Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ana by Karma - A Mother's Hope

Cute little Tenzin is the 5 year old son of Yeshi, a weaver lady from a small Bhutanese hamlet in the south, Umling. 10 hours by bus from the capital, Thimphu followed by a trudging 3 hour walk, Umling is the worse place to be in for a mother with a sick child. Afflicted from birth, Tenzin’s legs are very weak, he cannot walk for more than a few minutes without falling over. Desperate to seek better medical help, Yeshi uprooted herself and her son to Thimphu, her only hope to see little Tenzin run and skip like a normal kid.

To survive in the capital, the illiterate Yeshi works on any odd job she is fortunate to land, currently as a labourer in an apple orchard. Day time she works long hours in the scorching heat to pluck apples, sort them and pack the fruit for sale. Yet Yeshi is grateful to have a paying job, doesn’t matter if it is back breaking for so little amount of pay. Yeshi said softly to us, “This job provides food and shelter for my (ailing) husband and (crippled) young son.” Any spare time she has, she would do what she loves best – weaving. An art that is passed down from mother to daughter for more generations than Yeshi can remember.

On 17 September 2014, she received 10 scarf orders from “Ana by Karma”. She felt like the compassionate Lord Buddha answered her silent prayer. With the apple season ending, so is her work at the orchard and that could mean returning to the village with no medical facilities for Tenzin. “Just when I am seeing black future, this gives me light again, thank you so much, ” Yeshi covered her face and wept. “My Tenzin now has hope, Ana, he is sure to walk again.”

Footnote: Yeshi will start making the scarfs from 23 September 2014, after her last working day in the orchard. We will post picture of her work when it is received and updates. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A(nother) story of Hope

Bhutan is a lost kingdom, nestled between Tibet and India. The gentle Bhutanese are ruled by a young king and his beautiful queen (pictured above). In this sacred land, a story of hope started in June 2014. An uneducated lady called Karma from a small eastern village in Bhutan was worried about her future, her family s future. Thankfully, she met a big sister from a foreign land who recognised her talent in producing beautiful hand made things. The sister, whom Karma calls Ana (means sister) called upon other sisters and together, all these sisters from international places reached out to Karma and gave her hope.

Today, less than two months since Ana helped Karma, its Karma's turn to give hope to her own sisters in Bhutan. This is the other story of hope. Please read on......

Nim Dema is one of the dozen home based weavers who are working on the Ana by Karma project. She has weaved 10 scarfs for Ana by Karma, under the guidance and support of Karma.

This is Nim’s story, faithfully translated by Bhutan volunteers and (lightly) edited by Ana in HK to help non Bhutanese follow the story.

“My husband and I are illiterate. We do not have any future. My husband sometimes does carpenter work. We have three boys.

After class 10 (last free year of education), my eldest son could not continue his studies so he joined in Vocational Training Institute in mechanic fields for two years. We pray he will be employed in the private automobile workshop. My second son is studying in class 7 Arts. My youngest son is in government school in class 1.

Karma warps* the scarf in special and nice colour combination, and teaches me how to weave them following her pattern. So far I have weaved 10 scarves for Ana by Karma. Yes, I would like to weave more. I am happy because made income and support my family in a small way. I hope to make more scarfs. We want to thank our scarf buyers and Karma for giving me this chance.

‘* warping a scarf – wrapping rows of thread onto the loom before the weaving process (Ana in HK tries her best to explain but not good enough because she herself never did any warping!)

Monday, 11 August 2014

How to be rich

It was a bustling open market, many housewives jostling each other in the tight narrow spaces as they carry plastic loads of vegetables, fruits and meat, sellers shouting at the top of their voices whilst waving their wares and produce. Yet she caught my eye and my attention immediately. It was not just her smile and the clear bright eyes, but that she was sliding across the hard dirty tarmac road, sitting on a worn-out cardboard and using her hands as the propelling force. Her legs folded limply under her tiny body, obviously useless.

I walked up to her, knelt down to look into her sparkling dark eyes, not knowing what to say. And even if I did know what to say, I won't be able to speak Vietnamese anyway. So, I justlooked at her, dumbly.

Richest woman on earth.....

She smiled and pulled out from her little bag, a stack of tickets - ahhh, she sells lottery tickets. I admire her even more now, my eyes now brimming with tears. She is a "business woman" inspite of her dire circumstances, her disability and lack of a proper wheelchair to give her mobility. Yet she is determined and strong, and from her beautiful eyes that spark with life and a smile that comes from deep within, I know she doesn't want nor need my pity nor my charity. And I know I am the one who learnt a lesson in life that day, from one of the richest woman in the world - To appreciate life, to take life and make the best use of it and to do what you can do.

In gratitude, I held her hands, which are rough like sand paper and gnarled like old roots of an ancient tree, her hands scarred from the years of use as a propeller. It was me who thanked her from my heart for teaching me life's lessons.


In contrast, I have met beggars who look able and fit, full bodied and young enough to work. Yet they sit there with either a written cardboard detailing their woes in life and a little mug to collect our coins of pity. They ask for our charitable hearts to take pity on them. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't.

Whilst we may not be that crippled Vietnamese lady nor a beggar with a cup, I am sure we all met many "beggars" in our lives. For example, a client who wants you to do something for free, not once but many times. Or you have a special skill, and many people expect you to teach them for nothing. Or people who come and ask you for ideas,using up your time that you could otherwise spend with your loved ones, but these people do not appreciate the time and brainpower you invest in them.

And then ask ourselves, have we too been beggars to our friends, our colleagues, our suppliers? Have we been taking without giving? Have we been recipient of good things but did not appreciate?

My lessons learnt are:

  1. Ask not for pity, but for admiration for what we can do to make life fulfilling and meaningful.

  2. Expect not charity or free things, but salary or payment for honest good work

  3. "Beggars" who get things free from us do not appreciate our efforts and contribution because they get it for free from other people too. What so special about you giving them free? Beggars probably lack appreciation. If they did, they won't be beggars for long.

  4. And if we are the one who wants free or cheap things, it means we have a beggar's mentality. Do not expect to become rich with this beggar's mentality.

To be rich, adopt a richman's mentality. Do away with wanting things for free. Start appreciating. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bhutan Beckons

There is something about Bhutan. If she is a woman, she would be shy yet wild, beautiful yet solemn, quiet yet colourful. She would be contrasting herself. She would be so unique. And that's why she takes many strangers' heart and keeps it.

11 years later, I went back to collect my heart that is left there and instead she now has taken my soul too. Oh. Bhutan indeed beckons

First reason why Bhutan beckons. The smiles. The miles of smiles. It captivates. 

I even got to dress up in a Gho. Looking as handsome as a young prince. But the menfolk shook their heads and refused to take me out if I dorn the Gho. I suspect because I will get more attention from the ladies than they can. They don't want competition. 

But I suppose I fare ok in the kira too. Specially chosen by Karma for me. They say I can pass off as a Bhutanese lady if I keep my mouth shut after saying Kuzuzangpo. 

And how I love the children. They are so bright. So cute. And my, speak such beautiful English too

And the beautiful sights

And most of all, my sweet brother dupchu. Who took time off to take care of me. He is my chauffeur, camera man, translator, bag carrier, protector, guide. And he does it with such graciousness. And each night as he drops me off at the hotel, he would say. I am so happy today. What beautiful words

Sunday, 15 June 2014

My wonderful brother - Dupchu

Dupchu and I met back in 2003. He was a young and shy person back then, so much so my husband was laughing, saying that all my male friends blush when they meet with me in person. 

Fast forward 11 years, Dupchu now invited us back to his country as his guests. Yes he is still so,what shy. Somewhat quiet. But his heart is generous and overflows with warmth and care. His first words are You re my family. I am happy to take care of you in Bhutan. 

When we are at the riverside today I mentioned that I love collecting smooth rocks. He immediately swirled into action and swoop up many rocks for me to choose as souvenir. 

What a wonderful brother he is