Volunteering with Lha

It was a long, hard trek getting to McLeodGanj and I am grateful for the help of Lha’s Reception/Orientation .I arrived in Delhi exhausted from two overnight flights and was relieved to see someone waiting who knew where I wanted to go. A very friendly driver was pleased to take me zipping through the chaos. Traffic in India must be seen to be believed but somehow we arrived, without traffic lanes or regard for stop lights, at a guesthouse. Also arranged by Lha’s reception/orientation it was in the Tibetan community of Delhi and from here I took a bus, a third overnight trip.

A representative from Lha provided my ticket and took me to the bus stop. After a night on the “Volvo deluxe bus” I arrived in McLeodGanj and was met by Lha’s volunteer coordinator, Rabsel. Pretty much unconscious by my third morning of nonstop travel, it was great to be expected and wonderful to have a place to go. Rabsel took me to Ahimsa house, a small guesthouse for volunteers run by Lha where I had arranged for a room. I thought the room was heaven that first morning. The hard pillow and even harder bed frame under a pad maybe two inches thick decreased my opinion when I finally woke up. Still, for 8,000 rupees a month I had a large room with a toilet and shower and I shared a kitchen and sitting room with other volunteers. Even with everything uphill from Ahimsa house it was a bargain in so many ways. In McLeodGanj everything is either uphill or downhill but it is all walk able. The Orientation part of Lha’s reception/orientation was Rabsel and I on a walking tour of McLeodGanj and a trip to the Norblunka monastery. Rabsel showed me around town, the cafes, the temples the ATMS. He explained where each road out of town went. It was a joy to take a walk with such an energetic, open hearted and thoughtful person as Rabsel. I found Lha Charitable Trust Reception/Orientation completely worth the cost. McLeodGanj is hard to get to but it was worth the effort. I wanted to live in a community not just see the sights and working with Lha Charitable Trust I became part of the volunteer community that lived at Ahimsa house, a diverse group of travelers all of us in McLeod for a month or more all working on one of Lha’s many projects for the Tibetan refugees.

I was welcomed into the Tibetan community by Rabsel, Nawang and all the Tibetans at Lha conversation class but most of all by Tsomo and Domcho, two young Tibetan women who wanted to learn English. My volunteer assignment was to tutor them. Smart and eager to learn, they went to beginners English class at Lha before meeting me every day. Warm, generous and inviting they brought me to their home where they always tried to feed me. They gave me tea, never letting my cup empty. On my last day I brought gifts. I tried to say a final goodbye, they insisted on coming to see me off on my bus. My bus left at 6:30 am but they kept insisting so instead I agreed to meet at Lha’s office that evening for a last goodbye. When we met each of them put a white scarf around my neck, blessing me. Then they presented me with a Tibetan woven shawl. It is very pretty, the perfect color and cost probably all of the rupees in my gift. Tsomo and Domcho signed up for another tutor while we were at Lha’s office but had to go to the bottom of the list to wait for one. Lha Charitable Trust is doing something worthwhile and I feel fortunate to have been able to contribute. I brought away so much more than I gave.