By: Nicole Shearer, Program Associate, TBF International
In September 2012, I traveled with my colleague Andrew Davis, the operations manager at The Bridge Fund, to Chendgu and Beijing, China to work with the TBF team.
TBF has an amazing regional team of 24 Tibetan and 3 Chinese professionals whom we work with and support from our Washington DC and Brussels offices. It was incredible to work with them directly on grants management, the master grant report, to learn and discuss more about the program work, and improve our coordination to be a more effective organization.
I collaborate with our regional team members on a number of projects. This year we completed a two-year special annual report, a climate change booklet and updated our master grant report, which lists every grant made by The Bridge Fund since 1996. During my visit we reviewed the work that needs to be done to further improve and promote our programs to help Tibetans.
I am really grateful to work with my TBF colleagues on such meaningful work to support Tibetan communities. Our team is so talented, committed, professional and capable. Although they face many challenges and obstacles to work with Tibetan communities they keep finding ways to make it happen and have a positive impact. The Bridge Fund’s activities are so critical at this time. They provide hope, support and positive impact on a daily basis to Tibetans who are in a time of great need.
In Chengdu we visited Are Restaurant for an excellent Tibetan dinner. The owner, a dynamic Tibetan entrepreneur has successfully utilized business training from TBF to grow and strengthen her business. It was incredible to meet her, and learn more about my colleagues and the amazing work The Bridge Fund carries out in all Tibetan regions.
In Beijing, Andrew and I had a very productive time working with our team on reviewing grants, financials and discussing systems and procedures. I updated our master grant report, which documents all of the projects we have supported since 1996. It is a very powerful tool that demonstrates the positive impact of TBF activities and their lasting sustainable impact. It is a really important tool for evaluating our work and sharing information about projects that have gone to scale and been replicated. We look forward to sharing this document with our friends, supporters and donors soon.
In 2012 TBF published a booklet entitled Climate Change Impacts on the Tibetan Plateau. I worked on this project for over a year with the TBF team and a number of scientists, educators and leaders who share TBF’s concerns about climate change and the impacts on the Tibetan plateau. I represented The Bridge Fund at a climate change conference and launched The Bridge Fund’s new booklet.
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) invited The Bridge Fund to attend the Inter-Religious Dialogue on Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation conference in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It was hosted by Sewelanka Foundation at the Islander Center. Representatives attended from Europe, Asia, the United States and Africa. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim and a multitude of ethnic groups and nationalities came together to learn more about and discuss cooperation on climate change, a global threat.
The main objective of this conference was to emphasize the importance of creating a spiritual space for all faiths and traditions to promote the importance of creating a sustainable environmental future for our planet and addressing climate change.
The conference began with a two-day study visit, where participants traveled to locations throughout Sri Lanka to witness the impacts of climate change on local communities and development. I saw the devastating effects of 25 years of war (1983-2009) that contributed to a high degree of poverty and a severely degraded environment, particularly for forests. The poor, vulnerable populations in Sri Lanka are less prepared to address and adapt to climate change, which is impacting their lives and future.
Following the study visit all the participants gathered at the Islander Center for three days to share our experiences, understanding and propose solutions. The conference was overwhelming in terms of the power of compassionate, healing and hopeful energy. The Sangha (religious leaders), speakers and the participation of the attendees, all of whom have donated their life to environmental work, sparked this passion. There were four breakout sessions throughout the conference where all participants gathered in small groups to discuss and capture the common themes and issues in order to develop strategic opportunities for creating change. Networks were built between international organizations, grassroots organizations, indigenous/local communities, and scientists, so that we can work together to protect each other and the planet.
The attendees agreed that we would all do our best to integrate what we learned from the conference into our own work, and eventually use the partnerships we built to create large-scale changes. I will be working with other participants to create an online network to nurture our intent, develop a platform to take action for the benefit of all beings, and ensure that the participants of this conference stay in touch and aware of how significant the Tibetan plateau is in how our climate is changing on earth. The Bridge Fund is planning to bring our Tibetan colleagues to the next conference. This year travel has not been easy for them.
The Bridge Fund’s climate change booklet is available online here. If you would like a copy please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The booklet will be published in Tibetan and Chinese in 2013. We also welcome cooperation on translation into other languages.
Nicole Shearer has been with The Bridge Fund since 2011. She is a program associate at The Bridge Fund International office located in Washington, DC.