Local clothing company goes international with nonprofit work

Photo by Celeste Raphael

Fayettechill Ozark Mountain Outfitters is looking to team up with University of Arkansas students to better the lives of exiled Tibetan refugees living in India.

The “Tibetan Tees” project, which is still in its infancy stage, will seek to create employment for Tibetan refugees and increase awareness of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, said Devin O’Dea, vice president of development at Fayettechill.

“This has been on my mind since I took a trip to India when I was still a student,” O’Dea said. “Many in the community we represent support Tibetan interests. We want to help better this community of Tibetans, while also making our community in America more aware of their situation.”

Photo by Dr. Sidney Burris

The project seeks to fund the machinery, materials, and education necessary for Tibetans to create high-quality t-shirts that will be sent to Fayetteville for screenprint treatment and other embellishments, O’Dea said. These shirts will then be sold as limited editions, and direct donations to the “Tutors for Tibetan Children” program will provided through the sales.

“The Tibetans set up the Doeguling Tibetan Settlement in Mundgod in 1966, and today, it is one of the largest concentrations of Tibetan refugees in the world, exceeding 13,000 Tibetans,” O’Dea added. “This project will provide supplementary education for Tibetan children in the camps in Mundgod.”

Fayettechill is collaborating with Tutors for Tibetan Children and Students for a Free Tibet to launch and maintain the project.

The Tutors for Tibetan Children program, which was established by Geshe Thupten Dorjee and Dr. Sidney Burris of the Tibetan Culture Institute of Arkansas, currently provides funding for children to have tutors. Since 2008, the program has funded four tutors for over 200 children annually.

Photo by Dr. Sidney Burris

Dorjee and Burris also helped organize Students for Free Tibet, a U of A student organization that organizes student trips to the refugee Tibetan communities in India.

“It was hard coming back to the states knowing that there wasn’t a lot we could do for them back here because, as students, we don’t have much to give, although some of us sponsor monks at the monastery in Mundgod,” said U of A student Wesley Clawson, who leads Students for Free Tibet. “The Tibetan Tees program is a way for us to give back to the community that gave us so much while we were there.”

O’Dea said he is hopeful they will be able to launch the project this year. To help with the project or hear more about it, contact O’Dea at [email protected].

“This project has an added benefit in that it also provides a supplementary income stream for parents that will be making the clothing, in addition to the direct donations to Tutors for Tibetan Children,” O’Dea said. “This project not only aims to boost educational opportunity, but also helps to alleviate the poverty that compromises the Tibetans’ quality of life in India.”