Establishing a Pendeba Society for Community Change and Conservation in Qomolangma National Nature Preserve
The Pendeba Society, previously known as the Pendeba program, has faced many challenges throughout the years. The original Pendeba program was created in 1996 by Future Generations in Tibet as a method for local leaders to gain skills related to environmental protection, conservation, healthcare, women’s education, sustainable livelihoods, and renewable resources. In 2008, largely due to rapid economic development in China and an unstable political situation in Tibet, the Pendeba program was terminated. Norbu, who previously worked with the Pendeba program in Tibet, realized the significant impact felt by locals when the program was discontinued. Traveling from village to village, he faced the same question from the locals– what became of the Pendeba program that had captured the profound interest of the community? He knew he had to do something. He needed to go local. He decided to take the bottom-up, seed-scale strategy to a new level by seeking the support of the Chinese government. Norbu faced many challenges and restrictions. He spoke to countless officials, locals, and the movers and shakers in the community who continually offered him support. One of his supporters included Mr. Gongu Duoji-La, the first Tibetan mountaineer to climb Mt. Everest, who happened to be from a town close to Norbu’s own birthplace. After countless setbacks, frustrations, and tribulations, Norbu created the Pendeba Society as a civil organization registered in both China and Tibet on June 26, 2009. In 2012, the Pendeba Society was conferred as a Top Grade Civil Organization by the Department of Civil Affairs of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Recognition continued, and in 2014 the Pendeba Society was selected as winner of the Equator prize by UNDP and winner of the Environmental Prize by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. Although the difficulties of functioning as a community development organization still rest as an everyday reality, the Pendeba Society stands as an example of what one individual can accomplish if his or her heart is dedicated to the cause. Norbu expressed, “As a leader, you should have a strong passion to do something and have infinite patience to do them in many different ways until you realize your dream.” Norbu, in all his efforts, is a beautiful example of what our students accomplish at Future Generations University through our Master’s in Applied Community Change.