Obituary: Thuten Kesang, unsung hero of Tibet

By Auckland Tibetan Association and Tibetans in New Zealand

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 24 May 2021

On Sunday 23 May 2021, Thuten Kesang QSM, loving husband, father, and grandfather, and ardent advocate of the Free Tibet movement, passed away at the age of seventy-six.

Thuten Kesang speaks on the occasion of Tibetan Uprising Day in Auckland, New Zealand, on 10 March 2020

Born in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 1944, he was sent to India by his parents in the mid-1950s before the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and later graduated from Dr Graham’s Homes, a Christian boarding school in Kalimpong.

He moved to New Zealand in 1967 and for many years was the only Tibetan in New Zealand. That said, from day one he started disseminating information about Tibet by giving interviews to Auckland Star and New Zealand Broadcasting. He actively took part in Tibetan Children Relief Society of New Zealand from 1967 and became its Treasurer, a position he held until his passing. TCRS sponsors hundreds of Tibetan children in India across TCV Dharamshala, and Tibetan Homes Foundation, Mussoorie.

In 1986, he founded the Friends of Tibet, New Zealand, and served as the President and was the political voice of Tibet in New Zealand. He also actively took part in Auckland Multicultural Society Inc, representing Tibet at its annual expos. He served in various capacities including President across various terms. He was also a life member at Browns Bay Racquet club. The name of one of his tennis teams, ‘Team Tibet’, inspired the title of the 2017 feature-length documentary on his life. His memoir Tibet – The Home I Left Behind but Will Never Forget, with foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was also released the same year.

Prior to the inception of Office of Tibet, Canberra, Thuten was appointed internally as Honorary Secretary of the Liaison Office of Tibet New Zealand by Pema Gyalpo in Japan 1989, then representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the Asia-Pacific region. Through that he set up the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand and all of His Holiness’s visits were overseen by the Trust.

Kesang served as the head of Tibetan Community in New Zealand from 1967 till 2015, and later as head of Auckland Tibetan Association till 2019. He facilitated the Tibetan language and culture weekend classes for Tibetan children in Auckland in 2020. He attended numerous conferences on Tibet worldwide, lobbied for Tibet in the Parliament in Wellington, and gained multiple supporters. He was also the Secretary/Treasurer of Dr Graham’s Homes in New Zealand Committee. Words fail to describe his selfless dedication and contribution to the Tibetan cause.

He was conferred numerous awards for a life of service:

  1. Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award, presented by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
  2. Queen’s Service Medal, awarded by the Government of New Zealand.
  3. Auckland City for Peace Award, by The Peace Foundation and Auckland Council.
  4. Certificate of Achievement, at the New Zealander of the Year Awards 2019.
  5. Unsung Heroes of Tibet Award, by Auckland Tibetan Association 2020.
  6. Awards at his tennis club.

The Auckland Tibetan Association, with Whangarei, Christchurch, Dunedin Tibetan Association, and Tibetans in Nelson, Tauranga, Wellington, as well as Tibetan Buddhist Centres across the country, express great sadness and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Gwendoline Kesang, daughters Tsering Kesang Pheasant, Elizabeth Kesang Gee and extended family. Thuten lived a life full of compassion and purpose. He was a proud and happy Tibetan-New Zealander, always ready to sing his favourite old Bollywood songs. We pray for his soul to rest in peace, and his consciousness to be reborn as a Tibetan under the realm of Avalokiteśvara.

Annual General Meeting

The Tibetan Children Relief Society of New Zealand AGM for 2020 was held on Sunday 9 August 2020 in Auckland.

People interested in finding out more about supporting Tibetan Refugee children are advised to browse the information on our website and read through the Testimonials from current and past sponsors.

New members are welcome to attend all TCRS meetings – as well as the AGM, the committee usually meets 3-4 times a year.

For further information contact sponsorship via our Contact Us page.

Tashi Delek to all our supporter friends

It’s my pleasure to share with you the warm inaugural ceremony of Two Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Plants this morning at 10’Clock September 4.

An initiative concern of General Secretary Mr. Karma Chungdak for children with many specific needs especially with the drinking waters. The high concentration of lime and other particles in the drinking water is inviting health issues with children mainly during rainy season.  The installation of the water plant will be boon to our children and staff as a precaution against many water borne diseases as we move ahead in our life journey.  We would like to thank Mrs. Heide Meyer and the German Aid to Tibetan Team (GAT) for their fund support towards the actualization of two water treatment plants with a capacity of 500 litres per hour.

It was a blessing when the General Secretary requested the student’s council captain and the prefects to inaugurate the plant and have the first water as a gift from Mrs. Heide Meyer and the GAT team. The ceremony was attended by all the management members, estate / development staff (who were involved in the installation of the plant) and the school captains, vice-captains and the prefects.

Please find below few photographs taken during the occasion.

A sincere thank you to all our friends for your unwavering support inspiring us to try to provide the best cultural upbringing to 1845 children under our care at Tibetan Homes Foundation.

Thank you once again for all the kind assistance.

Dekyi Wangmo (Mrs.)
Project Officer

“Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tibetan Homes Foundation Communications

We hope that you’ll enjoy the following excellent, informative communications that we’ve received from the Tibetan Homes Foundation.

  1. Tibetan Homes Foundation Newsletters:
    (a) 2018 Mid-year Newsletter (1.8mb)
    (b) 2018 Bi-Monthly Newsletter – May-June (14.6mb)
    (c) 2018 Bi-Monthly Newsletter – July-Aug (5.3mb)
    (d) 2018 Bi-Monthly Newsletter – Sept-Oct (4.1mb)

Thuten Receives a Certificate of Achievement

Thuten Receives a Certificate of Achievement at the 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala Dinner… for his work in the Tibetan Community.

Half a century ago New Zealand welcomed its first Tibetan refugee, Thuten Kesang.

Thuten was born and raised in Tibet, but the Chinese occupation of Tibet left him as an orphan and a refugee in India. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1967.

His association with the Auckland Multicultural Society began in 1989 when he was asked by the then President of AMS, to join them and represent the small Tibetan community that lives in Auckland. He became president of the society in 1993, a position he has held several times including currently.

In 2002 Thuten was awarded The Queen’s Service Medal as recognition of his work not only for Tibet (he is the Chairman of The Friends of Tibet NZ organisation) but also for the contribution he has made in promoting the multicultural society in New Zealand.

Thuten is also currently serving as Treasurer on the Committee of the Tibetan Children Relief Society.