In October 2013, Professor Heaven Crawley and colleagues at Swansea University took a group of undergraduate students on a field course to Sikkim in the Indian Himalayas. Following an afternoon of talking, eating and dancing with young Tibetans living in exile in India, the idea of TibetXChange was born!
TibetXChange provides a unique opportunity for young Tibetans to spend two weeks at Swansea University raising awareness about the cultural, political and economic situation in Tibet and the importance of continuing peaceful dialogue with the Chinese authorities regarding the country’s future. During the visit they will talk to students and staff, meet with politicians and policy makers in the Welsh Government and at Westminster and engage with the public and members of the Tibetan community. The exchange will give young Tibetans an opportunity to develop their confidence, skills and capacity as community leaders.
Once we had decided to set up the programme we needed to find five young Tibetans to take part!
The first ever Youth Empowerment Workshop for young Tibetans living in Sikkim was held in Gangtok from 18th-27th January 2014 and more than 30 young Tibetans took part. The workshop provided in-depth information about Tibetan history, culture, religion and politics and, just as importantly, an opportunity for young people to talk, debate and exchange idea about their country and its future. At the culmination of the workshop, Tenzin Rabga, Yeshey Paden, Kelsang Dolma, Tseyang Palzom and Phuntsok Nyima were selected for the first ever TibetXChange programme.
Earlier this year we ran a crowdfunding campaign which raised the money to pay for the visas for the five young Tibetans selected to come on the programme and their accommodation costs during the time in the UK. Now that we have been successful in getting the visas we need your help again, this time to pay for their flights and to cover the costs associated with running the programme in the UK.
The future of Tibet, as well as Tibetan language, culture and identity, depends on the next generation of Tibetans, most of whom were born in India and have had no opportunity to visit their homeland.
TibetXChange provides a unique opportunity for young Tibetans to develop their skills and capacity as community leaders and to engage in international dialogue about the future of Tibet. TibetXChange also provides a unique opportunity for students at Swansea University to learn more about important international issues, hear about the experience of young people growing up in very different social, cultural and political environments and develop their own leadership and communication skills.
When we started this project we believed that the biggest and potentially most difficult challenge would be securing the visas to enable the young Tibetans to come to the UK. It took us six months and a lot of hard work but we are delighted that the visas have now been granted and we can proceed with the programme.
There are still risks and challenges ahead, not least raising the funds to pay for the flights and ensuring that the young people are able to meet with a wide range of people during their time in the UK. But we are working closely with the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in London and a wide range of organisations to ensure a packed and varied programme during which there will be opportunities for the young Tibetans to meet with students from the UK and overseas, with faculty members and researchers at the University of Swansea and the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations in Coventry, with politicians and policy makers and with members of the public.