Lha depends on the goodwill of volunteers and monetary and material donations for it to provide essential rehabilitation resources to the exiled Tibetan community. Lha is a non-profit organization solely dependent on monetary contributions from philanthropic corporations and generous individuals. In India, even a little goes a long way, and a lot goes very far!

Account Name: Lha Charitable Trust
Account Number: 2517000101008335
Swift Code: PUNBINBBPAR
Bank Name: The Punjab National Bank
Branch: Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P

Payable to: Lha Charitable Trust
Lha Office Temple Road, Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, 176219
Distt Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

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Cultural Exchange Program

HISTORY

In 2002, Lha was asked by the Tulane University School of Social Work to assist a group of graduate social work students on an international social work exchange to Dharamsala. We facilitated the students' engagement in social work projects within the Tibetan refugee and the local Indian communities, and our Cultural Exchange Program was born. We have been welcoming growing numbers of visiting school groups each year. By 2008 we had worked with seven groups, which grew to eleven in 2009. Since then, the number of student groups kept growing. In 2014, fifteen groups of university and high-school students from abroad, mainly from the USA, joined this program. We now have from 150 to 200 students participating each year.

Currently, Lha works with student groups every summer from the Tulane School of Social Work, Tulane University, Centenary College, Loyola University, Rustic Path Way, Lifework International and other US universities and high schools and also Mexican univerisity. Most student groups come between May and the end of September (though other months are available) and stay anywhere between one week to one month.

WHAT WE CAN DO

The Cultural Exchange Program involves each visiting student pairing off with a 'Mutual Learning Partner' – a Tibetan English language student at Lha. Most of the students are not fluent in English but they are all very enthusiastic about learning and sharing their knowledge with others. They can share stories about their lives and experiences. Most of the students are between the ages of 20 and 40. Visiting students get to visit the homes of their new friends, meet members of their family, and make friends in the Tibetan refugee community.

Lha can arrange lectures from well-known professionals in the evenings on particular topics like the political situation of Tibet, social status of Tibetans in Tibet and of Tibetans in exile, Tibetan medicine, and Tibetan Buddhism and culture.

Lha also offers classes on Tibetan language, Tibetan cooking, Tibetan arts, yoga, and massage treatment to visitors and group students. Exchange groups, or individuals within the group, can arrange lessons based on their interests.

Lha can also arrange small local projects for the cultural exchange students to participate in. Our community can benefit from projects such as environmental clean-up and awareness initiatives, health workshops, working in the community soup kitchen and assisting the local elderly. Longer term projects may include facilitating Lha's Dental Program or Eye Care Program. We can also work with many other local organizations to create projects that coincide with the themes and needs of the exchange program.

For exchange groups staying at Lha's Ahimsa House, we provide meals, including breakfast and dinner. Meals will be served buffet-style, with five to seven different dishes offered including vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and dessert. We serve a variety of different foods, including traditional Tibetan food, so students can experience the delicious Tibetan cuisine.

Another option is for exchange groups to participate in the Home Stay program. The Home Stay program gives exchange students the unique opportunity to live with a Tibetan family in the community and experience the culture, traditions and lifestyle of Tibetans in exile. Students eat meals and participate in the daily life of their host family. Applicants should be aware that the living standards of the local Tibetan community may be lower than what they are accustomed to.

Upon your arrival in India, Lha can pick up your group at the Delhi airport and arrange comfortable and safe accommodation during your stay in Delhi. If you would prefer to arrange your own accommodation we can give recommendations. Lha will arrange local tours to places like Norbulingka, Gyoto monastery, Tibetan Children's Village School, the Tibetan museum, Tsuglakhang temple, the Tibetan library, the Central Tibetan Administration, and Men Tse Khang Tibetan Medical Institute to help students learn more about Tibetan culture and life in exile.

PROGRAM PURPOSE

The Cultural Exchange Program provides Tibetan students with the opportunity to practice their English conversational skills while giving international volunteers a meaningful experience connecting with local refugees. Lha offers multiple language classes in English and other languages daily, which focus on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. These classes are taught by long-term international volunteers. Unfortunately, students rarely have the opportunity to practice and improve their conversational fluency. Through the Cultural Exchange Program, Lha pairs exchange students with volunteers for two to three hours per day, to work on English conversational ability and pronunciation.

As an international Cultural Exchange student, you learn more about Dharamsala and the Tibetan way of life in a mutually beneficial relationship which fosters a deeper cultural understanding. Each Tibetan refugee’s life has been altered by the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and they each have a unique story to tell. The decision to leave Tibet is always a difficult one; life in exile has many costs as well as potential benefits. Tibetans in exile have religious freedom but must leave behind friends, family and livelihoods. We hope that through conversations with their Tibetan partners, attending lectures on Tibetan issues, and through participation in local projects, each Cultural Exchange student will learn more about Tibetan culture, the political situation in Tibet, and what life is like for a refugee.

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Lha is a non-profit, non-governmental, grassroots social work organization located in Dharamsala, India. Lha was founded in 1997 and in 2005 was registered as a non-profit and charitable trust in Himachal Pradesh. Every year we submit our income statements to the Indian Income-Tax Department and undergo an audit. The following are our financial statements from 2005 to 2011 fiscal years, which have already been reviewed. Following the financial statements are graphical representations of some of the key aspects we would like to highlight.

Lha's commitment is to help the Tibetan people survive and prosper in their new home of Dharamsala and to preserve their profoundly unique culture. The means to which we have been able to accomplish these goals has changed over the years. In 2005, as a young organization, Lha had few assets. Lha has steadily grown since then, and now occupies two buildings, which house our classes, soup kitchen, social services and volunteer and exchange student group accommodations. In 2005 Lha had seven full time employees, which has since expanded to nine. The notable increase in wage expenses between 2009 and 2011 reflects the decision to provide a livable wage to the Tibetan employees.

Lha took on the responsibility to pay rent for the operations building during the 2009 financial year, after the purchasing of the new Ahimsa House building, and becoming more financially stable. Since 2005 we have slowly been accumulating assets for the language classes, computer courses and social services which function out of the building, such as computers for our offices and classes, and books and teaching resources for the community libraries.

In 2007 Lha began the process of acquiring a four story building, the Ahimsa House, to house a community soup kitchen and volunteer accommodation. In May 2011 Lha used the remaining funds from the corpus receipt and capital fund to make the final payment on the Ahimsa House. This will be reflected in the financial statement for the 2012 financial year. We began working on the community soup kitchen project in 2010 and officially opened it in 2011. Since 2007 Lha has also purchased many furnishings and appliances for the volunteer accommodations. The donations from Exchange students and volunteers staying in Lha’s accommodations have also created a new source of income for Lha. In the future, Lha hopes that the donations raised from visitors in these accommodations, in conjunction with cultural exchanges and visitors services, will create a stable and sustainable financial foundation for the organization.

The Annual Report, written by Lha’s Director, Ngawang Rabgyal, sets out the aims of the organization, the year’s developments and the latest financial position. It also illustrates the diversity of the social programs provided, and the numbers of students who have benefited from these services. These achievements could not have been reached without the generosity of the volunteers and the dedication of the students and Lha’s employees.

Lha’s primary goal is to provide meaningful social services, such as free education, computer skills courses, vocational training, health and environmental education and service, volunteer coordination, cultural exchanges, free books, medicine and clothing distribution. The services of Lha are open to Tibetan refugees as well as the local Indian population and people from the Himalayan regions.