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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Finding a calling in Tibet

In high school, Peter Richards, now a senior photography major at NMU, made a list of 300 things he wanted to do before he died. On that list were several things you’d expect to see from a high school student: graduate from college, have a family, travel.

No. 15 was climb Mt. Everest. But what Richards didn’t know was that this wish would wind up leading him to an orphanage full of children who would change his life forever.

Richards enrolled at NMU, unsure of what he wanted to do, but knowing that he wanted to work in the field of photography. During an Outdoor Recreation class his freshman year, Bill Thompson, co-owner of Down Wind Sports in Marquette, gave a slideshow presentation about traveling to Tibet for the first time and about climbing Mt. Everest.

It was then that Richards saw an opportunity to complete his fifteenth wish, and he spoke to Thompson about going to Tibet.

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“I did several slideshows; one of those slideshows was at Northern, where Peter came up to me after and said ‘If you go back, I’d like to go,” Thompson said. “And that’s how we hooked up for the second trip.”

The following fall, Richards got his chance. Thompson organized a group of people to travel to Mt. Everest. Their goal was to reach camp three, which is 22,500 feet above sea level. However, during the assent, Richards said his metabolism sped up too much, and he wasn’t able to make it to camp three, so the group climbed back down the mountain.

After returning to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, the group toured the city with their guide, Lakba. Richards said that Lakba, after seeing Richards taking a large amount of photographs, thought he worked for National Geographic and told him they should all go see an orphanage in the city.

“I wanted to make a photo story for an internship I was applying for,” Richards said. “I thought this would be a good opportunity.”

Lakba took them to the Dickey Orphanage, which was home to 80 children, all of whom slept three or four to a bed and had only one bathroom to share between all of them.

Thompson remembered being taken aside by the director of the orphanage.

“She gave me this three-week-old baby and had me sit down with him,” Thompson said. “He was purring like a kitten. If I could have taken him home with me, I would have. He’d been abandoned in a public toilet.”

As the children ate lunch, Richards’ said he walked around taking pictures.

“I knew this was the story I was trying to find,” Richards said. “It impacted me so much. My favorite kid was this little 2-year-old boy named Tendhar. He was a little, crazy boy. He had these super-intense eyes. They were worldly, aged eyes.

“I took a ton of pictures there,” he added. “That was when I really become a photographer and a photo journalist.”

The group was only able to stay at the orphanage for one day. However, that one day was enough to leave a lasting impression on Richards.

Now, he is working on starting a non-profit group called the Global Orphan Fund (GOF). His goal is to start the non-profit after he graduates from Northern. GOF’s mission will be to help educate orphans from all over the world and provide them the tools they need to become successful adults in their own societies.

“We’re not out to change them,” Richards said. “We don’t want to Westernize anybody.”

The orphanage also left an impression on Thompson, who began putting a donation jar out during his slideshows so people could donate to the orphanage if they wanted to.

Over the next three years, with donations from the jar, as well as from Marquette businesses and individuals, they raised $5,000.

Sten Fjeldhiem, head coach of the ski team, donated old NMU ski team jackets to the orphanage.

“I’m a little bit of a softie when it comes to kids,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to send them someplace where they would get a good use out of them. I couldn’t think of any better place than Tibet. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a Tibetan skier someday.”

Thompson, Richards, and a few others went back to the orphanage last August to present them with the $5,000. When they arrived, they discovered that the orphanage had moved to a much better location just outside Lhasa, which could adequately provide for the 80 children it was home to.

Because of the Olympics, there were many demonstrations and riots in Tibet, so tourism was down, Thompson said, adding that as a result, the orphanage wasn’t receiving as many donations.

“That’s the way the orphanage survives — tourists bringing them money and donating it to them,” Thompson said.

He added that the orphanage had to take out several loans to pay for the new building, and the $5,000 was a much needed gift.

“When we presented the money to them, the director of the orphanage broke down crying,” Thompson said.

And though the second trip to the orphanage was a short one, Thompson said it was nice to see all the kids again.

“The three-week boy was now a three-year-old toddler running around. It was just special,” he said.

Richards said the orphanage has left him with a different outlook on life.

“We’re all human, we’re all valuable, and we are worthy of an education and help,” Richards said. “It doesn’t have to be huge. You don’t have to give somebody one million dollars. It can be holding the door for somebody, or saying hi. Being positive helps out the world.”

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