ROKPA INTERNATIONAL is established on March 27th in Zurich by the Tibetan doctor and Lama Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche, Lea Wyler and her father, Dr. Veit Wyler.
The first activities begin with the support of Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal.
Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche returns to Tibetan areas of China for the first time following his dramatic escape in 1959. He is deeply moved by the terrible poverty in his home country. The planning of the ROKPA aid projects in East Tibet begins.
1985 – 1988
ROKPA branches are established in UK, Germany, Belgium and Holland.
1990 – 1999
After many years of negotiations and several visits by Akong Rinpoche, the first projects in the Tibetan Homeland are realised: the Palpung Clinic and University and the Sichuan Tibetan College.
The ROKPA Soup Kitchen in Kathmandu, Nepal, is inaugurated. It opens every year during the cold winter months and is run with the help of volunteers.
Lea Wyler takes the first seven street children into her care and becomes their mother. Their education and food is funded by sponsors. They now live in simple boarding schools.
Lea Wyler travels to Calcutta to visit Mother Teresa, who inspires and deeply impresses her.
ROKPA branches are established in Austria, France, India, and Spain.
ROKPA begins to sponsor Dolma Lhakang, Akong Rinpoche’s monastery in the Eastern Tibetan Highlands, with its clinic and 5 adjoined nunneries. Later the destroyed monastery is completely rebuilt and sponsored by ROKPA. All these projects were fully funded by ROKPA from 1991 till 2016. Also in this area, the sponsoring of the Tsawagang Tibetan Medical College, is started.
Establishment of a clothing depot in Kathmandu for the winter months which continues to provide the homeless and poor with warm clothing.
For the first time, free medical treatment is provided for the needy in the medical outpatient clinic (part of the ROKPA Soup Kitchen in Kathmandu) and from now on doctors and nurses from different countries treat those in need during winter.
ROKPA branches in Canada, Italy, South Africa and the US are established.
Akong Rinpoche meets Mother Teresa in Glasgow.
Establishment of ROKPA in Zimbabwe.
The first of the orphanages built and supported by ROKPA is inaugurated in Yushu, southern Qinghai (a Tibetan area). A clinic as well as the Education Centre for Tibetan Medicine are later added to the orphanage. Thousands of orphans and half-orphans receive training and ROKPA becomes their surrogate family.
The ROKPA Women’s Workshop in Kathmandu is established and the first four women who had previously earned their living by begging are trained in sewing.
Lea Wyler is awarded a medal by the Order of St. John in Zurich.
ROKPA Nepal is established.
Akong Rinpoche’s first formal visit to Zimbabwe: “Feed the people – this is the most important!” – he says.
Start of the Soup Kitchen in Johannesburg.
Establishment of ROKPA in Poland.
A Soup Kitchen is started in Zimbabwe.
ROKPA in Zimbabwe begins working with people with HIV – running programs to support the treatment of opportunistic infections, to reduce stigma, encourage support groups and to use Akong Rinpoche’s Tara Rokpa Therapy methods. These are used till this very day.
ROKPA rents a house in Boudha, Kathmandu and inaugurates the ROKPA Children’s Home. It is home to 35 children who are educated at local schools.
Establishment of ROKPA in Ireland.
In Zimbabwe, Harare’s Batsiranai Cooperative begins when fourteen mothers of disabled children form a support group with ROKPA’s assistance. Later it was helped them to buy the houses they now occupy and to operate a children’s day care, physical therapy and workrooms and offices for the embroidery projects.
The project journey to the Tibetan areas of China takes place for the first time in its present form. Every year, Lea Wyler and her team, till 2012 headed by Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche, travel through the country for several months to visit and evaluate ongoing ROKPA projects.
2000 – 2010
In Zurich, Lea Wyler is honoured with the Jonas Furrer Prize.
In Zimbabwe, the project "Low Input Garden Project (LIG)" is starting, teaching amongst other things: Nutrition, growth and use of medical herbs and composting making. Additionally, ROKPA provides income support skills through projects such as making embroidery, batik, peanut butter, candles, soap and floor polish in order to help women become self-reliant, thus able to make a living for their destitute families.
The Drop-In Centre (ongoing till this day, now in two locations) is established in Harare where sick and needy people can come for medical help and food sustenance.
Establishment of ROKPA in Finland.
Akong Rinpoche is honoured with the Yunnan Prize. This is followed by numerous prizes for him and ROKPA in recognition of their charitable and innovative work.
The new ROKPA Children’s Home in Kathmandu, Nepal, is inaugurated in time for the organisation's 25th Anniversary. It accommodates up to 60 former street kids. Traumatized street children find a home here and experience security for the first time in their lives.
BBC selects ROKPA from amongst thousands of relief organisations and produces a Lifeline film in Nepal on the project activities.
Ten former street children from Nepal tour Europe with a moving dance performance that narrates the story of their life on the streets.
South Africa: Establishment of the Tirisano Crèche for the children of the poorest squatters in the area of Groot Marico, near the Tara Rokpa land, five hours from Johannesburg.
In Zimbabwe, ROKPA participates in a UNICEF-managed programme, the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
Start of the project "Preservation of Tibetan Medicine" in Nangchen in the Tibetan Highlands. The aim is to preserve and replant the tradition of Tibetan healing art as well as the partly dying plants used for this purpose.
ROKPA Switzerland organises a Charity Gala which is attended by numerous personalities from the fields of business, politics, culture and show business. ROKPA receives greater media attention.
ROKPA inaugurates its new Guest House with 4 suites and 11 rooms in Boudha, Kathmandu. This project is intended to provide long term financing for the Children’s Home.
Ten of the most talented ROKPA children, all former street children from Kathmandu, are invited to the well known BRAVE festival in Wroclaw, Poland in June/July. They rehearse a performance together with orphans from African countries. THE ROKPA Kids (as the group will be known from now on) present their own lives through the medium of dance and music.
2010 – 2020
March: ROKPA turns 30. The small aid organisation that was set up in Zürich in 1980, has evolved into an organisation represented in 18 countries, ensuring that assistance reaches people who don’t receive help from other relief organisations.
April: In the devastating earthquake in Yushu (Tibetan Highland), ROKPA provides emergency aid. Thanks to generous donations from all over the world and from the SDC, the organisation can supply well over 100 tents for the homeless Tibetans. The heated tents have allowed the earthquake victims to survive the ice cold winter.
ROKPA now exists in 18 countries.
Praise from the UN. With the touring exhibition “60 Years 6 Lives”, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) paid tributeto the extraordinary contribution that six former refugees in the UK (their new home) have made to society. One of the refugees portrayed was Akong Tulku Rinpoche, president and co-founder of ROKPA, who fled from Tibet to England in 1959.
Under the direction of Lea Wyler and accompanied by Andreas Vollenweider and his wonderful harp, The ROKPA KIDS tell their own life stories through theatre, dance and music. They travel through Switzerland and perform in London where Akong Rinpoche introduces them on stage. He loves the performance and the children. Because of this authenticity the already strong bond amongst all present became even stronger.
Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche passes away under tragic circumstances in China on October 8th, at the age of 73. He is mourned to this day by tens of thousands of people all over the world. Lea Wyler takes over the lead at ROKPA with the strong support of her teams in Switzerland, Nepal and Africa.
In Zimbabwe, the Chitungwiza Relief Day Care Centre for children with disabilities, is formally opened.
More than 8'500 people died in Nepal after the earthquake of April 25th 2015 with the epicentre in the north-west of Kathmandu. A massive number of people lost everything - especially the poor inhabitants of the mountainious areas near Kathmandu. The reconstruction of the destroyed buildings will take many years. ROKPAs focus is on the reconstruction of schools in remote areas like the Jiri region.
In Zimbabwe, ROKPA funding begins to increase from this year onwards.
On September 18th, almost 500 ROKPA friends celebrate 35 year anniversary of ROKPA in Zurich together with founder Lea Wyler and with children from the Children’s Home in Kathmandu.
Start of the ROKPA Permaculture Project at the Tara Rokpa Centre in Groot Marico, South Africa.
Beginning of the Circle of Nourishment Project in Cape Town, South Africa. Destitute mothers of premature babies receive support during their stay at the hospital and thereafter.
Merger of ROKPA INTERNATIONAL and ROKPA Switzerland. The newly elected President of ROKPA INTERNATIONAL is Lea Wyler.
After nearly 30 years of establishing, monitoring and sponsoring 457 projects there, this year sadly marks Lea Wyler’s last project trip to the Tibetan Areas of China.
Since the death of former President Akong Rinpoche in 2013, ROKPA’s engagement in the Tibetan areas of China has unfortunately become more difficult every year. But we don’t give up: we are currently continuing to support some projects in this region through our local partners.
Zimbabwe: ROKPA becomes the biggest funder and all projects are expanded.
Support of the Chikukwa Preschool in the remote eastern region of Zimbabwe begins.
Opening of the Akong Rinpoche Memorial Center in Kathmandu. Several dozen young people and women will receive training in the sectors of hospitality and textile crafts at the new Vocational Training Center.
Extension of ROKPA project activities in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The first batch of hospitality students finish their yearly training with a subsequent six months’ internship at partner hotels in Kathmandu. They have all received their government-approved certificate.
In Zimbabwe, ROKPA provides emergency support to the Chikukwa community following Cyclone Idai and additional support for post-trauma work with children and vulnerable families.
This marks the 40th anniversary of ROKPA.
In Nubri, near the Tibetan border a Waldorf Kindergarten for up to 70 children, built through ROKPA, has been completed and is inaugurated.
At Sundarijal near Kathmandu, the construction of a new Vocational Technical Training Center is ready to get started.
The organisation starts Emergency Food Programs in Nepal, Zimbabwe and South Africa, handing out large food parcels during the Corona crisis to tens of thousands of hungry people who have lost their jobs and to the destitute. In a township of Cape Town, also a community gardening is started and people are given art materials and internet data.
ROKPA INTERNATIONAL's Head Office is located in Zurich, Switzerland. The office is run by a team of six employees and supported by around 30 volunteers. The vision and work is also carried by ambassadors around the world who mainly have known Akong Rinpoche, ROKPA and Lea Wyler for many years. In the project countries, around 60 employees and 40 volunteers are engaged in the projects.
So far, ROKPA has been carrying out 460 projects in the Tibetan areas of China, 30 in Nepal and 30 in Africa. Furthermore, ROKPA has supported around 1,900 people through individual sponsorships in the past.