But we won't give any more away just yet...

We have good news to report – the women's workshop has recently become self-sufficient! Thanks to your donations the women were able to build up a successful business. They now produce and sell enough goods to cover their own expenses. We would therefore like to ask you, dear donors, to give the donations you planned to give to the women's workshop to another project, such as the women's fund to support women in need. Then we can support more disadvantaged women on their way to independence.

Donations – ref.: Women's Fund No. 8300 – gratefully received to: • Account: ROKPA, No. 00650455090-11-1, at Clariden Leu AG, Bahnhofstr. 32, 8022 Zurich • Post office account: ROKPA 8019029-5

Play workshop in Kathmandu Regula Knellessen Gisler closed her children's psychotherapy practice in Switzerland for two months to provide a play workshop in the children's home. During play, important cognitive functions are trained and selfregulating forces of the psyche are activated. Playing makes you happy! Neurological researchers confirm it: happiness and suffering leave traces in the brain. The ability to feel suffering or happiness can be trained: those who are always concerned with their suffering continue to suffer. Those who are happy strengthen the ability to feel joy. Before setting off I had a lot of questions: "Are games really necessary? Don't the children have everything that they can have in one of the poorest countries in the world: a roof over their heads, food, schooling and a Mom Lea who campaigns for them? What if the, children don't want to play or paint?"

They wanted to! With curiosity and enthusiasm right up until the last day! I was amazed: although all the children had painful experiences in their past, I met children capable of forming relationships, living happily together, who support each other in friendship, resolve conflicts themselves or accept elders as peacemakers. Unforgettable was for instance the ability to learn of young Pemba, who knew the colours correctly after two days of Cat and Mouse. Or the tragic 4- year-old Rajan, who stubbornly

practised holding the play fishing rod until he eventually managed to catch a fish. His eyes lit up – his first smile since losing his mother. The workshop focussed on games. But the children could tell that I was observing each one of them in the background, appreciating and respecting them all. The fact that a lot of growth took place during this time is demonstrated by Sujan's drawings. He will continue to lead the games until I come back with new ideas.

Sujan's drawings from the first and last workshop weeks.


ROKPA Switzerland

ROKPA-Charity-Gala: Book your tickets now! © La Famiglia Dmitri

Following the huge success of last year’s gala, it’s time to celebrate in style once again on 26 November Thursday, 2009. You are all invited by ROKPA founder Lea Wyler to attend the pre-Christmas Benefit Gala. We look forward to seeing you at the friendliest charity event of the year!

One of the highlights of the evening will be a performance by La Famigli Dimitri, whose recent Broadway show was a huge success.

With the winter cold upon us, why not come and enjoy a heartwarming evening as part of the entire ROKPA family? Indeed, this year’s Charity Gala aims above all to promote that family feeling. We are delighted to welcome La Famiglia Dimitri (Father Dimitri, David, Masha, Nina and Kai Leclerc). After their enormous success on Broadway in New York, they have put together a special programme for us bursting with top quality poetic humour, acrobatics and music. The evening will be hosted as ever with great charm and affection by Sandra Studer. Lea Wyler will be there to

Important notice This notice concerns those of our supporters who have previously made donations for specific ROKPA projects. Over the last 29 years, we have been able to launch and run a large number of projects with your help. Having achieved their aims, some of these projects have now been closed. However, thanks to your generosity, this has meant that the project accounts in question still contain unallocated funds. We would like to use these funds for other active projects of a similar nature that are currently in urgent need of support. Of course, we would not do so without asking you first. We hope that you will agree to our transferring these remaining funds as required. Should you prefer us not to do so, please contact the ROKPA head office in Zürich by 3 October 2009 (044 262 68 88 or If we do not hear from you by this date, we will assume that you give your approval (tacit consent). 6

report back on ROKPA’s latest projects. Supported by cellist Daniel Pezzotti, Andreas Vollenweider will add musical depth to the subject accompanied by pictures from the world of ROKPA. Cyril Koller will be on hand, too, to help make dreams come true – dreams that you simply can’t buy anywhere – with ROKPA’s famous auction. All proceeds from the evening will go to ROKPA projects that enable orphans in Tibet to receive an education.

About the ROKPA Gala Thursday, 26 November 2009,18.30 at the Lake Side restaurant in Zürich. Price per person: CHF 350 (inc. aperitif, excellent meal and exclusive entertainment programme). All those involved will be providing their services free of charge. Tickets available now from: ROKPA Switzerland, Böcklinstrasse 27, 8032 Zürich, Tel. 044 262 68 88. e-mail:

ROKPA in brief

• New patrons: ROKPA has attracted a number of prominent new patrons. We would like to welcome Christine Egerszegi, Josef Estermann, Prof. Dr. Felix Gutzwiller, Peter Hasler, Cyrill Koller, Prof. Dr. Remo Largo, Emil & Niccel Steinberger and Franz Steinegger • Come and see us at the market! Our ROKPA stand will be selling jewellery, cushions, bags, mobiles and lots more from the women’s workshop in Nepal. See you there! Date 3.10.09 28.10.09 6.11.09 7.11.09 18.11.09 4.12.09 5.12.09 6.12.09 5.12.09 11.12.09

Place Autumn market Uetikon am See Autumn market Stein am Rhein Bazaar Dübendorf Bazaar Dübendorf Autumn market Hochdorf Advent market Löhningen Advent market Löhningen Advent market Löhningen Chlausmarkt Bassersdorf Advent market Eglisau

Time 10-17.00 9-18.30 14-21.00 10-16.00 9-18.00 15-21.00 13-21.00 13-18.00 10-18.00 17-22.00


How you can help!

Barbara Pfeiffer

Make a donation for people in need

Orphans, the homeless, the sick, the elderly: ROKPA’s only source of funds for over 150 projects in Tibet, Nepal, Zimbabwe and South Africa is donations. YOUR donation will help severely disadvantaged people to escape desperate need – now! Whether you make a one-off donation, choose to support one of our projects over the long term or include ROKPA in your will , we are grateful for EVERY donation.

Make a company donation

As a businessman/woman or maybe company director, why not take a lead? You could, for example, choose to redirect the money you normally spend on your Christmas or anniversary gifts to your customers and use it instead to support people in need by means of a regular company donation. We are confident such a generous action would delight your colleagues and your customers.

Trees instead of bouquets

Cut flowers will eventually fade, but for CHF 50 you could plant ten saplings in Tibet to protect the population against the impact of years of deforestation. The recipient will receive a beautiful gift certificate from ROKPA.

Donations instead of grave decorations

Losing and burying a loved one is a very painful experience. Why not ask those who attend the funeral to show their respects in a lasting way by donating to a ROKPA aid project? Legacies to ROKPA will bring you happiness here and now and help needy children tomorrow.

Spread the word about ROKPA

© Marius Hamann

Whether you are at work, out in the street, chatting with neighbours or at school, you can interest others in ROKPA’s charitable work. Just give us a call if you would like us to send information materials and payment forms for your friends and acquaintances: Tel. 044 26 26 888.

“I’m involved in ROKPA because . . .” Well, there are lots of reasons. I’ve known Lea Wyler for 30 years and saw how committed she was right from the start. I’ve been impressed by the courage she has shown asking all sorts of people for money and hoped that no one would ask me to emulate her. And yet her devotion inspired me, and I decided I wanted to support her. I have been in charge of ROKPA operations in Germany since 1988. I’m astonished how much we have already achieved, despite the fact that almost everyone is a volunteer. I support our projects because they work on so many different levels. When a Tibetan child is given an education, that child learns Tibetan, so we help to preserve the language. Also, because it has an education, it can later support its family. Every year we meet more and more young people in Tibet who are proud to say “I was a ROKPA child.” it’s a sign that our work is bearing fruit with the help of your donations, and of my small contribution to making the world a better place. Barbara Pfeiffer manages ROKPA Germany and acts as Communications Coordinator for all ROKPA’s branch offices.

Winter time in Kathmandu: These street boys are delighted with their warm new pullovers knitted by a ROKPA supporter.


Sarita used to live on the street. Her parents wanted to get rid of her. They filled the three- year old with strong alcohol to stop her crying from hunger. She now lives in the ROKPA children’s home.

We need your help! Bank details: Clariden Leu AG ● Bahnhofstrasse 32 ● Postfach ● 8022 Zurich Account: ROKPA, No. 0065-0455090-11-1 or Postal Account: ROKPA 80-19029-5 ROKPA Switzerland ● Böcklinstrasse 27 ● 8032 Zurich Telephone 044 262 68 88 ● Fax 044 262 68 89 E-mail: ●

ROKPA Times October 2009  
ROKPA Times October 2009  

ROKPA Times October 2009