Five reasons to support Tibetan dinner at the Armoury in Lindsay

By Jamie Morris

All is set for Lindsay’s 15th annual Machik Dinner, an event that has introduced many to Tibetan food and culture and over the years raised $300,000 to support the educational work of an organization founded and led by a remarkable local family, the Rabgeys.

The dinner will be held at the Victoria Park Armoury on Saturday, October 13, with a bazaar and silent auction starting at 5 pm and the dinner itself at 6 pm.

In recent years roughly 200 have purchased the tickets. If you haven’t been among them, here are five reasons you might want to join in this year:

For the Food

This is a dinner, after all. Chef Karma Phuntshok from Peterborough will be overseeing the efforts of a dedicated crew of Tibetan-Canadian volunteers. Expect a range of dishes, all but one vegetarian. Nothing overpoweringly spicy (though hot sauce will be there for the adventurous) but interesting flavourings — garlic, ginger, basil, one dish with cilantro.

If you’ve never tried tree ears or glass noodles, this is your opportunity.

For the Bazaar and Silent Auction

At the bazaar you will find earrings, necklaces and bracelets, among other items. Pencho Rabgey, the patriarch of the Rabgey family, sources the ceramic beads, pearls, turquoise, coral and conch, and he and Tsering (the matriarch) employ traditional Himalayan designs. Tsering will also have hand-dyed silk scarves.

The silent auction will include both goods and services, all donated (and testament to the high level of community support). Items will include a queen-sized quilt in spring colours valued at over $1,000, a fibre art wall hanging, a hand-turned wooden platter and gift certificates.

Architect Ron Awde (a long-time, staunch supporter) is offering 40 hours of architectural services for a renovation project (including assistance obtaining permits).

You can also bid to have Pencho and Tsering cater a private dinner for up to eight, learn to make Montreal-style sourdough bagels or Guinness bread, or to have lessons in acrylic pour painting.

To Provide Educational Opportunities for young Tibetans

Machik, whose work the dinner supports, has a mission “to develop new opportunities for education, capacity building and innovation in Tibet.”

Machik’s work began with the construction of a very special primary school in the village of Chungba. The students came from poor families — illiterate subsistence farmers and nomads. From the outset, the decisions were made that there would be equal opportunities for girls as well as boys to attend, that instruction would be in both Tibetan and Chinese, and that the school would find the best teachers available. Students boarded at the school so they could focus on their studies and be cared for.

The first fundraising dinners supported the primary school, which became a model for rural Tibetan education, consistently placing first in Chinese-set province-wide exams.

As those first students have progressed, Machik’s work has steadily expanded. Lindsay dinners supported the addition of a middle school, then opportunities to attend high school (there are only five in the Tibetan regions), and most recently Taja House, a community centre for social entrepreneurship and adult learning in the heart of Chungba.

The community and its school are now well-provided for (Pencho notes with satisfaction that no fewer than 12 of the Chungba teachers are graduates of the school), so  this year’s dinner will financially support specialized training and global experience for emerging cultural and community leaders who have completed high school or college in Tibet. (The program is called “Global Leap.”)

In Recognition of a Remarkable Lindsay Family

Just a few weeks ago news came that Pencho and Tsering Rabgey and their two daughters, Losang and Tashi are all being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Queen through her representative, the Governor General. The prestigious award was established “to recognize great Canadians for exceptional deeds . . . that bring honour to our country.”

Even a brief recount of their story shows the honour is richly deserved.

Pencho was born in Chungba. From the age of seven, he trained to become a Buddhist monk, leaving at 19 to join the Sera monastery in Lhasa. Four years later, he left Tibet as part of the Dalai Lama’s retinue, protecting the Dalai Lama on the flight through sandstorms and blizzards to India and safety. A year later Tsering, too, left Tibet, under equally perilous conditions (short-sighted, she was linked to her father with a rope and fled to Bhutan at night, fording icy streams).

The pair met and married in India and in 1971 came to Canada with their three children. Pencho did some research, decided that Lindsay offered good schools, and moved here. He liked woodworking, so the ex-monk found employment at Northern Casket.

It wasn’t until 1985 that Pencho returned to visit Chungba. By this time the Rabgeys had three children, who were just starting out in the Canadian school system, and would all go to LCVI and then on to high academic honours, including Rhodes and Commonwealth scholarships, doctorates and stays at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.

In Chungba in 1985, though, what he found was a single-room schoolhouse with four students and no real teacher — only a Chinese official who was around only intermittently.

To make the dream of a proper school a reality, Pencho and Tsering made sacrifices. “Anything we have, we use,” says Pencho, so they began with their own money, selling possessions and cashing in retirement funds.

In 1998, their daughters founded Machik  as a Washington-based non-profit. Losang became executive director and Tashi its strategic director. The rest is history.

To Strengthen even further our Links to Tibet

On a wall of the library of the primary school in Chungba, 10,000 km from our community, is a photograph taken 20 years ago  of Pencho and Tsering Rabgey alongside some of the original Lindsay supporters. Since that time no fewer than seven Lindsayites have travelled to the Tibetan village, including Carol Romeril, who will be emcee for this year’s dinner.

Traffic has gone both ways:  Jamyang Tenzin, born in the Chungba Valley and part of the first class when the primary school opened, came here to Lindsay to attend high school before going on to University of Toronto. Both he and his Chungba classmate, Losang Nyima (now studying at  Conestoga College)  will be among those at this year’s dinner.

Everyone who attends the dinner adds one more strand to the connections being forged.

For tickets or additional information contact Kathy Anderson at 705-324-2037. Tickets are $40 ($20 for students). 

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