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In exile: Tibetan refugees

The life of a refugee is precarious. What most Tibetans believed would be a temporary shelter has, generations later, become a permanent home. Each settlement is different, but their pressing concerns are similar: healthcare, education, care for elders, infrastructure and livelihood.

Aging Tibetans can be especially vulnerable, particularly those who are too old to work and are without means or family to care for them. Having a warm home and a community to socialize with are small but valuable assurances. One of elders' homes we support is just such a place, managed by an exemplary group of Tibetan women with heart. These volunteers make sure the elders are looked after with diligence and care. They created a spare but peaceful refuge with a sunny courtyard and a place to gather and spin their prayer wheels. We also take care of Tibetan elders in camps and spread out in the community, so their golden years have a little shine and dignity.

Education is the best hope Tibetan children have, and we help students go as far as possible. Our support is broad and deep: hostels, so Tibetans from remote corners can attend school; food, books, and uniforms so students can focus on their studies; and scholarships to make college a reality. Education is the one thing that cannot be taken from them.

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There are few jobs for Tibetans in the settlements beyond informal business with tourists or subsistence farming. But they've gotten creative with new ideas and only need some support to realize them. Through small income-generating projects—by Tibetans for Tibetans—we’ve helped Tibetan settlements grow tea and rubber, expand farming production, and build shops for enterprising families. It's not only an income for them, but the pride and dignity of self-sufficiency.

Helping Tibetans in their struggle to survive and maintain their culture in difficult times is at the core of what we do. We respond to what communities identify as their most pressing needs: providing medicine, installing clean water systems, or repairing community buildings. And we are happy to do it, because it is what’s needed most.