The workshops in the Tibetan Settlement
The majority of Tibetan refugees live mainly in the 52 settlements scattered across India. Some of these are big settlements that enjoy a successful infrastructure while many are situated in remote locations and are financially unstable. Some Tibetans also live in clusters in the small Indian towns doing petty business. But irrespective of where they live, one fact remains true for everyone that they live in small communities surrounded by the local Indian communities. Even within the Tibetan communities there are people of different financial, educational and ancestral backgrounds. Refugee communities all over the world face challenges within their community and also with the host community, Tibetan refugees are not much different. Therefore our workshops in Tibetan Settlements have proved very useful not only in creating more harmony among the settlers but in improving their relations with the host communities.
Our Settlement workshop series is one of the oldest standing series of workshops. Since our inception in 2001 we have been carrying out workshops in the Tibetan Settlements. We have now reached out to all the settlements in India and most of the settlements in Nepal.
These workshops have been very keenly attended by the people in the settlements. The participants ranged from school going youths to above seventy-year olds. Some were highly educated in various fields while some had never been to a school. Some were respected public figures while some labelled drug users and trouble makers. This is the only workshop series that has seen the widest range of participants. TCCR has been able to bring together teachers, students, nurses, monks, nuns, office goers, farmers, carpet weavers, ex-army men, jobless youth, NGO activists, camp leaders, home-makers and senior citizens. Such a wide variety of participants has always been a striking attribute of our workshops in the settlements. Although having such an assorted group has its challenges it also never fails to bring out a vibrancy and energy that many other inclusive workshops fail to do.
Different settlements are varied in their geographical situation with different weather conditions and livelihood means. Many settlements in the north are largely dependent on the winter sweater selling business. While those settlements in South and Central India, along with the winter business, are also a farming community. Depending on the local resources and conditions each of these places are unique in their own ways. While for most settlements the challenges of assuring a secure future for their younger generation; making a decent livelihood; employment and the Tibetan political situation were common issues, for some settlements dealing with the threat of drug abuse especially in the youth was of high priority. For the settlements we visited in south India, many of the above mentioned issues were also of concern for them but some of their problems were unique to their part of world. To begin with, there were differences of opinions regarding farming methods. Many Tibetan farmers had adopted organic farming but some still were sceptical of it due to various reasons. All farmers had their apprehensions about the monsoons, whether it will come on the usual time or instead destroy all the seedlings. Almost all the farmers in Hunsur, Kollegal and Mundgod were dependent on the monsoon rains. Then if everything does turn out desirably and they do have a good yield another major reason for worry for the farmers was the wild elephants that would come in herds from the dwindling forests and eat and destroy acres and acres of their whole year’s labour. There have been many cases in Hunsur and Kollegal where the farmers patrolling the fields were attacked by the wild elephants. This therefore ironically makes the act of farming a dangerous occupation in itself.
Through these many years of working in the settlements, TCCR workshop are now warmly welcomed where ever we go and in many settlements even greatly anticipated. Since the participants find that they not only learn new skills but also become stronger and more compassionate.
Workshops for New comers from Tibet
TCCR as been conducting workshops for the new comers from Tibet since its inception. There are Tibetan refugees who escape from Tibet and arrive in India, mostly seeking opportunities to learn and practice Buddhism freely at the monasteries, receive proper education and be able to preserve their culture. These newly arrived Tibetans many often are faced with various problems, they undergo cultural shock and experience communication gaps apart from other structural and practical difficulties. These gaps then may create problems at a personal and community level. Most of those who escape from Tibet into India have faced many hardships, exposing them to physical and mental trauma. In such cases, they become very vulnerable to depression and low self esteem and sometimes aggression out of frustration. Besides that, the presence of stereotypes and prejudices nurtured especially by communication gaps impose the dangers of misunderstanding and conflicts with other communities. Thus, equipping the new arrivals with Conflict Resolution tools and techniques greatly benefit them in adapting to their new environment and also contribute to stability and peace in the whole community. On a larger scale we also hope that being skilled in Conflict Resolution methods may also find its usefulness inside Tibet since many of our participants intend to return to Tibet after their pilgrimage, or studies. These participants may play a big role in promoting nonviolent and peaceful methods of resolving many issues that common Tibetans face inside Tibet apart from the overall political situation. This for us accentuates the necessity and importance of such workshops to be able to continue in the future.
The participants of these workshops are all newly arrived Tibetans from Tibet. Those at the Reception Centre are freshly arrived and usually from different age groups and educational abilities. Those at the Transit School are all young (mostly in their twenties) and educated in Tibetan and English at different levels. We usually find that the participants most recently arrived are hesitant in speaking their minds in the beginning. Although they contribute a wealth of knowledge and wisdom once they become comfortable with the workshop environment. The Transit School students are much more confident of whom they are and very eager to learn the tools we introduce to them.
Interacting with the participants of these workshops is a realization that our lives will forever be enriched with their pure heart and soul. There is a sense of calm and an uplifting of spirits in their company. Even though there is a slight difficulty in communicating with them because of the different dialects (with the participants not understanding each other) however we take time to understand their thoughts and rephrase them in such a way that everyone knows and comprehends what is being said. Their simplicity and genuineness in their appreciation of our work makes us completely indebted and more grateful to the contribution that TCCR is able to make in our community. Although many of these participants have witnessed great despair and undergone a lot of sufferings in life, they are ever willing to stand up with a courageous smile to face the challenges and look for a better future. We take great pride and honour in being able to work with them, share with them our appreciation of their courage and in return receive their heartfelt love and admiration.
Inter-cultural workshops on conflict transformation
In the Youth Empowerment series we have two different categories of workshops. One is for youth who are pursuing their higher studies in various Universities and Institutes and the other is for those youth who have not choose or been able to continue their basic education and are generally unemployed. Both these categories have been seen to be of great importance and service to the community. In every society the youth are the most vulnerable when it comes to getting involved in fights and clashes. They therefore often become the cause of many inter-communal conflicts too. These youngsters are then looked upon as irresponsible and offensive and are generally looked down upon by the society. But they are not given adequate opportunities to prove themselves as capable of doing constructive work. This empowerment workshop series equips the youth with communication skills, listening skills and basic conflict resolution skills.
For the YEW college series we have Undergrads, Post grads and professionals from many different Universities. While for the unemployed youth series we have youth pursuing different vocational courses at Institute for Small Trade Learning and unemployed youth in the settlements.
Through our extensive work with the youth studying in the Universities, we understand that they have immense dedication and passion for the Tibetan freedom struggle. Most of them are involved with various activist groups and NGOs and at their local level are taking up leadership roles especially the college going youth. We introduce the skills of Conflict Resolution to the younger generation Tibetans and promote non-violence and democratic understanding. We empower the youth to take up leadership roles and responsibilities in the community. Our workshops also concentrate on the abilities of the younger generation of Tibetans and encourage them to play a role in the exiled Tibetan infrastructure. Therefore we focus on promoting democratic understanding, knowledge of current issues, leadership and conflict resolution skills in these youth. TCCR has conducted several workshops for the youth in the larger cities where Tibetan youth study and in the various settlements. The workshops for unemployed youths have always been one of our priorities. The students at the Institute took a keen interest in the workshop and were stimulated to practice different methods of handling difficult situations. They struggled with some of the tools but were very happy to learn new skills which they found to be useful for their future lives. The satisfaction and the pleasure that we receive from empowering the youth surpasses the effort and energy that we put into making the workshop a success. Both ways we obtain immense joy and happiness which we imbibe in our workshops for the future.
Many college going participants have stated that although they had attended many leadership trainings by other organisations, the TCCR workshop could very well be the most effective platform to learn leadership skills. They feltthat good leaders need to be effective communicators and need to have the ability to listen to others, which they learnt and practiced at the TCCR workshops.
Workshops for Monastic Communities
In tibet, before 1959, the lives of Tibetans revolved around Buddha Dharma and religious ceremonies were very important part of life. It was a common practice for each family to have at least one and many times more than one member becoming a monk or nun. The Monasteries played a very important role in the social structure. Even in the exile Tibetan Society there is not a single settlement which does not have a monastic institution. This indicates the important role that Buddhism and the Monastic institutions play in the lives of the Tibetan people. TCCR has given great importance to the incorporation of Buddhist philosophy and Classic Conflict resolution. Therefore taking another step towards this we have reached out to monastic institutions with an aim to introduce the skills and tools of Conflict Resolution and also a new methodology of teaching to the Tibetan monks and nuns. The workshop to the monastic institutions will also help the Centre to gain in-depth knowledge of Buddhism from the learned participants through discussions and sharing their views on conflict resolution from the Buddhist perspective.
The participants are monks and nuns from various monasteries and nunneries in India. Majority of our participants were highly trained Buddhist practitioners and Teachers; ‘Geyshes’ and ‘Khenpos’; Administrators and Disciplinarians. They were eager to enlighten various Buddhist perspectives in the field of Conflict Resolution and also learn modern skills and tools to deal with various aspects of conflicts.
Although many of the participants were highly learned individuals we were honoured to be received with such humility. We were able to conduct our workshop in such a way that we not only shared our expertise but also learned and gained from their wisdom and knowledge of Buddhism. The Conflict Resolution skills were found to be very useful by the participants. They shared personal examples where they had faced problems with others which challenged their compassionate outlook but now they felt confident of being able to deal with such issues in the future without having to lose their compassion.
From our work with various monasteries and nunneries we found that the nuns were generally much more hesitant in opening up. But once they were able to gain their confidence it was so easy to see their passion for engaging in debates related to the study of Buddhism. They had a sophisticated understanding of the Buddhist philosophy but were more reticent about it. The monks on the other hand were mostly very confident of how much they already knew and in some cases it was quite evident that in the beginning they couldn’t comprehend the relevance of such a workshop for them. Towards the end however we have received very encouraging feedback requesting for continuance of such workshops. We believe that this platform for exchanging ideas of Conflict Resolution and Buddhism will be very helpful in enhancing the quality of our research work and incorporating Buddhist Philosophy with Classic Conflict Resolution.
Round Table Discussions
After many years of experience in facilitating dialogue during workshops, TCCR ventured into conducting Round Table discussions on various issues of importance. We bring together stake holders to sit on one table and have a frank and constructive dialogue. We have facilitated discussions surrounding the concerns of the Civil Society and Indo Tibetan relation. All discussions were held in McleodGanjDharamsala.
The atmosphere of Dharamsala being very vibrant and full of opportunities for spiritual wisdom, entertainment, relaxation and fun, also has an equal mix of fights, quarrels, disputes, and hatred as a result of all that. Conflicts are a part of life but when these conflicts turn violent then the urgency for a more hands on approach presents itself. The population of Tibetans in Dharamsala area are concentrated in the McloedGanjtown which is the hub of Tourist attraction and activities. Most Tibetan NGOs are situated there, most shops, hotels and restaurants owned by Indians and Tibetans are also concentrated there and so are the taxi services. There is also the daily dose of Indian and foreign tourists; and Tibetan pilgrims who visit this area regularly and live for a period of time too. Therefore, the area is buzzing with activities providing for a volatile concoction in itself.
TCCR has since 2007 initiated various Intercultural workshops and activities to bring both the communities together. And in 2009 to strengthen this initiative we started the Round Table Discussions which was appreciated by both communities and attended and recommenced by the SP office in Dharamsala with another meeting and initiatives to teach the locals about the laws of the land and the formation of the Community policing.
We have been able to bring together both Indian and Tibetan personalities representing the various bodies of the government and non-governmental organisations. They were Presidents, Chairpersons and Secretaries of the different Tibetan and Indian NGOs, Municipal Council of Dharamsala, Tibetan Settlement Office, Women’s groups, Village Panchayats, the Hotel Union, the Tibetan and Indian Shopkeeper’s Association, The Tibetan Local Assembly, Taxi and Auto Rickshaw Union.
These discussions not only dwelled on the important agendas we had decided upon but also managed to bring forth personal accounts of Indo Tibetan friendship which were inspiring. Also there was a safe space to share the concerns regarding various mutual issues like the environment, sanitation, safety, etc. There were very powerful inputs by many participants. While many strengths were emerging as a community working together to make Dharamsala a better, more peaceful and clean place for all the residents and visitors of Dharamsala, there were also some new ideas that relied on the acceptance of the people around the table for its success. TCCR was able to guide the discussions in each segment towards resolutions that concerned parties could agree upon for future course of action.
We hope to be able to continue with this initiative in the future so that a visible transformation in the way of dealing with conflicts and challenging situations emerges for the benefit of everyone involved. Also so that TCCR would be able to maintain an account of whether the resolutions made have been put to effect.
Our Intensive Training Programmes
The most prominent in this area of work conducted by TCCR are the Trainers’ Training Programmes (TTP) held once in 2004 and once in 2008. We have also had the privilege to train the Teachers at Tibetan Transit School for a whole month as a part of a Teachers’ Training Programme conducted by Else Hammerich in collaboration with the Department of Education of CTA. At the Transit School TCCR was able to train the Teachers in the area of Conflict Resolution with emphasis on Teacher/Student relationship. The Trainers’ Training Programmes on the other hand have been for much longer duration, Three months followed by Follow up Trainings. Through the TTP the Centre has also been able to secure its growth by producing Trained Trainers who are potential employees to serve TCCR.
For the Trainers’ Training Programmes we have had mostly young graduates and post graduates, some were born in Tibet and some in India. At an average there has been a balance in gender ratio. Most participants have later succeed in achieving a Trainer’s Certificate and some have even served the Centre by working full time. All Trainer Members continue to keep in touch with TCCR.
The TTPs were divided into different phases where different areas of study in this field of Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding were introduced, analysed and practiced using the experiential learning methods. Some of the areas that were covered during this programme were Basic Conflict Resolution, Nonviolent Communication, Conflict Mapping, Mediation, Counselling, Negotiation, Dialogue, Multi Track Diplomacy and various analytical tools and teaching methods. Infact the final phase of the training was focussed mainly on becoming good trainers. We worked on the Ethics of a Trainer, Good Qualities of a Trainer, Different Methods of Training, Teambuilding and Didactic Planning of Workshops and Public Meetings. During the course of training we also organised Buddhist Classes, which deeply enhanced our knowledge of Buddhist Philosophy. We organised Panel Discussions where the Trainees were given an opportunity to sharpen their understanding on various issues. We also organised Educational Trips to nearby Tibetan Settlements, Schools and Temples these excursions refreshed the participants and proved to be a knowledgeable and enjoyable experience for the whole group. Apart from these, there was an examination which included a written test on a specially set question paper. Didactic planning of a special workshop in written.And giving a pilot workshop to students of Tibetan Transit School and Lower TCV school in pairs or threes. There was also an interview session with the Trainers, all these on the whole contributed in determining whether or not the trainees would be certified.
While these intensive Training programmes are the most demanding with regards to time and energy input they also are most rewarding with numerous Trainees progressing to becoming Trainers at the Centre and serving TCCR. All trained members cherish the special bond with TCCR and most continue to keep in touch.
Our Partnership Projects and Workshops on the request
In addition to all the activities already stated, there are several which have not been mentioned. Some have been organised by TCCR which do not fall under a specific category, some have been organised in partnership with other organisations and some conducted on invitation by others. Over these past ten years TCCR has had an increasing number of organisations and groups requesting for our expertise in conducting full-fledged Conflict Resolution workshops and short sessions and talks. We have conducted specialised workshops for NGO workers, School Teachers, Teacher Counsellors, Home Mothers, Students, Parents Association members, Indian College Students and foreigners.
In 2007 we have partnered with Karuna Centre for Peacebuilding in conducting a Peacebuilding Seminar in Lumbini which included a Dialogue session where all the major stake holders were present and working towards making Lumbini more peaceful with all those living there getting equally respected and benefitted. We have partnered with Mulgrave School, Canada, International School Manila (ISM) and Mahindra United World College, India, in organising ten day workshops titled ‘Youth Gathering for Peace for three times. The first one in Dharamsala where TCCR acted as the main organiser, second time in Mindanao, Phillipines, where along with the Assisi Foundation Mr. Tim Boulton from ISM was the main organiser and the third time in Katmandu Nepal where along with Youth Action Nepal Mr. Mark Pulfer was the main organiser. These are some of the bigger partnership programmes some smaller ones included us partnering with Institute for Multi Track Diplomacy, Wiscomp the women’s branch of Foundation for Universal Responsibility and Jaya Iyer from the Theater of the Oppressed.
As a Centre that was built on the ideals of Non-violence, Compassion and Respect, it is always very rewarding to see other people adopting the skills and tools learnt through our activities. And when there are others who appreciate our work and request us to work with them it is even more satisfying because not only do we get an affirmation but we also get another opportunity to spread our ideals further. We have received invitations and projects to work on from many Non Governmental Organisations, Departments of the Central Tibetan Administration and Institutions. We believe that these invitations reflect the amount of faith these organisations place in the expertise of TCCR. We can confidently say that TCCR continues to maintain the trust of other organisations and receive encouraging feedback from our participants. From our many experiences we find these invitational workshops very engaging and enriching. Through our work with various partners we learn about their work and see various other methods and tools. Also to suit the needs of the target group we explore our creativity and design new methods and exercises thus promoting growth and development of the Centre.