From June 25th to July 15th I was in India on a Lifeworks International service and cultural immersion program. During the trip, the group and I worked alongside such organizations as Talk Tibet, Lha Social Work Organization, Tibetan Children’s Villages, and The Tibetan Immersion Program. The beginning of the group’s service was dedicated to learning about the Tibetan refugee situation with a concentration on those in Dharamsala, India. As well as watching movies and documentaries about Tibet, we met with numerous speakers, which included a member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, an expert on Chinese torture, and a well known poet and protester for a free Tibet, and had the chance to have open conversations with them on the important issues that concern Tibetans. Another part of our service other than learning about the issues of Tibet was interacting with the Tibetan community in Dharamsala by teaching them English. Every morning we met one-on-one with a student enrolled at Lha and helped them improve their English language skills for three hours. We walked around the town with them, visited their homes, listened to popular American music, wrote and read stories, and simply got to know each other. Then, in the afternoon we would head off to the Tibetan Children’s Villages and there we assembled into small groups and taught English to a classroom of children, ranging from the ages of 3 to 16.
This trip was rewarding beyond belief. English is a crucial tool in India in furthering one’s opportunities because a comprehensive understanding of and ability in English is necessary for an overwhelming amount of the jobs available in India. In this small way in three weeks we were able to assist Tibetan exiles; however, I felt that we learned much more from them. Not only were we immersed into their way of life, but we gained an understanding of the issues Tibetans have been dealing with and all of us were eager to spread this new awareness back at home. My knowledge of the Tibetan exile situation was almost nonexistent when I had arrived in India, but now I find myself absorbed with the issue as well as both Tibetan and Indian culture. In addition, on this trip I was given the chance to personally connect to people on the other side of the world in a way I never thought possible. The classroom of children that I taught became like a close circle of friends to me. Through dances, games, songs, and drawings all of us bonded and developed a strong relationship despite the large language barrier and cultural differences. Lastly, this trip introduced me to the hundreds of thousands of hard working volunteers and reformers who are deeply dedicated to the Tibetan cause. Their resolve and enthusiasm was astounding and truly pushed me to want to do more volunteer work around the world.
Lifeworks India: http://www.lifeworks-international.com/india/overview.php