A Come Back to Give Back

By Philomène Franssen / March 31, 2017;

Volunteer Job at Lha: French teacher and Contact writer

Googling “organisations for Tibetan refugees in India” is what I did, Lha is what I found.

Earlier, India had been my adopted home for nine years and I was determined to return, but this time to put my teaching skills at the service of the Tibetan community.

My years in India have made me most sensitive to the questions of equality of chances, of birthrights, of injustice and human rights. I arrived in India as a teenager and left as an adult, I literally grew up here. India has moved me beyond words, in so many ways. I have seen the beautiful and the tragic here, moments or events that have left their mark on me. And yes, of course, India has also irritated me beyond words at times too.

philomene_french_teacher-1-300x264In 2015 I had started a new life in Cambodia, but going to work everyday felt like putting on the wrong pair of shoes and I realised I was missing out on what really mattered to me: working for refugee communities and advocating human rights. So I studied Forced Migration and Human Rights for a year, quit my well-paid teaching job and started looking for places where my skills, time and sincere heart for the plight of refugees would be helpful. Inevitably I thought of India and remembered that afternoon, years ago, when an Indian friend had taken me to Majnu ka Tilla in Delhi. Though I knew little about the story of the Tibetan people then, I fell in love with the place and was awe-struck by how well this community had integrated and adapted to Indian society while holding on so fervently to their culture and traditions. And that’s how years later I arrived at Lha to teach French, feeling everyday that I am serving a real purpose, helping dedicated Tibetan students to learn a language that they will put to use in their life, either to study or to become tour guides in this strikingly beautiful Himalayan region and thus hoping to make a decent living.

I have learned a great deal about the history of Tibet and Tibetans and am simply amazed at the kindness of Tibetans, whose stories are the incarnation of resilience. “Compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self discipline” are the core human values promoted by His Holiness the Dalaï Lama. Well, I did not meet one Tibetan who does not embody all these, which will remain a lifelong lesson for me.

So, as I am about to pack, I will take away with me a heart filled with gratitude for what I have learned and felt here thanks to all the wonderful people, staff and students, who make Lha exist and thrive.