Letter from a Former Lha Volunteer: My Time with Lha

 

Erika Patho (Belgium)

Seen through the eyes of a foreigner interested in Tibetan Buddhism and culture, Dharamsala—the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama—always evoked some special, unique and spiritual feeling in me. Having spent the past eight years with various studies and readings about Tibet, I was very eager to meet Tibetan people and become useful to their community.

Given my experience with development issues and my current studies, I decided in January 2012 that I would travel to McLeod Ganj and make my long-term dream a reality. Among all the organizations I contacted, Lha provided me with the handiest and most practical information. Soon after our first emails, I felt attached and could not wait to arrive. Watching videos, reading articles, and imagining myself walking the streets of McLeod Ganj made me feel already involved with the Tibetan community.
After spending some days in Delhi, I finally arrived to McLeod after an exciting journey on the twisting roads up to the Himalayan foothills. The welcoming of Lha, their guidance and the introduction to the Tibetan society was a stunning experience for me. I knew on my first day that I was going to have a wonderful time. The four weeks I spent here were filled with an interesting mixture of official research, unofficial talks, impressions and feelings, all of which helped me to get to know Tibetans better by finding out more about the realities they face.
I spent my days visiting the offices of Tibetan NGOs engaged in political, social and human rights issues. I experienced the most welcoming reception and I am very grateful to all people who were always here for my never-ending questions. Thanks to you, I got on a new path to know you better, not merely from books and teachings, but by getting some real-life experience. Through my engagement, I aim to offer a long-term assistance to Lha and to do my best in the West to raise further awareness about the Tibetan cause. I praise Tibetan culture very much and I admire your determination to fight for your identity. Given your uniqueness and spiritualism, I urge you not to change for the political games of the West and to keep up your values and spirits, no matter what.
Thank you for this amazing experience of involving me in your community life here! I hope to see you again.