What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
My original research interest was depression and mental health literacy - the barriers to service utilization within the Tibetan community. However, due to the pandemic this became difficult to accomplish, but it is something I wish to study in the future. I’m currently working on the production of monthly townhalls in an attempt to create a space that allows for safe and open dialogue on difficult topics within the Tibetan community. We’ve hosted sensitive topic discussions, like socio-political issues, mental health, LGBTQ+ status, and our upcoming one will be on the treatment of women and intergenerational gender expectations. I feel very grateful for Professor Marieme Lo’s guidance and the TCCC Youth Committee team. I feel like these town halls are an opportunity to not only identify issues but also start creating accountability and solutions.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?
In my fourth year of undergrad I took a keen interest in psychosomatic illness and its relation to the refugee and immigrant experience. My parents uprooted their entire lives to come to Canada so that their children could have a better future. My grandmother fled her home in the middle of the night and trudged across the Himalayas. Their lives were filled with agony, despair, and pain yet they are some of the strongest people I know. But because they’ve valued physical wellbeing and survival, the topic of mental health and wellbeing is a difficult one to navigate. I find that this sentiment is echoed throughout Asian immigrant communities. It’s not that parents don’t care about their child’s mental health or wellbeing, it’s simply that they don’t understand. The Tibetan language doesn't have a word for depression or racism. I hope to use these town halls as a palette for conversation, intermixing different experiences, brainstorming steps for solutions, and eventually taking these topics to the older generation and phrasing them in a way that they can understand.
What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
The latest project that I’ve been working on has been planning the treatment of women town hall as well as Cards for Care. For the town hall we hope to have Tibetan women of different ages present so that we can track these intergenerational experiences. Some topics we hope to discuss are the intergenerational expectations of Tibetan women, the normalization of harassment, and education and accountability: who’s responsible for calling in/calling out? Cards for Care is an initiative that was originally a way to thank frontline workers who are at most risk during the pandemic, but it has changed slightly to focus on a more marginalized community. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 the risk associated with overcrowded shelters could lead to severe illness or even death. This has prompted many of the city’s homeless to camp out in parks, like Trinity Bellwoods, exposed to the elements but physically distanced. Personally, this pandemic has been difficult to navigate but I’ve done so from the comfort of my home. Homelessness may be a choice for some, but it is the result of circumstances for most, which is why I hope to use the Cards for Care initiative to provide some individuals around the city with a warm meal and a personalized card with a small message of hope.
As a student, researcher and/or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
This global pandemic has taught me to ask more questions. Throughout my undergrad studies and especially in my final year courses it became apparent how interconnected our world was. It’s easy and convenient to live in our own personal commodity bubbles but that’s the attitude that got us here in the first place. I hear so many people wishing for things to go back to normal, myself included, but normal is what started this global outbreak. I think this pandemic was incendiary. Many of us had the time and capacity to take in and really assess some of the cracks in our society and the way that we contributed to them. Disrupting the normal was needed and I hope the wheels of social change will roll past COVID-19 into a new normal.
Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
Being a part of this Fellowship has been a great learning opportunity to work alongside some really remarkable individuals and to think more analytically on the issues that surround my own community. I’m grateful for the chance to apply some of the things that I’ve learned throughout my undergraduate career in a way that will hopefully produce a meaningful impact on the Tibetan community here in Toronto and across the diaspora.
Any final words or messages?
There is an old Tibetan proverb that goes along the lines of “cure the illness that is not yet an illness” emphasizing the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. I feel like the answers to most of our worldly problems are in many of our cultural histories somewhere, through teachings, proverbs, and philosophies we simply have to properly apply them.