Lha is unique in the range and quality of services it offers. These include free English, French, Spanish and Chinese classes, cultural exchange programs, IT classes, vocational training, health and environmental awareness education, a wide array of volunteer opportunities, distribution of clothes and medicine, a community kitchen and many other programs and activities. Through these rehabilitation resources and educational services Lha facilitates an easy transition for the Tibetan refugee community to India. On a daily basis Lha serves over 250 people, hosts between 15 and 25 volunteers and provides up to 19 different services including on average 35-50 meals per day for financially disadvantaged people.
English Language classes have been taking place at Lha since 1999. Currently there are 160 to 170 students per month participating in English language classes at Lha.
Lha offers five levels of English, ranging from elementary to advanced classes. Each class level lasts for a period of three months, during which time students must complete the entire course before they are able to progress to the next level. A set text book for each of the five English levels from Cambridge is provided for each student.
Lha also offers daily English conversation classes. The aim of the conversation sessions is to improve the students' speaking level and confidence and provide a friendly atmosphere to exchange stories and share in cultural understanding with western volunteers. Students of the pre-intermediate, intermediate, and advanced English levels are encouraged to attend this daily one-hour session.
All of our language classes are available to students of all ages from within the Tibetan refugee community and the local Indian community. Most of the English language students are young adults and adults from Tibet, often including monks and nuns.
The main motivation for Tibetans' interest in learning the English language a strong desire to go back to Tibet. Many Tibetans feel it is important to know English to gain better employment opportunities. Some people, especially monks and nuns, are also interested in learning English in order to translate Tibetan issues, culture, and religion to the world.
In additions, Lha also offers Chinese classes and we teach 35 to 40 students per month. Three different levels are available - beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Each class is an hour long and takes place each day, Monday through Friday.
French classes have been on offer at Lha since 2003. We currently teach 20 to 30 students per day three levels – beginner and Advanced. Classes are taught for an hour each day from Monday to Friday.
Although there is not enough interest at present in Spanish and German classes, we offer one-to-one tuition in these languages to meet the demand within our community.
Lha is the only institution in Dharamsala which provides free, comprehensive, and wide-ranging computer courses to the community at large. Lha has a very well-established and successful computer training program which aims to provide students with viable job skills. Lha provides two levels of computer training – beginner and intermediate.
In the beginner class, teachers instruct students in typing, internet access, sending emails and Microsoft Word. In the intermediate computer class, instruction focuses on gaining proficiency in Microsoft Excel, and Adobe PageMaker and Photoshop. We have 20 to 30 students each month in our computer courses. The computer school at Lha offers 15 full scholarships every month and charges a fee of Rs.500 (US$11) per month to those students who are able to pay. In the past, Lha has offered full scholarships to exiled Tibetans associated with other NGOs such as the Tibetan Women's Association, Tibetan Youth Congress, Regional Youth Congress, the Kunphen Center, the Tibetan Welfare Office and many others. Lha also organizes special IT training courses when professional IT visitors volunteer at the organization.
On July 6th, 2011, Lha opened its Community Soup Kitchen at its new building, Ahimsa House. The Ahimsa House is divided into residential apartments where long-term Lha international volunteers and cultural exchange students can stay. Two such apartments were converted to the space for the dining hall and the actual kitchen is below. The opening of the kitchen commemorated the 76th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The day was celebrated with a healthy lunch cooked at the kitchen and fresh water from the newly installed water filtration system. This is the first soup kitchen in Dharamsala that serves low-cost and nutritious meals to the Tibetan refugee community. Approximately 35-50 needy refugees will be able to take advantage of this service everyday for a nominal fee of 15 Rupees per person per meal. Meals will be completely free for those who cannot afford to pay this amount.
Lha is seeking monetary support to help sustain the community kitchen, which serves a variety of purposes, both long and short term. The kitchens first and foremost objective is to provide refugees with low-cost and nutritious meals while educating them about healthy eating and living. The kitchen will also serve as a space where refugees who are interested in working in the restaurant and service industry may receive formal training. This vocational training will help refugees get jobs either in India or abroad. The dining room may also act as a space for events such as educational workshops.
The Lha community kitchen project started in 2009 with the support of several key fundraisers. Anoop Jain a student from the U.S along with The Verein Tibetfreunde group from Switzerland contributed to the initial phase of the project. Additionally, former volunteers Milton and Mimi Burke introduced us to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Arkansas, USA, as a means to sustain the operation of the kitchen long-term. Lha continues to receive monthly donations from them.
Lha collects clothing, medicine, and other materials from tourists for re-distribution to the needy. Around 100 articles of clothing per month are distributed to the needy, especially to the slums in lower Dharamsala and local villages. Through the Dharamsala Rotary Club, Lha also distributes to needy people in the Tibetan community.
Lha distributes medicine to Tibetans and other NGOs and hospitals in the Dharamsala area. In particular, we have been integral in the provision of medicine and healthcare to patients suffering from leprosy, which is a widespread problem in the region. Lha also provides health education about AIDS, sexual health and other medical issues.
Lha is now incorporating simple health information into its English language classes to teach students health-related vocabulary, in efforts to improve communication between doctors, pharmacists/chemists, and patients. Most Indian doctors and pharmacists speak English, and the ability to communicate health problems to care givers relies on English as a common language. Thus, a thorough vocabulary and effective communication of symptoms in English are essential to receiving proper medical care.
LHA is also training Tibetans in the community to be translators during medical office visits. If you are a health practitioner and could assist in training translators or you would like to give general health lectures to interested Tibetans please contact us.
Lha has a community library, located in McLeod Ganj. Lha's library are the only collections of books available to the community in these locations.
Our McLeod Ganj library is well stocked with teaching aids for volunteer teachers and also houses a good collection of novels and non-fiction literature. In addition, the library contains a section dedicated to books about the fundamentals of Buddhism, meditation and happiness. Borrowing is free for all.
The library is a comfortable room equipped with a sofa and chairs, providing a quiet location for people to read or study. The library offers filtered water for Rs. 5, and is also an official distribution outlet for the renowned (and free) Contact Magazine, a Dharamsala community publication.
Lha also set up a new community library in Tso Pema (Rewalsar), which opened on September 31st, 2006. The library provides books and information for the local population about all things Tibetan. There is space for people to meet and have chai at the drop-in room. The library contains a good fiction section, and books on a multitude of subjects.
Tso Pema is a place of pilgrimage for both Tibetans and Sikhs. A place of beauty with friendly and welcoming people, it contains a sacred lake, three Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and many caves, one of which a Tibetan Buddhist monk has lived in for over 20 years. Currently, a new statue of Guru Rinpoche is being built.
If you should be fortunate enough to visit Tso Pema, please consider either donating your time, books, magazines or anything else that you may have that is useful to the new Lha library at Tso Pema. All donations will be gratefully received. Please smile at everyone!
Lha initiates environmental awareness activities to get students actively involved in the green movement. The types of projects Lha organizes have included community cleanups around Mcleod Ganj, installation of garbage bins with the help of students, and wildlife conservation education.
We are working toward a cleaner, safer Dharamsala. Our volunteers help to educate others about the importance of keeping the environment clean. If you are interested in helping, please drop by our offices.
Lha has organized three basic photography courses in the past year. These classes were open to anyone who expressed an interest and were taught by professional photographers from abroad. So far thirty-two participants have enrolled and many more have expressed an interest. At the end of the course, the participants were able to display their work 'Lha Photography Exhibit.
Starting in 2010, Lha's clean water project continues to provide clean filtered water to Tibetan communities. The purpose of installing these clean water systems is to ensure that people can access free, filtered water, thus helping to keep the community healthy into the future.
The filter unit is an RO+UV+ UF and TTS, considered one of the best filtered water systems available in the area. It will provide more than 100 liters of clean and safe drinking water per hour to the students and their teachers and staff members, while the stainless steel tank is capable of storing 500 liters of water.
The water is used not only for drinking but also for cooking, thereby improving the quality of food served at the schools. Additionally, a water cooler providing instant hot and cold filtered water was installed with funds provided directly by Lha. We expect these improvements will help alleviate some of the water-borne illnesses children commonly suffer from in this region, especially during the monsoon season, and that it will contribute to maintaining a high level of general health among students.
Eye Exams and Dental Program
In September 2009, Lha implemented a free eye-testing program for Tibetan refugees who reside in Dharamsala. Lha worked in conjunction with several doctors and optometrists who performed preliminary testing at Lha's office, conducted detailed testing at Delek Hospital and prepared prescriptions for those who required glasses. Lha was able to provide 115 check-ups and distribute 100 pairs of glasses every year.
Lha continues its eye-testing program and hopes to fit 200 more people with high-quality prescription glasses.
During 2011, Lha began to provide dental health care to members of the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala and 35 to 50 people benefit from this service.
Contact Magazine is a free monthly magazine published by Lha. It has been a popular source for Tibetan issues and community information in Dharamsala for over 14 years. It is one of the longest-running Tibetan publications in the area and provides local residents and international visitors with news and resources relevant to the Dharamsala community. Seven hundred to 1,000 copies of the magazine are published every month and distributed free of charge around the community with 85% read by visitors to the region. www.contactmagazine.net.
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