Losang Rabgey (BA 1993 UC, MA 1995) believes education does much more than create opportunities for children. As the executive director of Machik – an organization she co-founded with her sister, Tashi (BA 1992 UC), to create schools on the Tibetan Plateau – she believes education is the work of peace.
Rabgey, 39, was born in a refugee settlement in India after her parents had escaped Tibet in 1959 following the Chinese occupation. The family eventually settled in Lindsay, Ontario, and Tibetan culture was fostered at home with language, history and traditional music instruction. (Losang learned how to play the lutelike dranyen.)
In 1987, the family returned to visit relatives in Tibet. It was a turning point for Rabgey, as she witnessed the disparity in opportunities between the two countries. She went on to earn a BA in sociology and environmental studies and an MA in anthropology at U of T and a PhD from the University of London. Shortly after, she started Machik and established the Ruth Walter Chungba Primary School in Chungba, an isolated Tibetan township in China’s Sichuan province. She chose Chungba because her father grew up there. (Her mother is from a region close to Nepal.) Also, she explains, “it was outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region and that is where it was acceptable for [members of a] diaspora to work.”
Through Machik, Rabgey and her sister – who is equally involved in the organization as strategic director – helped produce the first collection of Tibetan women’s writing. They have also sponsored social entrepreneurial programs, including seminars for both Chinese and Tibetans on geo-tourism (which promotes a region’s natural features) and established greenhouse projects to feed schoolchildren.
In 2006, Rabgey received the prestigious National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award given to professionals making a difference globally. Last year, she was honoured as a Young Asian Leader by the Asia Society. But it’s not the awards that light up her face. It’s connecting communities, preserving cultural heritage and building new bridges into a future only a few can see – which she believes will create a more peaceful society.