This post is long overdue. When we visited the Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement in Southern India earlier this year, one day of that trip really stands out, and that’s the day the Lugsam Samduling Settlement Officer, Karma Damdul la, brought us by the Settlement’s Home for the Aged and Disabled. You might think that such a place would be depressing, but it wasn’t at all. When we left that day, both of us were deeply moved and inspired. The one thought that really stood out was: “We need to help these people as much as we can!” We will show you around a little bit in this post, and we ask that you please read through to the end and consider a donation to the home. It’s a place where a little money goes a long way, and where your donation will help a very deserving Tibet charity to support some Tibetan elders who have contributed many years to the community and now need help. (Details on how to donate are at the bottom.)
UPDATED October 3, 2015
We’re delighted to say that we recently sent our first batch of donations, totaling about $1400 US dollars, to the Bylakuppe Old People’s Home via The Tibet Fund, and that we have a decent chance of making our goal of $3000 by the end of the year. Below you can see a new option to donate online via The Tibet Fund.
First Generation of Tibetan Refugees
The inhabitants of the Old People’s Home are members of the first wave of Tibetan refugees to leave Tibet in 1959, true pioneers who faced incredible physical challenges at the same time that they were experiencing the grief and disorientation of losing their country. As you’ll see in the their stories below, they commonly spent their first few years in the back-breaking labor of building roads in Northern India, then were settled in the jungles of southern India on land donated by the Indian government, and spent years in hard agricultural labor, first clearing the jungle, then building homes and farming. The folks in the home typically worked for many years in this way before the death of a husband or child left them alone, and now elderly, unable to support him or herself.
Gallery: Tibetan Elders who Settled Bylakuppe
A Former Khampa Guerilla
Most of the residents we met were in fair shape, considering their age, and only one was bedridden. The earnest, kind Director of the Old People’s Home, Thupten Choedup la, brought us to 90 year old Gaya Tsering la’s room, where he briefly told us Gaya la’s remarkable story:
[Quoting from Lugsung Samdupling Old People’s Home documents] At the age of 37 years (1959) along with a team of 140 guerillas to face the red Chinese military. His team had to fight 7 times with the enemy and due to lack of weapons, training and man power, they were unable to compare with the red Chinese. At the end out of 140 only 4 fighters were alive and escaped to India and around 1960 as a political refugee via Tawang (AP), he worked on road construction for years. He then came to Bylakuppe and word as agriculture land for many years. He has no family members and was admitted in the Home for Aged and Disabled in 1998. Present his health is not good, his both knee are unable to take a body weight due to injured at the time of fighting with enemy is effecting now. He is also patient of hypertension. He is 90 years old. Hence we are working forward s to find generous sponsor for Mr. Gaya Tsering so that his daily needs and medical expenses could be taken care of him.
You can read the stories of two of the elderly ladies, Mrs. Lhakchung and Ms. Yangtok, below. Both of them also escaped from Tibet in 1959, worked on road construction, and came to Bylakuppe in the 60s. Like all of the men and women in the home, Lhakchung la and Yangtok la require some medicines and special care. The Director told us that one of his struggles is to afford medicines for his people, which run from $30 to $130/per resident/per month, not a huge amount in Western countries, but far harder to come by in the settlements.
Video: The Lugsung Samdupling Tibetan Home for the Aged and Disabled
One of the impressive things about the Home was the calm, kind spirit of the caretakers. Seven people care for all the old folk, handling everything from nursing to bathing to dispensing meds to cleaning and cooking and dressing. They are without doubt overworked and underpaid, but they were obviously kind and respectful to their charges. The whole atmosphere of the home, which hopefully you can see in the gallery and video, is of quiet, clean, peaceful care.
How You can Help
If you help one Tibetan charity this year, we hope that you will consider giving to the Old People’s Home. We cannot think of a more worthy cause, or of a place with greater need. It is our modest goal to help collect $3000 this year for the Home, and we would be so thrilled and honored if you would help us.
WAYS TO DONATE
You can now donate to the Old People’s Home online through the Tibet Fund website. Please do the following:
- Go to The Tibet Fund’s general donation page: Tibet Fund
- In the top section, where it says, “Your general donations are vital to the Tibet Fund,” select the amount you want to donate and click “Add to cart.”
- You can then chose to pay by PayPal, or by credit card.
- Note: At the end of the process there is a box that says “memo” and you need to leave a message specifying that you want your funds to go to the “Bylakuppe Old People’s Home.” If you don’t do this your funds won’t go to the elders!
Call The Tibet Fund to Pay by Credit Card
- Call the Tibet Fund at 212-213-5011 ext. 12. Let them know you are donating to the “Bylakuppe Old People’s Home” and please let them know you heard about this opportunity through the YoWangdu web site. (We hope that if enough people donate through YoWangdu, that the Tibet Fund will consider making a special page for donations to the elders at Bylakuppe :-)
- If you need more info about donating you can contact the Tibet Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of the residents and staff of the Old People’s Home, thank you!