LIT was founded in March 2009, by a young Tibetan, Tsering Sangpo and an Australian, Lauren Smith, to address social issues effecting the Tibetan refugee community. Many Tibetans arrive in India fleeing from political persecution in Tibet. They arrive with very limited funds and skills as many come from illiterate farming or nomadic backgrounds. Therefore, many refugees find it difficult to integrate into India which can lead to high unemployment rates, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, poverty and feelings of disempowerment and isolation.
Due to the strict educational policy in India, which prevents adults over the age of 18 from enrolling in school, it is extremely difficult for adults to address their educational gaps.
The Tibetan government attempts to address this gap, through the Tibetan Transit School (TTS) which provides basic education to Tibetan refugees between the ages of 18 and 30 in the Dharamsala area. However, as students must reside on campus, they cannot gain employment which makes it difficult to meet their financial needs. Due to this, many students choose not to attend this school.
Tsering, having lived in Dharamsala for 15 years where he worked as a chef, sought to address these issues by providing free education and skills training to recently arrived Tibetan refugees in a flexible environment.
Tsering also wanted to provide a place for the local and international community to discuss and address local issues and spread awareness about the situation in Tibet.
To achieve this he used his personal savings to open a small learning centre off Jogibara road, McLeod Ganj. The centre registered under the Himachal Pradesh Societies Registrations Act 2006 on the 17th February of 2011. Registration no. 02/2011/SDM-MC.
Currently, the centre is achieving its objective of providing free education to Tibetan refugees as it offers a range of free-from- charge classes with flexible attendance policies. The daily schedule includes:
- Three English language classes – Beginner, Intermediate and two Conversational;
- Computer classes;
- Health class – includes health education, yoga, massage, acupuncture, first aid (depending on the skills of the volunteers)
Currently LIT is full to capacity with over 100 students attending classes.
We are expanding our service to give financially aid toward destitute and geriatric Tibetans.
LIT also holds two evening events weekly, which discuss local issues with the local and international community in order to promote positive changes to the situation in Tibet. These are free to attend. The events include documentary screenings. We serve chai at these events.
The Staff of Learning and Ideas for Tibet
Tsering Sangpo – Founder
Tsering Sangpo, the co- founder and Vice President of LIT, opened a small cooking school on March 14th 2009, on the one year anniversary of the 2008 shootings in Tibet and the commemoration of fifty years of brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet; due to his frustration with the lack of tangible results the Tibetan struggle had achieved and his fear that Tibetan culture was dying out.
His experiences working at the Lungta Japanese Restaurant showed him that many tourists were not fully aware of the tragic situation in Tibet. As an experienced chef, he wanted to combine his passion for food with his desire to share the Tibetan story. His aim was to spread Tibet’s message to visiting tourists and provide Tibetans with the education that they were denied in Tibet. Within weeks, volunteers from the local and international community joined Tsering to help him expand his vision to create a vibrant Tibetan culture school.
LIT was born on May 24th 2009, with a range of free classes being offered to Tibetan refugees including Buddhist Philosophy, Tibetan Grammar, Cooking, Art and English language. Since its conception, LIT has expanded its programs to offer a range of courses aimed at increasing the skills of Tibetan refugees so they can integrate into the local society. Three evening events weekly also allow Tibetans to discuss the situation in Tibet with tourists. Over 300 Tibetan students and countless tourists have passed through our doors since we opened in March 2009.
Norbu – Director LIT
Norbu was born on 1 December 1984 in Phenpo village near Lhasa, Tibet. Working as farmer in Tibet, he was unable to gain a proper education. So, in 1999 he fled to India to attend school. In 2006, he completed class 10 from TCV Suja and class 12 at TCV Bylakuppe as comerce In 2008.then he went to college in Mangalore.
When Norbu was at school his teachers drummed the message into him that it is important to give back to the community. Today he is living out the values that were taught to him as the Director of LIT. He humbly tells us his story as he explains the workings of LIT and its achievements as a servant to the Tibetan people.
After completing a Bachelor degree of Hotel Management in 2012 Norbu returned to McLeod Ganj. A friend who was working at LIT told him about an opportunity to serve the community and so he started his involvement with LIT, first teaching Intermediate English. Later he took on the role of cashier in addition to teaching. In 2015 he was asked to lead LIT and this he has done ever since.
Norbu dreams of when LIT can support destitute Tibetans financially, and is raising awareness of the need among the Tibetan community.
Doctor Ngawang Tsultrim – Accountant
Doctor (Geshe) Ngawang Tsultrim, the Accountant and adviser, studied Buddhist philosophy at Drepung Monastery in South India for 20 years and worked as the accountant and Director of Operations of Tsangpa Khangtsen, a hostel for over 100 monks.
After completing his Buddhist studies in 2008, he came to Dharamsala to study English in order to tell the international community about Buddhism and Tibet. He was one of LIT’s first English students and joined with the founding board members to help establish LIT.
In early 2010 he returned to his monastery in South India and completed his Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy. In late 2010 he returned to work and study at LIT and in 2011 was elected Accountant of LIT. He is currently teaching Buddhist Philosophy.
Tenzin Tselh – Secretary
Tenzin Tselha was born on 14th february 1991 in Dharamsala,She completed class 12 from Upper TCV as science In 2009.then she went to college in Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha university, In 2013, she completed a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).in March 19-2018 she started her job at Lit to provide community services to her fellow refugees.
Neesha Barua – Manager
Neesha Barua was born on 27th February 1994. In 2012, she completed class 10th and 12th from Delhi public school.In 2015, she completed Bachelor in Commerce (Honors)Dyal Singh College (DelhiUniversity).from 2015-2017 she worked in different area marketing department, HD Consortium India Limited, Finance Department, and volunteered in many areas.She is currently manager at LIT.
Phuntsok Sakaya – Board Member
Phuntsok Sakaya, the President of LIT, has studied Buddhist philosophy for 17 years at Drepung Loesoling Monastery in South India. Whilst he was studying philosophy he became a senior member of monastery and was placed in charge of all the monks at the monastery, over 3000 monks. He was also given the responsibility of the constructions of a hostel, Gyepa, for monks. Once constructions were completed, he became second in charge of a newly established monastery called Deyang Monastery.
In 2008, after completing his Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy, he came to Dharamsala for the Dalai Lama’s teachings. Here he met Tsering Sangpo protesting against the oppression occurring in Tibet. In 2009, he helped Tsering open LIT in order to provide free education to his fellow people and educate tourists about the situation in Tibet. He is a founding board member of the centre.
Lobsang Choedak – Board Member
Choedak was born in 1983 in a small village near Lhasa in Tibet. Unable to afford school in Tibet, he never received a formal education. In 1999, Cheodak joined Tse Chokling monastery in Lhasa. He stayed there for three years. However, due to China’s restrictions on religious freedoms, he was frustrated by the lack of teachings. So he went to India in 2003 to study under the guidance of the Dalai Lama.
He joined Drepung monastery in South india and continued his monastic studies. Due to illness he was forced to leave the monastery and moved to Dharamsala for treatment.
In Dharamsala, he wanted gain the basic education he was denied in Tibet. So he started studying at LIT in 2009. As he had little finances, he was very grateful for the opportunities LIT offered him and volunteered to work in LIT’s kitchen, teaching cooking class and preparing food for nightly events.
Due to his passion for education and Buddhism, he was asked to join LIT’s Board of Directors in 2010.Choedak prepares all the advertising and marketing materials for LIT. He runs the volunteer and tour guide program whilst helping at night events.