Lhasa’s only US sister city - Boulder
In September 2002, Bill Warnock led an exchange with Lhasa Science and Technology Commission on solar electricity installations for humanitarian uses in Drongkar Village, Damshung County in Tibet. They delivered photovoltaic equipment and lighting to a medical clinic, four primary schools, four community activity centers, a monastery, and 13 homes.
Dr. Bill Warnock made his 15th visit to Lhasa in September 2011. He and his companion, Ms. Carol Delker did not go there for a tour, but for their continued endeavor to promote sister city exchanges with Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, according to Dr. Bill Warnock in the exclusive interview of China Tibet Online.
Dr. Warnock and Ms. Delker are President and Vice President of the Boulder-Lhasa Sister City Project (BLSCP), which was established in 1986. Boulder, located in the State of Colorado, is the only sister city in the US and the only friendly organization which has provided aid to Tibet for over 20 years.
I. Aid to Lhasa for its development
Since 1987, the BLSCP has contributed to Lhasa in its development through exchanges in health care, education, environmental protection, science and technology, agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as culture and art.
"We feel privileged to be able to work in Lhasa,” said Mr. Warnock. Many Americans admire us for what we have accomplished there.”
Since 1995, the BLSCP has been sponsored Lhasa Kungshon Language School, to provide young adult Tibetans with language and computer classes to help them qualify for better jobs and achieve a higher standard of living. So far, the school has educated 15,000 part-time students in languages including English, Tibetan and Chinese, 700 students in vocational skills, and 3,000 students in computer literacy and software usage.
The school has also given 1,200 scholarships to students with disabilities and financial difficulties. Students pay only 35 percent of the tuition costs, which are supplemented by funds raised by selling hand-woven Tibetan wool rugs to the school. In the meanwhile, students are also benefited by improving skills and gaining more job opportunities, according to BLSCP.
Solar Energy Program
In 1998, 70 percent of the Tibetan families had no electricity in the rural areas of Lhasa Prefecture based on the data of BLSCP. It caused lung problems, nighttime falls by elderly people, and less study time for children.
In July 1999, the BLSCP helped Damshung and Lhundrup Counties of Lhasa install three small solar photovoltaic (PV) electrification systems for 100 families with solar modules on the roof converting sunlight to electricity. Each of them was rated at 20-36 watts.
At that time, only 20 walts of power will make each Tibetan home happy,” said Ms. Delkar. “A little bit makes a big difference.”
Medical Assistance Program
In September 2002, Mr. Bill Warnock led an information exchange with Lhasa City Hospital on echinococcosis. It is a deadly disease, which can cause failure of the liver and lungs, and even a painful death if not treated. The average infection rate was measured to be 5.6 percent, BLSCP reported. In the trip, Prof. Craig delivered a lecture on the disease to the medical staff of Lhasa City Hospital, which was one of the trainings the BLSCP provided to Lhasa.
II. Witness of Lhasa’s changes
The BLSCP is not only a supporter of Lhasa’s development, but also a witness of its changes over the years.
"In 1993, Tibet was very poor”, recalled Ms. Delker about her first visit to Tibet. “Back then, we helped Tibet in a way they could bring from the West.”
Follow up to the solar energy project, Ms. Delkar came back to Tibet in 2008 and found its solar energy development was “very impressive”. And she also found that with the support of the Chinese government, the power energy is fully supplied now.
As China’s economic position rises, Lhasa also has something to offer to Boulder,” said Ms Delkar. In May 2011, a delegation of Colorado State University located in Boulder came to Lhasa to learn the methane technology to increase efficiency of fuel use.
III. Increasing mutual understanding
The sister city, or citizen diplomacy may be a difficult concept for people to grasp. This is the big challenge BLSCP faces, according to Mr. Warnock.
But the BLSCP has dedicated to its mission of increasing mutual understanding between both sides. “This is what sister cities are all about,” said Mr. Warnock.
There is a big Tibetan community in Boulder, according to him. The BLSCP has close contact with the exiled Tibetans for 20 years. Some are interested in joining their organization, but brought Human rights issues to them. However, the BLSCP is only aimed to develop and implement non-political exchanges of mutual benefit with Lhasa.
"It is not our political interest to talk about Human rights,” said Mr. Warnock. “We are politically neutral.”
When the BLSCP invited a Lhasa delegation to the welcoming dinner, some exiled Tibetans in Boulder were also invited. With the BLSCP’s coordination, they only brought prayer flags and presented Khasas to the Lhasa delegates. In the end, they performed folk dancing for their ethnic brothers and sisters. This is a good example of how Boulder bridged bonds for all Tibetans as a sister city.
After the Lhasa Riots in March 2008, the BLSCP was the first and only delegation from the West to visit Lhasa. On this occasion, a Memorandum of Agreement on Strengthening of the Sister City Relationship sister city was signed between both sides. On Mr. Warnock and Ms. Delkar’s 15th visit to Lhasa, their mission will surely be strengthened and advanced.
The sister city is a concept initiated by US President Eisenhower in 1956 to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation and create a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that strengthens partnerships between cities of different countries. The Sister Cities International (SCI) is the American organization which promotes this concept. Currently, it represents more than 2,500 communities in 134 countries around the world.
Source?The Boulder – Lhasa Sister City Project