In conversation with Tenzin Bhakto, President of Tibetan Nurses Association (NY&NJ)
By Lobsang Tenchoe | December 13, 2016
As the Tibetan diaspora gears up for the 34th Kalachakra initiation, the largest Buddhist congregation event to be held over Jan 3 – 13, 2017 in Bodh Gaya, Tibetan physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers of New York and New Jersey under the umbrella of Tibetan Nurses Association (TNA) are on a different mission – to raise funds for the Kalachakra health camp. Tenzin Bhakto, President of Tibetan Nurses Association NY&NJ candidly spoke with Tibet Express.(Acronyms TE and TB will be used in the following interview to address Tibet Express and Tenzin Bhakto respectively)
TE – Tell us about the TNA, why did you start it?
TB – TNA is a registered not-for-profit organization based in New York and it was started in April 2016. The idea of forming TNA materialized after a casual conversation among few friends in the healthcare profession. We discussed about helping our community through our expertise as a healthcare worker.
Concerned by the acute lack of health awareness within our community which leads to a number of Tibetans falling victim to many avoidable diseases, I took the step of registering the organization as it would be more effective in setting up future platform and to get official assistance if we register as per the local laws. Additionally, I also wanted to provide a platform for the growing number of youth in our community who are showing increasing interest in the field of healthcare but lack proper guidance and encouragement. Similarly, most of the healthcare workers are scattered and hardly know each other in spite of being in same field.
All our active members and our board members have dedicated much time and energy to fulfill TNA’s mission. Everyone at TNA is a dedicated volunteer; they don’t take a penny home for their sacrifices and services to our events and causes. As it stands now, our great team effort has made TNA a successful and effective organization within a short period of time. Our board consists of a president, a vice president, two accountants or treasurers, two public relation officers, one mentor and five advisors elected democratically through voting system.
TE – What is the goal of TNA?
TB –TNA has many goals, however I would like to focus on our three main goals.
(a) Health awareness and teaching in our community.
(b) Unifying all Tibetan healthcare workers and students around the globe under one umbrella to help each other and our own community in any region.
(c) To set up a platform and helping hand for all the new comers who are interested in healthcare; kind of a mentor providing guidance in this field.
TE – How many members does TNA have?
TB – As of today, we have over 300 members in TNA from various healthcare professions ranging from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, technicians, clinical instructor and many more who are working in major hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, schools and in the private sector. Our greatest accomplishment is bringing everyone under one roof and it continues to grow every day. Every one knows each other in the organization; our mission has closely knitted us like close friends.
TE –Tell us about the fund raising campaign for the Kalachakra.
TB –Central Tibetan Administration’s Health department contacted us with the proposal to help out during this year’s Kalachakra for their medical camp plan so that maximum devotees can receive full-fledged medical assistance if needed. TNA volunteered to participate in this project to let people know that we all work together for our people’s health and hygiene and CTA’s camp plan at the Kalachakra is totally in tune with our mission and goals.
TE – How much fund has TNA raised so far through fund me and at camps?
TB – So far, TNA has raised $ 3147 + $5 CAD by setting up tables in JH and $ 2805 from online donations at https://www.gofundme.com/medical-camp-for-kalachakra-2017. We are planning to keep this donation effort till December 15th 2016. It is TNA’s pleasure to be able to share some responsibility for our community’s sake.
TE – Tell us about your campaign and projects thus far.
TB – So far, TNA has held many successful health fair events on multiple occasions in NYC and Minnesota as well as many other achievements in community health related issues. During these entire health fairs, we encountered many participants with a variety of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, paranoia of hospital setting, lack of basic knowledge, proper health information and to make it worse – uninsured. We were able to give them referrals and provide proper guidance. At the same time, many individual health related cases were solved and some are still under process. Our main campaign slogans are – ‘Health is wealth” and ‘Get on track, before it’s too late’.
TE – Tell us about your future projects? Does TNA have any future programs to reach out to Tibetan communities outside the United States?
TB – We have many future projects if everything goes as we planned. We plan to
(a) Set up permanent public clinic in Tibetan Community Center hall and provide continuous health related guidance in NY and open up more TNA’s branches around the globe.
(b) Set up a resource bank or open up a mini Tibetan health care library through which we can provide all kinds of resources to help the new comers in this field.
(c) Open up new branches to accommodate and reach out to as many individuals as possible and unify Tibetan healthcare universally.
TE – Nursing seems to be the most sought after course as large number of Tibetan girls from India prefer to join this profession but the hefty fees has deterred some with poor financial background. Will TNA reach out and help them in future?
TB – Oh yes! I wish and will surely think about creating a scholarship program in future if we get enough funds and sponsorship in the coming years.
TE – Any message or advice for those in the field of healthcare?
TB – My message to all is to join TNA or similar associations to take some responsibility for a better world and better community. Each one of us is an asset to our community and changes begin from individuals. Life is too short and making differences in others life will make it memorable forever. Let’s do this together. We also look forward to work with all other NGOs and the Department of Health in many other projects in the future.