En­tre­pre­neur’s aim: bridge cul­tures

His cafe-based work­shops of­fer cour­ses in English, business man­age­ment

China Daily (USA) - - TIBET - ByPALDEN NYIMA in Lhasa palden_ny­ima@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A grow­ing num­ber of Ti­betans are look­ing be­yond tra­di­tional oc­cu­pa­tions such as herd­ing or farm­ing to make a new way of life for them­selves.

Washu Tse­hua Kyabm, born to a no­madic fam­ily in Kachu county, Sichuan prov­ince, turned his back on herd­ing yaks ev­ery day to open a cafe in Chengdu, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal.

Named “Charu”, af­ter the Ti­betan word for a tent fas­tener, the cafe on Wuhouci street of­fers its cus­tomers cof­fee with pure yak milk, while its walls and sur­faces are adorned with Ti­betan hand­i­crafts such as an au­rdo, or tra­di­tional sling­shot.

The cafe’s name hints at the link it hopes to pro­vide be­tween dif­fer­ent peo­ples, through the cul­tural work­shops that Washu holds there once a week with his co-founder Tsering Tashi, who was born in Gansu prov­ince’s Gan­nan Ti­betan au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture.

“I think com­mu­ni­ca­tion is very im­por­tant, and I wanted to pro­vide a venue for peo­ple to learn from each Washu Tse­hua Kyabm, other, and ex­change their views,” said Washu, 34.

“More than 80 per­cent of the work­shop par­tic­i­pants are young Ti­betans, and the rest in­cludes for­eign­ers and other peo­ple,” said Tsering, es­ti­mat­ing that each event at­tracts around 40 peo­ple.

Washu learned about Western cul­ture when he stud­ied English at Qing­hai Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity in the early 2000s.

He also had the op­por­tu­nity to study over­seas at Miriam Col­lege in the Philippines be­tween 2006 and 2008, and fur­thered his stud­ies with a two-month so­cial en­trepreneur­ship course at the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia, in the United States, in Jan­uary last year.

This ed­u­ca­tional back­ground in­spired him to set up the Charu work­shops seven months ago, which now in­clude English train­ing cour­ses on Satur­days and a monthly lec­ture on Ti­betan cul­ture.

Other top­ics such as en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion and business plan­ning are also cov­ered.

This year, the cafe has hosted 23 lec­tures, 23 English speeches, and three Ti­betan speeches.

Ser­wotso, a 29-year-old Ti­betan robe de­signer, at­tended three of the free business train­ing work­shops held at Charu.

“Washu is knowl­edge­able and kind­hearted. There are many Ti­betan peo­ple liv­ing in Chengdu, but there are few who en­gage in such pub­lic wel­fare work­shops,” she said.

“Ex­perts and suc­cess­ful busi­ness­peo­ple both from China and over­seas are in­vited to share their ideas, and I found it re­ally use­ful.”

Botruk, gen­eral man­ager of Door to Tibet Art, a com­pany that pro­duces Ti­betan hand­i­crafts and yak hair prod­ucts, de­scribed his friend Washu as “a man with dream, a man who has his home­town in his heart, and a man who val­ues the im­por­tance of his cul­ture”.

He said the work­shops pro­vided a bridge for cul­ture ex­change, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and cul­tural preser­va­tion.

“The work­shops he op­er­ates are not re­ally for profit, they are more for the pur­pose of pub­lic wel­fare, and this is re­ally im­pres­sive,” Botruk said.

I wanted to pro­vide a venue for peo­ple to learn from each other, and ex­change their views.” cafe owner

PHO­TOS BY PALDEN NYIMA / CHINA DAILY

Leonard van der Kuijp (left), a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, at­tends one of Charu’s weekly talks last month.

Washu Tse­hua Kyabm speaks at a weekly English speech gath­er­ing at Charu café in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince.

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