Stories from the field – Minuzzo

Giorgio Minuzzo, who worked in Tibet for 10 years.

“Thanks to ASIA I had the unique opportunity to live and work in Tibet for ten years, from 1996 to 2007.

The impact was very strong because suddenly I found myself living and working in a very small village, Dzamthog, a week away from the first city worthy of this name. An absurd place seen from our perspective.

On a personal level it was a very interesting experience. I had no particular difficulties in settling in the cold (the climate is very dry and you don’t feel the cold as you can feel it here), nor in the food. After all, the rural life that I had led until then also helped me to resist loneliness, in a place where nobody speaks your language and in the evening you have nothing to do.Minuzzo (1)

It was more difficult to insert yourself in a social and cultural environment with values, customs, times, very different from ours, in which your work habits and needs do not correspond to those of the context in which you operate. We are used to that everything must be functional, that the project must be implemented with a certain speed, however when you get there these things are no longer valid and you must try to adapt your way of doing to the reality you meet. But you can’t calm down too much because at the same time you have to respond to the needs of the organization that sent you and that expects results and the constant progress of the project.

Fortunately in Dzamthog I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Puntsok Wangmo, local project coordinator, a very experienced and capable person, a native of that area. Her support was fundamental, without her everything would have been much more difficult.

The intervention that I followed as a logistician was the first international cooperation project promoted by ASIA, and one of the first ever promoted by an international organization in the Kham region. It had been designed without a real feasibility study, also due to the strong restrictions on circulation and the difficulty of obtaining permits for missions, and therefore it was serving all the limits of the projects studied at the table in a western country. In particular, it was difficult to adapt the health component – which for western donors requires a series of minimum standards – to a context in which running water and electricity were lacking. We had to manage it by slowly making the necessary changes, trying to balance local needs with donor requests.

An innovative aspect of the project was the integration, especially for the health part, between western and Tibetan medicine, managed well by the Italian operators and by Dr. Puntsok Wangmo. This is also why the hospital quickly became very well known, there were people who came and camped two or three months waiting to be assisted. This on the one hand was positive, on the other it created problems with the health authorities, because our structure was working too well compared to the local health system, and this was not well seen. In any case, all these dynamics were very useful for ASIA to design the following interventions in a different and more concrete way, more responsive to local realities and needs.”