LWB Community Blog

Yak Delivery on the Tibetan Plateau

Back in April of this year, we learned about a little boy named Samuel from the Tibetan Plateau who needed cleft lip and palate repair surgery.

TibetanfamilySamuel (center) with his family

Samuel traveled with his uncle (left) and his father (right) from their remote home to our Cleft Medical Exchange in Kaifeng, Henan.

Samuel, uncle left, father right-1290

During routine pre-op tests, it was discovered that Samuel’s iron level was lower than we would want before a child has surgery. After speaking with his family, our Cleft Team discovered that, like most other children living on the high Tibetan plateau, Samuel’s diet consisted mostly of barley flour and tea.

Samuel Father 4.15

After many discussions and polite refusals due to the family’s unwillingness to accept charity, the father finally accepted our offer to help the family buy several yaks. Goats cannot live at the high altitude of Samuel’s home, and the entire family would benefit from the milk the yaks produced.

Tibetan yak

Yak milk is high in fat and is made into butter and cheese and mixed with tea to make a thick drink which is high in calories. Other parts of the yak are useful as well. Yak hair is used for weaving clothing and blankets, and yak dung is used to heat a family’s home all winter long since there are very few trees on the plateau to provide wood. Owning a small herd of yaks can change everything about life for a family on the Tibetan Plateau, providing food, clothing, and warmth during the long winters. A family of six people really needs to have five yaks in order to get enough milk and butter for the entire year. Our sponsors enthusiastically stepped up to help, and we were able to purchase five yaks for Samuel’s family!

Purchasing yaks ended up being a much more involved process than we had ever anticipated. We had to work around the travel schedule of our contact in that area (a kind man named Xiao Bao), the month-long caterpillar fungus harvest season, and long distances to gather the yaks. Five yaks were purchased from a local farmer, but then Samuel’s father had to walk for ten days to bring the yaks from the mountains to their home. After signing a contract with the farmer promising that he wouldn’t sell or kill the yaks for five years, Samuel’s father began the long walk home with his yaks — down from the mountains and over bridges like the one pictured below.

Tibetan bridge

Since female yaks only produce milk after having a calf, the farmer recommended that we purchase a mother and baby yak, a four-year- old yak that is currently pregnant, and two four-year-old females. The females can have babies every two years, and so all of these female yaks ensure that Samuel’s family will have milk every year.

We are also very happy to let you know that Samuel is recovering very well from his cleft lip and palate repair and is absolutely adorable!

Samuel 8.15

And the story isn’t over yet! Because of the tremendous outpouring of compassion for this family, enough funds were raised to purchase more yaks for other families whose circumstances are as challenging as Samuel’s.

Tibetan Plateau yaks

We cannot even begin to express our gratitude for the generosity you have shown. Your donation will not only benefit Samuel’s family for years to come, but also allow other families to know the kindness of strangers.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. ~Amelia Earhart

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