Kyila, founder of Kiki’s Kids, continues to work on providing an educational program for her children at the kindergarten now located in Lhasa. It’s freezing cold weather there right now, but goals remain true as they were from the start. Recently she received a new computer and Kyila wishes to thank the donor.
In this never-ending quest to keep abreast of what’s happening with the students at Kiki’s Kids through Kyila’s communication, the computer is a huge value and tool! Thanks!
If you do not know about Kiki’s Kids, then look through previous blog posts and discover what a huge amount of time and energy has gone into the creation and continued work of all involved with Kiki’s Kids. You can support the work also through Kiki’s Kids and Global Roots.
Kiki’s Kindergarten opened its doors on June 26, 2011 and welcomed 8 children. Gradually more children came from all over Tibet and now 21 children are here. Kiki has had more than 20 graduates in five years. Some graduates joined the Braille Without Borders preparatory school while others went back to their village and attended regular school there, or attended special schools. At Kiki’s Kindergarten the children learn basic Braille skills, Chinese, English and Tibetan, as well as daily living skills! But most importantly, independence and self-confidence!
Since I was 13 years old I wished to start a Kindergarten in Tibet. The idea was realized during the first dream-factory discussion we had at the Braille Without Borders preparatory school in Lhasa. My wish, my idea, and my reason for starting a Kindergarten in Tibet had a few very good points for being needed.
First, many blind children do not develop motor and social skills due to lack of proper care at an early age. Many parents in Tibet don’t know how to cope with their blind children. Parents just let the child sit in one place or tied them to a bed so the child could not move around and possibly become hurt. Of course, this stems from good parental intentions, but overprotection only hinders a child’s development. Children need physical exercise in order to stay healthy and develop fine motor skills. This is even more important for blind children since they very much depend on the use of their hands and fingers to see. After all, their hands and fingers are their eyes. Second, in Tibet people think blindness is punishment for something terrible the individual had done in their previous life. Society treats blind people as though they are stupid individuals unable to do anything. Some parents feel so ashamed of their child’s blindness they hide him or her away in an empty room and do not allow the child to go out. Many parents even think it is their duty to take care of the blind child as a punishment for them too. Here is an example: In 2014, the Kiki team found a family who had two sisters, born blind, in Kangma County. It was already too late for them to join Kiki’s kindergarten or blind schools because neither could work or move around. Their family was very poor. The parents told the Kiki team they had no idea how to take care of these two girls. As a result, they let the two girls sit in a corner all day long and their parents fed them. The younger sister was 8 years old; the older sister was 13 years old. It was too late for them to learn Braille and all the other skills. The girls depended completely on others to do everything for them. With the support of Kiki’s Kindergarten and a few volunteers, we took the girls to Lhasa for medical check-ups at a few different hospitals. We also sent them to Shanghai, but unfortunately it was too late. Fortunately, after some training and physical exercise with Kiki’s team, the older sister joined the special school in Shigatse. The condition of the other sister was much worse so she had to stay at home. This example simply reinforces the importance of early intervention for blind children to receive an education, physical training, and development of motor and social skills. With early intervention, an independent and self-confident individual will emerge!
As we all know, the people working with young children are special people and we need to recognize their efforts as Kyila does in her recent newsletter to me. Here in Kyila’s words are her notes about her staff:
We are so fortunate to have a wonderful team with very motivated people. The entire staff were sent to China to attend different trainings: Braille, Inclusive Education, and Kindergarten Teacher Trainings. Thanks to the Family Learning Centre in Beijing our teachers participated in different trainings and exchange experiences with their staff! We now have 7 staff, 5 teachers, and 3 house staff. Each person takes care of our students like their own children and are committed to Kiki’s Kindergarten goal: “All children have the right to feel safe, cared for and treated as individuals whether they are blind or sighted, rich or poor…”. Each of our staff are very special people. Please take a moment to realize…not everyone can do the work these dedicated people do with our lovely children each and every day…but this staff does! Many thanks to my team in making Kiki’s Kindergarten operational and a great success! With both sadness and happiness, I wish to let you know one of our first staff members with Kiki’s Kindergarten, Punchung, needs to leave. She was the first staff member at Kiki’s in 2011 and always a talented, kind-hearted woman. When we met in 2010, she was a shy girl only speaking Tibetan and able to read and write a small amount of Chinese. Since her start at Kiki’s she had been learning computer skills and English, and did plenty of management running projects with the other team members. She will be sorely missed. It is sad to say goodbye, but we hope she will return someday. For Punchung though, she is returning to her village to marry her dream man there and become a mother. I, and the entire Kiki team, wish to thank Punchung for everything she did for Kiki’s Kindergarten! I am happy to announce the return of one of our staff. In 2013 her sister needed a babysitter so our staff member had no choice but to go there. Our staff member has now returned and delightfully told us this is the happiest place for her to be!
Kyila included in her newsletter some information about the latest graduates. Here is that information for you too, in Kyila’s words:
Two boys from Yushu. Both of them are now attending a regular school, first and fourth grade, next to Kiki’s Kindergarten in Lhasa. We also had a few partially-sighted children. They now attend regular schools in their hometown. They were very happy to speak English and Chinese better than any other child at the school! Three of Kiki’s former students are now in sixth grade in a regular school! They had graduated from Kiki’s Kindergarten and the Braille Without Borders preparatory school. They are studying very hard and their teachers always tell the other students to admire the blind children! This is the success of both Kiki’s Kindergarten and the Braille Without Borders preparatory school allowing blind children to integrate in regular schools! Blind students attend primary schools, middle schools, secondary schools, and universities!
Last week I attended the 2016 AZ Chinese New Year Festival at U of A’s Centennial Hall. It was a beautifully choreographed program with dancers, singers in choirs and a few solos. The martial arts and sword-work were incorporated in some of the dances too. It was a nice experience to see the Tucson Girls Chorus, the Tucson Sino Choir and various Tucson Chinese Schools involved in the performances, along with individual performers from China. (Beyond the program, it was a reminder for me about the history of Chinese immigrants to our country in the late 1870’s.)
If you were unable to celebrate at last week’s festival, know the “Year of the Monkey” continues through to January 27, 2017! I never really understood the Chinese Zodiac signs, except to say my birthdate fell in the “Year of the Dragon” and not sure it is representative of me. Anyway, our tai chi instructor has been teaching us various animal moves and the monkey is the ninth animal in the cycle, so we will probably practice it many times!
Will you be looking for a time or reason to celebrate this year? Keep this one in your back pocket and when ready to celebrate, do so! You have plenty of time to enjoy the Chinese New Year!
Just when I was beginning to wonder what was happening a half world away from me with Kyila’s students/children at Kiki’s Kids, I received an email from her. Finally the new location of her program will move from Shigatse to Lhasa in this next year when students return to school after the holidays. Yeah!
How exciting that will be for everyone, especially since the big city will provide some benefits, such as: closer to medical care, access to farmers with greenhouses and thus fresher food, closer to the airport when needing to get special surgeries for eye care or whatever in Beijing or Shanghai, and more activities for the young people.
2016, looks to be with a bright start for Kiki’s Kids. When I know more, you’ll know more! Happy Holidays!