My name is Lhakpa Choden and I come from Tibet. I have a husband and three kids. We’ve been in Australia for six years.
I had no education and I am also Tibetan, and being Tibetan means you have less chances than Chinese people. I heard somebody say if we go to India we will have an opportunity to go to school, and that the Dali Lama lived there. I had never been to school, so I skipped from Tibet to India in 1995. I wanted to meet the Dali Lama and go to school! Some of us started walking from Tibet to Nepal and it takes one month and three days. We go by the rivers and the mountains—so many troubles. And at the end of this month, finally, we get to Nepal, and eventually to India.
I went to school for three years in India—I was the first one in my family to do this. I got a job in a shop and learned to sew. I was there for seven years. I made about $8.00 a month, but it was OK for me.
Then I worked for an Australian woman who had a big workshop in India. I got so much experience with her, I could sew anything.
In 2004, I met my husband, he is from Tibet too, and I had a child in 2008. We learned that Australia lets Tibetan political people like us come into Australia on a special visa. After eight years, we were able to come to Australia! It was very hard getting a job here. We had to do something, but we couldn’t do anything. So one day I saw homemade dolls at a market and I thought, “I can make this one.” I worked for that shop, but soon it shut down.
So now I go to SisterWorks and I go to the markets. I’ve had lots of experience from SisterWorks and so many opportunities. I think it is very good for me and it’s helpful for my family. Otherwise we don’t have any income. I also help manage the SisterWorks market at St. Kilda.
In the future I hope to ask some men or women from my community who can sew, if they are interested in working with me. First I have to get a grant. Then, I can do a workshop once a week, to teach how to make soft toys. After that, we can work together. I hope so, because I can’t do it by myself. I hope we can find a free place in my area. If we get a permanent market, we can advertise, then if someone orders, we can try to make. This is my dream.