The Samphelling Tibetan Settlement was established in 1964 under the resettlement program for the refugees who crossed the Kanchanjunga ranges into Nepal from Central Tibet after 1959. They mostly depend on providing ponies for porterage and selling trinkets to the few tourists. In 2005 AHF helped repair leaking roofs and walls of 25 homes that were more than 40 years old, and in 2007, we helped them build 22 green houses. Today they are growing fresh vegetables throughout the year. Cabbage, radish, cauliflower, bean, tomatoes and lady fingers are grown today and they provide an extra income to the refugees.
Last year the camp asked for help to purchase a VSAT telephone service as the camp is very remote and isolated – there were no roads or any telecommunication facilities. Letters take several months to reach them, and it takes hours to walk to the nearest village for a telephone call – a whole day could be spent to use the phone. AHF agreed to fund this idea through our Tibetan Enterprise Program: supporting small business ventures through micro-finance to bring sustainable change to Tibetan refugee communities.
After only four months of operation this venture had changed the lives of the Tibetans in Walung. Families can now call their loved ones in Tibet, Nepal, India and America. Emergency medical and other needy calls can be made. Mrs. Tsering Yang says “…Before this service I used to go to Gunsa (next village) and walk for two hours to reach there and spend the whole day for just one call. Today I can connect with her any time in a minute and I also receive calls from my relatives...” By charging a nominal fee to users, the camp makes a small profit which is reinvested in the camp and helps pay for maintenance of the equipment.
The camp officer Mr. Samdup la says that this will be one of his best investments as it has brought the camp closer to the world and also makes income at the same time for the camp. Besides keeping in contact with relatives the camp people can now get information from outside which will lead to more development and progress.
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