January 13 2018

Beautiful Turquoise Ocean: Our Karuna Girl

In his latest work Un demi-siècle dans l’Himalaya (Half a Century in the Himalayas), Matthieu Ricard recalls his two encounters with Drouk-kar Tsho, a little Tibetan girl whose gentle smile has become the symbol for Karuna-Shechen’s work in the Himalayan region. We share this excerpt with you:

In 2005, we visited a remote region in Eastern Tibet in order to assess the progress of our humanitarian projects undertaken by our organization Karuna-Shechen and to identify new projects.

While visiting one of our clinics, I walked into a dark kitchen. Near the hearth I saw a little girl, with a face so pure, her hair all tangled up, her eyes at once laughing yet serious, whose direct gaze and smile, showing no signs of shyness, lit up the room.

I immediately took a picture of her before she could continue eating her tsampa (roasted barley meal). A few minutes later I saw her again with her uncle, one of the clinic’s doctors, who was taking her pulse. Captivated once again by her innocence, I took a photograph of them together.

These images remind me of the reason why we work in Tibet, with the mission of providing access to health and education, especially for women. That’s when we thought that this little girl, our chosen “Karuna girl,” could be the symbol for our humanitarian vision. Ever since then, her picture has become the welcoming image on our website, brochures, and posters.

A few years later, I wished to see her again, and so I asked her uncle if he could find her. We did not know that, for her to meet us, she had to walk a day and a half to come down from the high-altitude pastures where she was spending her summer with her nomadic parents.

In this more recent portrait, taken in 2013, she was 13 years old. Her name is Drouk-kar Tsho. In Tibetan, drouk-kar (“six stars”) is a poetic word, which refers to a very beautiful turquoise, and tsho means ocean. And so, her name could be translated as “Beautiful Turquoise Ocean.” Eight years later, she still had that same simplicity and radiance as that little girl we had met in 2005.

We thanked her for having become, through her smile, the ambassador for our humanitarian projects; we told her that her picture had been seen by tens of thousands of people throughout the world. Of course, this idea seemed to her entirely unreal, and she barely took note of it.

With many thanks to Drouk-kar Tsho who offered her beautiful smile, a symbol for the many children in need throughout the Himalayas!