Location Rewalsar, India
Rewalsar (Tso Pema in Tibetan) is a small community of approximately 1,300 people, including 580 Tibetan refugees, situated in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh.
It is a place of pilgrimage thanks to its close association with Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) who lived in a cave above Rewalsar before leaving to introduce Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. Located on the banks of a beautiful lake Rewalsar is a thriving tourist town for both pilgrims and tourists.
Although well-established, the Tibetan community in Rewalsar faces two major problems which are having an impact on their ability to flourish and prosper.
Language & integration
Lack of language skills is a problem which is making earning a living difficult for many Tibetans in the town.
Many tourists come to Rewalsar for pilgrimage and tourism but, even with a good level of tourism in the town, local Tibetans still struggle to make a living from their craft stalls, tea shops, guesthouses and shops.
A lot of the Tibetan community in Rewalsar were nomads back in Tibet and never had any education. Arriving in India as adults they have had no opportunity to learn Hindi or English so now they get by on the little they have picked up along the way.
With poor skills in English and Hindi, they have trouble making the most of the opportunities tourism brings and also find it hard to mix with their Indian neighbours.
Looking to the future it is important to make sure the community in Rewalsar – young and old – have as many tools as possible so they can flourish.
To address these issues we are funding a community centre for Rewalsar to provide language classes, winter tuition for local children and a space for community events.
Language classes are being offered in Hindi and English and are open to both the Tibetan and local Indian community.
The conversational Hindi classes will help with interaction and connection with the local Indian population – and English will help Tibetan businesses make the most of the foreign tourism in the area.
The local communities will also be able to use the space for their own events – anything from film nights to jewellery making evenings and everything in between! These events at the centre encourage a sense of community help the Tibetan population mix more with their Indian neighbours.