Tibet Foundation

Background

A young Tibetan schoolgirl at one of the Tibetan Administration in India schools. Photo Neil Cooper.

The Tibet Foundation's Tibetans in Exile Programme to support the Tibetan exile community in India and Nepal was launched in 1985.

Since then it has grown into one of the most well supported programmes run by the Foundation and has benefited a wide range of the exile community from young to old, monks, nuns, doctors, teachers, students and children. The programme has always focused on the neediest sections of the community, working with the Central Tibetan Administration (the government in Dharamsala) to identify the areas where the need is greatest - either because of extreme poverty or because of the benefit the support will bring to the wider community.

The programme has grown steadily over the years. About 800 Tibet Foundation supporters now donate to the programme on a regular basis, with many more responding to the occasional appeal. Each year we send c. £150,000 to India and Nepal - over 10 million rupees - a significant contribution to the exile community.

When the Tibetans in Exile programme was established the Foundation looked for a way to provide on-going and regular support to the exile community, in addition to the funds raised through one-off fund raising activities and opportunities. We decided to do this through seeking 'sponsorship' of Tibetans from our supporters. This includes children at school, students, old people, monks and nuns. Sponsors commit to paying an agreed amount every month or year for a period of several years. For the exile government, knowing that the support will be on-going allows them to plan for the future in the knowledge that the funds will be available. Some of our supporters have been contributing to this programme since it started.

Money raised through sponsorship does not go to the individual sponsored. It is used to cover the living expenses, such as food, clothing, accommodation, medical and education costs where appropriate, for that whole sector of the exile community. This means, for example, that a child is not dependent on having a sponsor to be able to go to school. And within the schools there is no difference between the children with sponsors and those without - except when a child is lucky enough to receive a parcel of gifts from their sponsor!

Sponsors receive an individual case-history and, if they wish, can write letters to their sponsored Tibetan. Many of the sponsors of children chose to do this and over the years feel they get to know 'their' child well. Sponsors receive letters, drawings and the child's annual report card, all of which help to give an understanding to the sponsors of how their contribution is helping to benefit the community. Communication with old people, monks and nuns is more complex. Most of them do not read or write English and we have always stated that we would rather the funds raised are spent on the welfare of the community rather than on translating and letter-writing programmes. However, the institutions supporting old people do try to send the sponsors annual reports on the health and situation of the old person sponsored.