The Power of Life Changing Stories
Some people have experiences so inspiring that in telling them, they become life changing stories. Our Global Roots local partner and humanitarian hero, Kyila, is one such woman.
Recently I traveled to Shanghai where I met my friend Kyila, a blind Tibetan woman who created the first kindergarten for sightless Tibetan children with Global Roots funding in 2012. In Tibet, many people belief that blindness is demonic or a punishment for misdeeds in a past life. Despite this, Kyila has overcome an extraordinary number of obstacles to accomplish amazing things, both personally and as a humanitarian.
Kyila asked me to help her write an outline for the memoir that she hopes to write. I immediately felt excited about the project. I knew that any well written account of Kyila’s life would immediately become a best selling book. With this tool, she might finally have the funds needed to provide homes and education to more students, thereby rescuing them from a lifetime of home seclusion.
But I also felt worried. Who would manage her kindergarten and it’s neverending needs if Kyila were to take time off to write a book? This is the great challenge with the local humanitarians who receive Global Roots support. We fund them because they are really doing what they say they are doing. But this means they often receive less funding because they never have time to look up from their worthy causes.
Kyila, her brother and myself!
Brainstorming and Language Barriers
I knew that it would be difficult for me to visit Tibet. So I invited Kyila and her brother to join me in Shanghai. We then spent 16 hours over two days hammering out a 76-page outline of her life’s work.
I could have accomlished the assignment much more easily if had Kyila’s brother spoken English. Kyila speaks beautiful English, in addition to her native Tibetan and the widely spoken Mandarin Chinese. Having studied Mandarin during my university years and later at a language institute in Beijing, I speak that language at a functional, conversational level…when it isn’t rusty! However, I don’t speak Tibetan and so Mandarin was the only language Kyila’s brother and I shared. Kyila simultaneously translated from English to Tibetan so that her brother could understand and then he would ask me questions in Mandarin Chinese. At the beginning my brain told me to use “other language” so I replied to him in Italian not knowing that I wasn’t speaking Mandarin. It made for a comical couple of early hours! Finally, after my first six hours of two way translation, my brain finally started to adjust and my Mandarin came back to me.
Kyila’s students…our most important work!
The Pivotal Moment
For Kyila and I, our main goal was to find the right moment in her life to build her story around. Should it be the moment she snuck out of her house as a child to play with sighted children? Or perhaps it should be the day her sighted brother introduced her to Braille Without Borders. What about when she first had the opportunity to study abroad, something practically unheard of as a blind Tibetan woman? Or how she began this experience being picked up at Heathrow by a Rolls? Then, of course, there was her climbing summit attempt on Lhakpa Ri, a sister mountain of Everest. That particular adventure resulted in a documentary called “Blind Sight” and her visit to the Toronto Film Festival. Kyila has so many “firsts” as a sightless Tibetan woman that I couldn’t list them all here…they need a book!
Any caregiver, however, has a moment where something goes wrong and we consider chucking it all in and just fending for ourselves.
That moment for Kyila came on a harsh winter night in Tibet when Kyila had to transport 8 deathly ill children from Shigatsu to Lhasa. The events of that night changed all of our lives and it’s what Kyila will build her book around.
Please consider donating $50 or more to her cause! Donors will receive a signed copy of her book when it is published next year. You can donate to Kyila and her work here.
It was my personal goal going into the project to help Kyila search for this pivotal moment in her life so that she could continue to strengthen the lives of blind Tibetan children with her life changing stories.