Though Norbulingka was inaugurated in 1995, it was a work in process with a growing number of employees, including families, who lived and worked there from 1990. The first child born in Norbulingka was a girl, Noryang, in December 1990, in one of the early staff quarters located around the central pond. There were many more to come. Norbulingka’s early population was young; couples formed and children were born, most families having two or three children who soon populated an ever-expanding crèche.
Children were important to Norbulingka and we were eager that our young employees, mostly new arrivals from Tibet, could work knowing their children were well looked after. We wanted to create an environment where the community was the extension of the individual home, in village like fashion. In 1992, we set up a makeshift crèche for the ten plus children, who needed care while their parents worked. By 1996, we had a dedicated crèche for children from one month to seven, when they could join Class I at Lower TCV School, where a bus took them and brought them back each day. Volunteers, from Australia, the UK and the US came and trained our staff, and soon the Norbulingka Crèche and preschool was so popular that we had demands for enrolment from outside Norbulingka.
The crèche grew with the children, and by 2000, we had over a hundred, taught by qualified teachers in the Montessori way. We also provide an after-school program where teachers help with homework and create activities during holidays. It is a happy place, bursting with color and buzzing with activity. Parents are encouraged to be involved with their children’s early education and the teachers organize yearly outings for the children and stage performances. Today, we have a total of 105 children, thirty of which hail from non-Norbulingka Tibetan families from the area.
More than twenty-five years have elapsed since our beginnings. Most of our early children live spread out all over the world, in Europe, the Americas and Australia. Some work at Norbulingka and have children of their own. They remember it as a special place where they grew up in the midst of a tightly knit community where they formed vivid memories and lifelong bonds.