See our interactive timeline here.
The Destruction of Tibetan Culture
1959 – The invasion of Tibet forces tens of thousands of Tibetans to flee their country. Many die while escaping or in the crowded, unhealthy conditions of refugee camps. For those who remain in Tibet, their lives are forever changed by the destruction of thousands of monasteries and schools and the loss of texts, art, and teachers.
The Early Years: Meeting Basic Needs
1969 – Tarthang Tulku, a leading Tibetan master and teacher, arrives in Berkeley, California. The Tibetan Aid Project is founded to help refugees in need of food, clothing, medicine, and supplies. Its primary project, the Pen Friend Program, makes it possible for Americans to send funds directly to thousands of Tibetans.
1970’s – The Pen Friend Program expands as more people learn about the desperate need for humanitarian aid in the refugee communities.
1974 – The Tibetan Aid Project is officially incorporated as the Tibetan Nyingma Relief Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
1975 – Tibetan Aid Project begins to supplement the Pen Friend Program by sending books and sacred art reproductions to Tibetans, supporting ceremonies, and hosting visits of Tibetan lamas to the United States.
New Goals: Saving a Culture
1980’s – As major humanitarian goals are met, Tibetan Aid Project focuses on supporting the preservation of Tibet's great wisdom traditions through the sponsorship of ceremonies, reconstruction of monasteries, and donations of sacred texts and art to Tibetans in Tibet and in exile.
1989 - 1990 – The first World Peace Ceremony is held in December and lasts through January of 1990. Tibetan Aid Project offers financial support for this ceremony and funds the transportation of texts and art to be distributed at the ceremony.
Growth and Expansion
1990’s – The World Peace Ceremony becomes an annual event, with attendance steadily increasing every year, into the thousands. The donation of texts at this ceremony becomes the major focus of the Tibetan Aid Project.
1990 – Tibetan Aid Project establishes offices in TNMC-affiliated Nyingma Centers in Holland, Germany, and Brazil. All centers generate support for the Pen Friend Program and sponsor special events to raise funds for other Tibetan Aid Project programs.
1994 – Tibetan Aid Project transforms the Pen Friend program into a monk/nun sponsorship program in which donors give $30 monthly. All funds donated to this program are now forwarded to monasteries rather than individuals to ensure equal availability of support provided through Tibetan Aid Project.
2001 – Tibetan Aid Project organizes the first Taste & Tribute dinner at San Francisco’s City Club. The dinner becomes a successful annual event.
Establishing Collections of Texts and Art
2004 – Tibetan Aid Project launches the Light of Wisdom campaign to help seed libraries throughout the Himalayan region.
2005 – The total number of books distributed to Tibetans tops one million.
2006 – The first Taste & Tribute dinner in New York takes place at Le Bernardin restaurant in Manhattan.
2007 – Upon the successful completion of the Light of Wisdom campaign, Tibetan Aid Project launches the Treasures of Wisdom campaign, with the goal of raising $1.08 million dollars by the end of 2009. The total number of books distributed to Tibetans reaches two million.
2009 – Tibetan Aid Project helps support the largest distribution of art prints at the World Peace Ceremony since its inception, with 3 million sacred thankas distributed.
2010 – Tibetan Aid Project helps support the distribution of 400,000 sacred texts at the World Peace Ceremony. One thousand complete sets of Kanjur and Tanjur were given away to various monastic institutions.
For a more detailed history of Tibetan Aid Project, please see our book Is Tibet Forgotten? We Hope Not, which is available in our online store.