All the full-time and part-time employees at Lha are themselves refugees. They live and socialize with other refugees, and they fully understand from firsthand experience what is needed to help other displaced individuals become rehabilitated and integrated into the community.
Lha provides a vast array of free services to refugees with the aim of facilitating an easy transition into the community. Some of these services include:
We are a self-sufficient organization and we rely on and welcome volunteers to come and assist us. We cover our costs by offering volunteers and tourists services such as courses in the Tibetan language, massage therapy, cooking, arts, and yoga. Our impact has been immense; we help between 350-400 people per day. We are expanding at such a rate that we are now opening a second premises which will house, amongst other things, a community kitchen.
Lha Charitable Trust - McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India
Due to the resounding success of our free eye testing program last year, Lha wants to make the project ongoing, with the next implementation effort beginning in 2012, and continuing each year after. This eye testing will form part of our Health and Hygiene Services & Education Program. Last year, we had a small surplus budget which we used to offer all residents of McLeod Ganj (both refugees and other Indian locals) free eye testing, and for those requiring them, free glasses. The project was so popular that we exceeded our budget much earlier than expected. We determined that this service would be beneficial to the community as a long term project after it became apparent that there were many people in McLeod Ganj who had never had their eyes tested.
It was apparent from the number of people who had come to us complaining of eye-sight problems that there was a real need to provide the opportunity for people to get their eyes tested. We calculated that we had a small budget – just over $2000 USD – which we could use to fund testing and, where necessary, the provision of glasses.
We contacted local eye doctors and identified many who were enthusiastic about participating in our project. We developed a plan for one doctor to perform preliminary testing at our office, another local doctor at Delek Hospital to perform more detailed testing to those individuals who failed the preliminary test, and finally for an optometrist to prepare prescriptions for those who required glasses.
After coordinating with these local eye doctors and experts, we notified the public through word of mouth and advertising that we would be commencing free eye testing in September, 2009.
Our aim, based on available funds, was to assist 120 local Tibetan and Indian people in the acquisition of eyeglasses.
Word of mouth spread amongst the Tibetan and Indian community and we were inundated with people wanting to get their eyes tested.
People streamed into the office for the preliminary test. Those that required further testing were then taken to Delek Hospital where a local eye doctor carried out more stringent testing, and provided a prescription for those individuals that required glasses. We then went to the optometrist where the individual needing glasses was able to choose their own frame design.
Delek Hospital also graciously provided some prescription glasses free of charge. This allowed us to put more people through the eye testing program. The plan was to offer the program up until the end of October 2009, but unfortunately we exceeded our budget and had to terminate the program in late September.
All of the people who acquired glasses as a result of our eye examinations were very happy with the outcome. We received many wonderful comments about how much their lives had improved by having their poor vision corrected. Needless to say, it was a very rewarding and satisfying experience.
We surpassed our aim of helping 120 individuals get glasses. By the end of September, less than a month after we had started the project, we were able to help 145 people get fitted for prescription glasses. After seeing the positive results in the community, demand for the eye-examination program has increased dramatically.
What we realized from this is that there is a real need to offer this service in an ongoing capacity to the community. The positive results of the project and the public desire for continuation of this service have driven us to implement the program by 2012.
Lha’s work is continually evolving. Because the work of our organization is dependent on the needs of the community, we are constantly re-evaluating our programs and seeking new forms of funding to provide the most effective service. In order to actualize projects like the eye-testing program to completion, further funding is needed. Both refugees and locals have benefited from this service and we know that there are many more people who need glasses but do not have money to pay for the testing costs independently. Furthermore, we are aware that those who have already benefited from our eye testing program will need to update their prescription glasses in the future.
We are hoping to raise funds to provide the eye testing program for local Tibetan and Indian people by 2012, with an aim to create a permanent eye-testing service.
The community has and continues to benefit from the work and services we provide.
a) Between July 2003 and September 2010, over 17,000 individuals have directly benefited from the services we provide.
b) Lha’s rental premises are owned by a co-operative made up of over 400 Tibetan families. The 10,000 USD yearly incomes garnered from these properties directly aids in the prosperity of these families.
c) In 2008 alone we distributed over 30,000 books to Tibetan and local schools, libraries and individuals.
We work with other local organizations to assist exiled Tibetans. Our “Outreach Program” provides self-sustaining clean water to the local community, benefiting both Tibetans and local Indians. Each year we endeavor to improve and expand our services so that Tibetans in exile in McLeod Ganj may prosper.
Lha Charitable Trust's Website: http://www.lhasocialwork.org/