Tibetan Resettlement Project Finale

It was a humbling experience, standing in front of a a hundred plus Tibetan immigrants in a hall in Burnaby on a Saturday evening not long ago. The Vancouver Cultural Society was officially marking the end of Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project, an undertaking that resettled 1000 Tibetan Buddists from Arunachal Pradesh in  remote northeast India.

Officially called stateless or displaced persons, the parents and grandparents of these Tibetan folks became isolated in the northeastern Tribal States of India, a place rife with poverty, when they followed the Dalai Lama out of Tibet many years earlier. So remote were the settlements, that even the Dalai Lama’s Government in Exile did not know they existed for the first while. Canada’s five year private sponsorship program officially ended in December of 2017, with the last people arriving in March of 2018.

All sponsors and volunteers in the province of British Columbia were invited to this appreciation dinner, along with the new Tibetan families and other Tibetans  already living in Vancouver. Sadly, the many sponsors and Tibetans from Victoria,  Vancouver Island were not able to attend, and we met only a handful of folks from Vancouver. Don and I were the sole representatives of our sponsorship group on the Sunshine Coast. Our Coordinator, who sponsored three families, was there with her partner.

Our group sponsored a family of four, the Mom, who arrived with almost no English, with her two teenage children in December of 2013, and the Dad, who followed four months later, unable to get his discharge from the Indian Army until then. Another son remained in India, at age 22 too old to be included in the family application.

The Prime Minister at the time, Stephen Harper, to his credit, had agreed to the Dalai Lama’s request to resettle the displaced Tibetans in Canada. Becoming involved in Canada’s somewhat “under the radar” project, (the Canadian government did not want to offend its Chinese trading partner), was a spiritual calling on our part.

There are no accidents. Our many friendships with Tibetans living in exile in Dharamshala, India, developed during five visits spanning ten years, had led us to join the Canada Tibet Committee, and we were notified of the first sponsorship organizational meeting in early 2012. Our application went in during the summer of 2012.

We hit the ground running when our family arrived, the demands were great in the early days. Gradually the family members became more self sufficient and we were needed less.

Despite the small size of our community and scarcity of good jobs, our family and indeed all the families on the Sunshine Coast have done very well, working hard at whatever jobs were available, then gradually moving into more skilled areas.

The appreciation dinner and entertainment evening went quickly. At 10 pm we were readying ourselves for the dash to the last ferry, when we were called up on the stage. We were introduced to the audience and honoured with a khata scarf by the wise Rinpoche from the Vancouver monastery.

Every action we took on behalf of our Tibetan family, and for our Tibetan friends in India, brought us appreciations tenfold over. Each small gesture has been acknowledged many times more than we ever expected or wanted. Their gratefulness was very humbling. Yes, we have helped our family start a new life in Canada, and helped other Tibetans in small ways in India, but I do not think they realize how they have enriched our lives, and the heart opening we have experienced as a result. In the future, I plan to tell  our Tibetan family that they have changed our lives also, and we are blessed to call them our friends.

Ellen

Fall Again…new beginnings

The days are warm, the nights cool. I sit on my back deck surrounded by my friends, the giant conifers, soaking in the afternoon sun, squeezing the last drops of heat from the thinning sun before it sinks behind the trees.

The monsoon season is almost over in Dharamsala India. The weather is cooler this fall than usual I’m told. It’s been close to a decade since I discovered McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetans in exile, but every year at this time, I long to return to the place where a part of my spirit permanently resides.

A prediction was made more than one thousand years ago by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche: “When the iron bird flies [airplanes]…the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, spreading [their culture and Tibetan Buddhism].”

Perhaps next fall, or the next one, we will go back to Dharamsala, before more of our Tibetan friends leave. They truly are spread around the world: France, the US, Australia, one waiting with hope in Toronto for permission to immigrate with his family.

This year my partner is winding down his survey business, preparing to retire at the end of the year. I am returning to my creative and spiritual pursuits, restoring myself after intense immersion in another sponsorship program, this time with Syrian refugees.

As our planet, and we along with it, moves deeper into the vibration of the fifth dimension, I renew my goal to be in connection with spirit continually, participating in activities that feed me and spending time with folks I have deep connections with.

My year’s experience attending the powerful Divine Love prayer circle and the friendships developed there have helped me tremendously with my spiritual pursuits. So has my relationships with the devote Christians on the Working Committee for the Syrian sponsorship, a local church sponsorship, and my time  with our two Christian Syrian families.

Maintaining contact with spirit is simple, if we allow it to be so. I am slowly learning this truth. Angels are around us all the time, and the more we acknowledge this and ask them for assistance, the stronger our connection becomes to spirit.

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself, [herself], in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
Albert Einstein

 

Good Times Too in Dharamsala

Although our trip did not meet our expectations, there were some memorable times in McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamsala. A road trip with our busy Tibetan doctor friends to their older son’s residential school and to a vast, outdoor zoo was a pleasant day. Also visits to their home in the Men-Tsee-Khang Medical Centre’s staff housing were, as always relaxing and heartwarming. We’ve been there so many times over that it feels like a deja vu to sit in their living room, with its wide screen tv showing Dalai Lama footage, while Dekyi, and sometimes her old Mom, sometimes Khenrab, prepare a Tibetan lunch or dinner for us. We’ve had the privilege of seeing the children grow into fine young people over the last five years.

Also we connected several times with another Tibetan family with whom we have a deep heart bond, despite the lack of shared language with most family members. We met both the mother, who sold her handmade bracelets on the street, and the eldest son, at the Hope Centre where we volunteered, in 2009, but we did not get the family connection until 2012. Kelo and I were overjoyed to have a translator to speak through in her son. Our non-verbal communication was loving, but only went so far.

The family is very traditional, most of the adult children are monks and nuns. The eldest son has recently disrobed to run a business to support his aging parents. Former nomads, the father from a noble family, they’ve been out of Tibet for almost 10 years, but with their traditional dress and devout ways they seem like relative newcomers to Dharamsala.

We reconnected with S, a Christian Indian woman, a widow, who begs in McLeod Ganj. S supports her two children back home in the state of Bihar by doing this work, and is currently putting her daughter through nursing school. (She receives more money, and a reliable income this way, as some employers don’t pay up). One Sunday she invited us to her place in Lower Dharamsala. S had told us she lived in a “tent house”, but when she proudly took us to her home in the downtown area, we were shocked at it’s sparseness. Set on a cement pad, the walls actually were blue plastic tarps. Her bed was a pad on the floor, with a small table to hold her food and cooking implements. The public washroom was steps away, with toilets and showers. At night her two male friends, also from Bihar, slept on the cement pad outside her home. It was apparent that S has many friends in the community who care about her. When she goes to Bihar, everything is in place when she returns.

Our good friend Choezom, who we met in 2009 at the Hope Centre, is a strong, independent woman. She lived with her sister until she married and emigrated to France. Intelligent and enterprising, Choezom has found a variety of work in this area of high unemployment, recently studying hairdressing. On this visit she brought a former client to us, a man who needed financial help to attend computer school. We began a crowdfunding campaign on our return home, but his family in Tibet were harassed by the Chinese authorities, so we had to terminate it.

At Pema Thang Guesthouse, where we spent most of our six weeks, we made some new friends. The owner, a singer, is a very westernized Tibetan, having travelled the world giving Tibetan concerts, and before that running a restaurant in Kathmandu. Before we left she told me they had a shrine right there in the hotel, the room where a very evolved monk spent the last four months of his life, after 30 plus years in a mountain hut. Later that day Don and I had the privilege of sitting in the room, soaking up the tranquil, still energy of the monk’s presence, his energy still very much there.

We met few new people on our 2015 visit to McLeod Ganj, our fourth, because we were not able to do volunteer work as expected, however, soaking up the healing Buddhist energy of the town and reconnecting with friends was a gift, as always.

Ellen Besso is a life coach, counsellor, author & energy worker. Her new work combines her newly emerging High Heart Chakra work, EMDR, Reiki & Trager. Ellen’s books, An Indian Sojourn and Surviving Eldercare, can be purchased through Amazon.

Ellen lives on the West Coast of British Columbia and is available for in person or telephone sessions. You can contact her through the blog comment section or email her at: ellenbesso@gmail.com.