FSL-India organizes work camps every year from March-October, on Tibetan cultural aspects and the environmental issues of the western Himalayas (Dhauladhar range), in Dharamshala.
In this workcamp, we had 5 International volunteers from different nationalities, i.e. France, Italy, Poland, Costa Rica and 1 national volunteer from the southern part of India, from 9th – 29th October 2017. The project ran for 3 weeks with good coordination from the organization, assisting the volunteers to achieve the satisfaction and fulfillment they seek through volunteerism.
The volunteers actively took part in various activities in the Thotarani Government Primary School. The activities were playground extension, school wall painting, and educational paintings, cleaning the school grounds and waterfall clean-up drive with a local NGO.
McLeod Ganj – where His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama makes his home, the center of Tibetan independence. Arriving in McLeod Ganj from anywhere else in India, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d crossed a national border. As the road winds up from Dharamsala, the signs start to appear. “Free Tibet” is sprayed across a wall, “Tibet is not a part of China” on a banner at the side of the road, “Let’s get back to Tibet” stuck on a bus window.
The people have changed too, replaced by stocky Tibetans spinning prayer wheels and saffron-clad monks making their way to the temple. This is “Little Lhasa,” the Tibetans’ ‘home away from home’. A former hill station, McLeod Ganj is in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. It has become the center of the “Free Tibet” movement and home to not only the Dalai Lama but also the largest population of Tibetans outside their homeland.
FSL-India’s volunteers spread awareness to the public on ‘Keep Your City Clean’ by cleaning the Bhagsu waterfall with a local NGO called ‘Waste Warriors’.
The volunteers were also involved in other activities like creating awareness to the schoolchildren on health, hygiene, teaching them the capital cities of different countries on the world map, and assisting the teacher to teach basic English and Mathematics to the children. 70 children and 4 teachers benefited from this camp.
As part of their inter-cultural learning, the volunteers spent their time in sightseeing at the Palampur tea gardens near Dharamsala and during the second week of the camp, they had the unique opportunity to celebrate Diwali ( Festival of Lights ) with an Indian local family.
Diwali is the 5 day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and darkness. Houses are decorated with candles and colourful lights, and huge firework displays are held, while families feast and exchange gifts. One of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, Diwali, the festival of lights, sees millions attend firework displays, prayers, and celebratory events across the world, every autumn.
The volunteers participated with the locals in preparation for the festival by decorating the house premises with colourful rangoli, lighting the oil lamps and preparing traditional sweets. To light sparklers after offering prayers on top of the mountain with a local family, as part of Diwali celebrations organised by FSL-India in the Western Himalayas, made the volunteers so happy. It was a wonderful moment for them, with a different intercultural learning experience.
The volunteers also had the opportunity to interact with Tibetan monks and participated in a Tibetan cooking session. Although the volunteers were busy doing all of these activities, they had just enough spare time at the end of their stay to go on a sight-seeing excursion to a Hindu temple, Bhagsu waterfalls, the Dalai Lama temple, the Tibetan Museum, and the Tibetan children’s village community.
The volunteers also spent 4 days trekking to Triund. Overall, the volunteers had a very good time during this camp.