CULTURE- BUZZBOX- Tip-top time: Tibet gala benefits health center

Tibet might seem to be a far away place, but for many local residents, the beautiful Himalayan country known as "the roof of the world" is never far from their thoughts. Gyaltsen Sangpo Druknya and his wife, Tashi Dolkar, refugees from Tibet who have lived in Charlottesville since 2001, are particularly devoted to their former homeland, and especially to programs to improve the health and well being of the people there.

That's why the couple, owners of the former Carden Salon on the Downtown Mall, have joined other local Tibetan refugees to organize a gala festival of Tibetan culture on Thursday, May 24, to raise money for a women's birthing center.

As a young man in Tibet, Druknya, a member of a nomadic family, grew up with Dr. Tsering Kyi, an obstetrician/gynecologist who is now a member of the board of the Tibetan Healing Fund. That group is working to open a women's health and birth center in Amdo, the beneficiary of this week's fundraiser. 

The festivities at the Boar's Head Inn on Thursday night include a concert, "Crossing the Himalayas to Make a Difference," by Williamsburg resident Timothy Seaman, a hammered-dulcimer master. In addition, local musician John Carden sings selections from his recently released CD, Journey on Tuesday, Dolkar sings  Tibetan songs, and Lobsang Jigme entertains on traditional Tibetan instruments.

Dancing– fans are hoping for the yak dance!– singing, and food are part of the fun.

Ground has been broken in Amdo for the birth center, a large clinic built around a center courtyard with rooms for families to stay before and after the birth. Because among Tibet's nomadic population, maternal, newborn, and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world, education of midwives is a particularly important part of the mission of the center. Because the population has so little access to healthcare, especially pre-natal care, education outreach is also an important focus for Healing Fund members. The center will combine traditional Tibetan medical theory and culture with western innovations.

The facility, scheduled to open this summer, will be the first center of its kind in Tibet, operated by and for native Tibetans, with care offered in their native language. 

Thursday's events at the Boar's Head Inn begin at 5:30pm, and in addition to the singing and dancing, include a talk by Dr. Kunchok Gyaltsen, founder of the Fund, who also speaks Friday, May 25, on Tibetan mind-body health at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church on Rugby Road.

Since an actual trip to Shangri-la is not possible, a magical evening of Himalayan culture might be the next best thing.

"Crossing the Himalayas to Make a Difference" happens Thursday, May 24, at 5:30pm at the Boar's Head Inn, Rt. 250 west. Couple/$190; individual/$100 includes traditional Tibetan music, dancing, food. 979-0012.