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Tibetan Refuse Camp

   The Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre was started on October 1, 1959. At that time, following the dramatic escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, thousands of Tibetans leaving hearth and home, fled into the neighboring countries to live as free human beings. "It is no exaggeration, in fact, to say that without self-help there can be no rehabilitation, be it economic, social, psychological, cultural or spiritual. Therefore, a ten member committee was formed in Darjeeling to organize a rehabilitation centre to be known as "Tibetan Refugees Self-Help Center".

The founding members of the Committee were :
»Mrs. Gyalo Thondup (President)
»Mr. T. Lawang
»Mr. G. Tesur
»Mr. Tenzing Norgay
»Mr. & Mrs. Jokssari
»Mr. T. Tethong
»Monsiegnour Benjamin
»Mr. Chumbay Tshering
»Miss Tesur

Later the following members were welcomed by the committee :
»Colonel & Mrs. Thapa
»Mr. J.K. Bhardwaj
»Mrs. N.L. Laden La
»Mr. Dilip Bose

It was here in Darjeeling that the Thirteenth Dalai Lama spent his exile in India between 1910 to 1912 following a Chinese invasion at that time. When the Centre first started over 34 years ago, there were just four workers. Today the centre is the home of more than 750 refugees. In 1961, the Centre was fully registered as a Charitable organisation under the Indian Law. It has also received exemption for Income Tax on all gifts and donations made to it.

The production of handicrafts continue to be the Centre's main acivity. During the financial year covering the period from April 1982 to March 1983, sales reached a total of Rs. 1,100,000 more than half of which represented foreign exchange earnings from export sales. Today the centre has been exporting to more than 36 countries all over the world. Besides traditional items such as Tibetan carpets, wood, metal and leather works, the Centre have also experimented in finding new production lines incorporating traditional Tibetan motifs which would find a ready market both here and abroad.

During the years of the Centre's existence, the Centre has been able to train over 1600 persons in various crafts. Out of this between 900 to 1200 persons have left the Centre to set up their own enterprises. All of them are now fully self-supporting and several of them are doing very well.

From its beginning, the Centre has undertaken the task of helping orphans, the aged, the infirm and the needy among the refugees. Out of the total population, the Centre houses, feeds and cares for 50 old, infirm and needy persons as well as 42 orphans, all of whom have no means of their own. Great stress is also laid in adult education.

In June 1960, the Centre started a small Nursery School. Within a short time the school grew up into full-fledged Primary School. The Primary School follows the syllabus of the Tibetan Schools Society and caters upto class II. The present staff consists of 14 teachers and house parents.

Problems and needs :
•The most pressing need of the Centre is to build enough Staff Quarters with adequate sanitary facilities.
•The Centre is interested to expanded it's factory space and also to provide more accomodation for the workers. During the past few years the number of workers have increased from 850 to 1050 and more are waiting to join the Centre.
•A third need is to build a few School Class Rooms for the children. The present classrooms are over-crowded.

The Centre appeals for support for these projects from friends and patrons. Donations may, if preferred, be earmarked for any of the above projects. All donations would be gratefully acknowledged and the donars would receive a sincere appreciation and thanks.

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