FARMINGTON — San Juan College professors and students are bringing a piece of Tibet to the Four Corners.

The college's International Programs partnered with the nonprofit group Tibetan Village Project for a journey called the Solar Mission to Tibet this past June 4-18. Participants will hold presentations in Farmington and Durango to raise awareness for the nonprofit organization's ongoing projects.

"I have always wanted to meet the people of Tibet," said Kandy LeMoine, volunteer coordinator for the Farmington Museum System. "I've had an interest in the Tibetan Buddhist faith. The people were very cheerful, friendly and curious. We had translators, but I don't think communication was an issue. It was so easy to communicate through smiles and gestures."

LeMoine will hold a free presentation at Sycamore Park Community Center, 1051 Sycamore St., in Farmington, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30. She hopes the public will attend and learn about her group's experiences.

Chris Strouthopoulos, assistant professor of English, outdoor leadership and coordinator of international programs at the college, and Mike Sullivan, an adjunct engineering instructor, led LeMoine and 10 other students in a project to install solar panels at a new medical clinic in Sihurong, a remote village on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

The trip was offered in conjunction with a course at San Juan College, Strouthopoulos said. The students studied Tibetan history and culture, and learned basic photovoltaic engineering practices.


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"Everyone was hands-on when we got there," he said. "It was a travel-study experience."

The clinic, in a Buddhist monastery, is the only medical facility within a day's drive. The project provides power for LED and low-voltage lights that will allow the clinic to stay open longer, Strouthopoulos said.

"It was magical," he said. "The Buddhist culture and spirit is so strong. It permeates every aspect of life. They are the warmest, kindest-hearted people. I just keep getting drawn back there."

Although Strouthopoulos had traveled in Tibet before, The Solar Mission to Tibet offered a number of new experiences, he said.

"This time I was there to help," he said.

He found the people opened up to him even more than they had before.

"I'd never been into an actual villager's house before," he said. "You'd never get to experience these things as a tourist. It was a much more intimate view."

Staying at the monastery was another of the trip's highlights.

"We would wake up every day and sink into the rhythms of their life," he said.

Strouthopoulos encourages all those interested in the project or in travel to consider working with the Tibetan Village Project. There is something for everyone, whether they have a passion for humanitarian work or simply want to experience another culture, he said.

Strouthopoulos will hold a presentation about the trip at San Juan College's Center for Teaching Excellence at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 28.

For more information about the Farmington presentations, email Kandy LeMoine at klemoine@fmtn.org, call 505-599-1421 or email Chris Strouthopoulos at strouthc@sanjuancollege.edu. For information about the Durango presentations, email Ron Fogelman at Rfbuzzard1@aol.com. For more information about the Tibetan Village Project visit www.tibetanvillageproject.org.