The Forgotten International - Fellowship Program
At the beginning of each year, The Forgotten International begins the process of enlisting applicants for our volunteer positions abroad whereby we place caring individuals in the field to do the work of poverty alleviation.
Since 2007, TFI has sent Human Rights and Economic Justice Fellows to work abroad. We presently partner with 8 different organizations in India, Kenya, Peru and Uganda, and we continue to expand our placements around the globe. Working and living abroad is an enriching experience both personally and professionally and allows you to develop expertise in a given area while also expanding your professional network. You also know that you are offering a valuable service to a deserving nonprofit agency and the community it serves.
You can read about the experiences of our Former Fellows below. We are humbled by their dedication and commitment to the agencies they served, and we are proud of the work they each accomplished in their time abroad.
Please first review our Guidelines for eligibility and how to apply.
View our Current Opportunities here.
Feel free to share this announcement with like-minded friends, student groups or related organizations. Please contact us with any questions. Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.
Greg RosenCambodia, Summer 2014
My eight weeks serving the Cambodian Child's Dream Organization (CCDO) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, were some of the most informative, challenging, and uplifting. With projects in over 10 villages and three government school sites, the CCDO aims to create an economically empowered, educated public through tailored projects tailored at providing essential services and technical trainings to impoverished youth and families. The largest projects, an English education program and a breakfast distribution program, aim to improve school attendance and maximize academic performance by identifying prominent barriers to success in the classroom: food insecurity, disease prevalence, and responsibilities to the family and farm. The CCDO also builds water wells and latrines to reduce the burden of disease in Northwest Cambodia's farming communities and improve health outcomes at the community level, in hopes of promoting a economically sufficient, healthy families and businesses.
As the Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, I was responsible for analyzing a year's worth of data collected from several of the CCDO's initiatives and make appropriate recommendations following thorough examination of research-driven results. My primary duties included data entry, database creation and maintenance, and composing evaluation reports to inform staff and donors of project implementation progress. Other activities in which I participated including designing and distributing a survey intended to assess student access to breakfast meals in their home, drafting a nutrition workshop curriculum, and assisting English teachers with continuing education activities targeting primary students.
The two productive months I spent in Cambodia introduced me to a country facing a perpetual challenge of recovery, a people and culture defined by resilience, and best practices in NGO management and leadership. The experience strengthened my understanding of the poverty-poor outcomes nexus and reaffirmed my commitment to improving health at the individual and family levels in order to promote economic development at the community level.
Sherry ShenPeru, Winter 2013
To be given a second chance in life, and to rejoice in re-connecting with some of the girls whom I helped to mentor on my previous visit is a once-in-a-lifetime gift that TFI has so generously offered to me!
Based on my assessment from the last visit, along with the medical director's support, I returned with a master's internship project in public health, aimed towards youth empowerment through learning their understanding and experiences with health, stress and conflict within La Comunidad, and piloted a community health worker system to teach the youth a psychosocial health curriculum based on compassionate communication and mindfulness practices. Not only was it well-received by many, but it struck a surprisingly deep chord both within the youth and with me on the power of compassion and authenticity across human kind. Furthermore, in collaboration with a Peruvian trainer, a workshop on compassionate communication for teachers and staff in La Comunidad was also carried out at the site director's request. Other activities on site included mentoring and guiding health activities (stretching and Qigong) with the girls ages 14 and up, and organizing various cultural and recreational visits in Lima and nearby areas with 50 youth. Attempts to engage a Canadian elementary school and La Comunidad for cultural and resource sharing has also been made. Finally, observation and assessment through collaboration with current and former staff, youth residents, and international volunteers with in-depth knowledge of the community on how to best serve youth residing in La Comunidad has also been an ongoing activity during my stay.
Mark JohnstonIndia, Fall 2012
My time working in the office of BJ Panda MP has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience. After flying into Delhi and spending a few days re-adjusting to the sites and smells of the city, I flew out to Odhissa, in Eastern India and spent the next few weeks making trips out to Kendrapada, Mr. Panda's local constituency. While I was there I took part in a number of political rallies and was able to see how local politics is conducted. Multi-day excursions in the heart of India's rural communities gave me an insightful perspective into the realities and issues confronting the rural poor. Witnessing how Mr. Panda and his office dealt with such challenges was remarkable and encouraging to bear witness to. The last month was spent in South Delhi just down the street from the parliament buildings working on policy and legislative research on a number of issues including anti-corruption, campaign finance reform, and an IT Bill that gained a lot of media attention as two people were arrested for making a comment on Facebook. The Private Member's Bill that resulted was formulated by the policy team of Mr. Panda's office, was widely circulated, and is to be presented before parliament's next session. I greatly enjoyed my experience both personally and professionally. It not only has exposed me to a different perspective of looking at how social problems are addressed, but has given me the time and space to explore the culture of a country that I have grown to love.
Claire GroteIndia, Summer 2012
In addition to advancing the goals of a noble international NGO, working at TCHRD has been the opportunity to immerse myself in the Tibetan exile movement in India and be accepted as a valued member of their community. Dharamsala, and its predominately Tibetan suburb of Mcleod Ganj are rich in culture and the stories of exiled Tibetans. In addition to being the residence of many Tibetan exiles, the area is the seat of the Central Tibetan Administration and the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Therefore, it is a wonderful place to gain in depth knowledge about life as a Tibetan refugee and to develop a greater passion to serve their cause. Their struggle has been an inspiration to me.
As a legal research fellow, I contributed to TCHRD's annual report, the focus of which was the continuing arbitrary arrest and torture of Tibetans by the Chinese government. Having prior experience as a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, I was eager to apply my existing research and writing skills on behalf of the Tibetan people. Navigating the Chinese legal system, including its myriad of codes and regulations, was a challenge that I embraced with enthusiasm. In addition to drafting reports, I visited the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center near Dharamsala to meet with newly arrived refugees from Tibet where I gained new insight into their struggle for freedom and justice as well as the abuses that they suffer at the hands of the Chinese government.
Living in Dharamsala was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I intend to spread the knowledge and the stories of Tibet and its people in order that more will be aware of their cause. I am forever grateful to The Forgotten International for exposing me to the Tibetan struggle, and for giving me the chance to gain practical knowledge and experience in the field of international human rights advocacy. (Claire pictured with Tsering Tsomo, Executive Director of TCHRD).
Lisa HelmKenya, Summer 2012
I was challenged and humbled by my experience at St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization. Located in Kibera, Kenya, St. Vincent's serves children and their families from the largest slum in East Africa. St. Vincent's is unique in that it uses early education as a platform to support the entire family unit and is intrinsically involved in the lives of the families and community they serve.
I gained an incredible understanding of how just how interconnected social problems are. Discussions of education quickly touched on housing, food, jobs, and health care. The strength of St. Vincent's is that they understand that these areas cannot be addressed alone. I had the opportunity to analyze the economic, social, and political aspects that impact social change.
My experiences at St. Vincent's were diverse and tailored to my interests and strengths. I assisted in capacity building and organizational structure. I introduced psychosocial concepts and skills to the staff and volunteers, as well as lead health and financial literacy courses for children in the Rescue Center. The breadth and diversity of activities during this fellowship is what made this such as incredible experience. Lucy Kayiwa, St. Vincent's Coordinator, always says that once you visit, you are family. I am proud to consider myself part of the St. Vincent's family. (Lisa is pictured playing Scrabble with some of the young people from the Rescue Center.)
Katie LinIndia, Summer 2012
Working at the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was an undeniably unique experience, and one that solidified my commitment to working in human rights-based media as an international journalist. In particular, my time at the Tibetan Policy Institute provided me with a better understanding of the Administration as a functioning democratic body and invaluable access to those issues and challenges which plague both the government-in-exile and the Tibetan community-at-large.
Through my projects, I actually ended up straddling a few departments within the CTA and managed to establish a good rapport with some of them, such as the Department of Security, who allowed me access to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre to conduct interviews about border policy with new arrivals from Tibet. I also completed a guest feature for the Tibetan Bulletin (a publication of the Department of Information and International Relations) on a project headed by the Department of Home, which will see the resettlement of 1000 Tibetans to Canada over the next five years.
In the short two months that I was volunteering at the CTA, not only did I become acquainted with Tibetan traditions and working culture, but I also learned an enormous amount about Tibet's past and its complicated present. This experience allowed me to both flex my journalistic muscles and expand my knowledge of human rights in an international context ¡V and for that, I know that I am now better-equipped within my profession, which is invaluable. (Katie Lin is pictured second from right).
View a documentary that Katie Lin made about Tibet's self-immolations called "Beyond the Numbers." (WARNING: Graphic Content)
Hillary AmsterIndia, Summer 2012
I spent the summer of 2012 in Dharamsala, India, as a TFI fellow working at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy ("TCHRD"). Even in spite of the monsoon, I fell in love with Mcleod Ganj and the Tibetan community that lives there. Everyone was extremely friendly, kind, and active in promoting universal peace and respect. The landscape was picturesque, and I reveled in its beauty each day during my walks to and from the office. I loved it so much that I ended up changing my flight to extend my stay.
My experience working at TCHRD was one I will never forget. The staff embraced me as family, always inquiring as to my wellbeing, and even bringing me breakfast on occasion! I thought I knew about the Tibetan cause before I went to Dharamsala, but upon my arrival I soon realized my knowledge on the subject was extremely limited. The others at TCHRD were extremely knowledgeable, and were patient when explaining Tibetan and Chinese issues with which I was not familiar. I was charged with the task of writing two Special Reports for TCHRD: one on enforced disappearances and one on religious repression, both in Tibet. By the end, I was an expert on both topics, and relished in every opportunity to share my new expertise with anyone who would listen (or at least pretend to listen). I even discussed the issues with a monk who was extremely impressed with the extent of my knowledge. We later exchanged English language lessons for Buddhist philosophy lessons.
The number one thing I took away from the experience was that there was a lack of information provided to the general public regarding the Tibetan cause. My biggest hope was that I would continue to impart the important information to encourage a better understanding of the Tibetan issues. I am very proud of my reports, which will both be bound and published. The work I did for TCHRD was inspiring, and when it was finished I was only further encouraged to pursue a career in international human rights. I am so grateful to TFI for the opportunity.
Michael Schowalter JrIndia, Fall 2011
During the autumn months of 2011, The Forgotten International sent me to Dharamsala, India, where I was to help the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. "They're understaffed," I was told, and "you'll be helping them finish their 2011 Annual Report." OK, sounds simple enough, I thought. While the purpose for my helping TCHRD was simple, the topics that I would need to become an expert in were anything but.
In two months, I indeed became an expert in the human rights abuses that the Chinese government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party inflict upon the Tibetan people. I had some knowledge of the problems in Tibet, but it was only with my work at TCHRD that I became intimately aware of the forced resettlements, mass detentions, torture, cultural genocide, and other crimes against various individuals and the Tibetan people in Tibet. With my new knowledge and understanding, I was able to play a large role in completing the 2011 Annual Report, using Chinese domestic law and public international law to analyze the issues we examined.
The 2011 Annual Report is something that I'm proud of and can stand behind. It will be a great resource for advocates of Tibet who may want to lobby their local governments and local industry to put pressure on the Chinese government. Since 2008, the Tibetan people have been standing up for their rights, but they will only succeed if we stand up with them. My fellowship was a great experience, and I see myself helping the Tibetan people in some way or another for some time to come.
Jennifer IngramIndia, Summer 2011
Upon first arriving in New Delhi, India, I thought I had some idea of what was in store. I had become familiar with the amazing work Mr. Baijayant "Jay" Panda had done and was continuing to do, both in the capital as a member of parliament and in his home State of Odisha as a representative of Kendrapara district via online sources and my conversations with other people. But my experience once stepping foot off the plane was more than I could have hoped for, as I was every day given an opportunity to work with and learn from an amazing team of people, all with extensive knowledge which they were willing to share with me about the many ways to tackle poverty issues in India and generally.
During my fellowship I was introduced to a number of things: broader policy issues from doing research for Mr. Panda's newspaper op-eds, the role played by media appearances in Indian politics, and the issues surrounding corporate social responsibility among those investing in resource-rich Odisha State. As a law student, I was excited to witness the parliament session first-hand and research potential issues related to updating India's outdated Land Acquisition Act and reconciling it with the controversial Forest Rights Act and Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act. From speaking with the people on-site who helped build one of the four resettlement colonies negotiated after a particularly expansive mining deal in the state, to meeting the new addition born just the previous night at the home of the rural family who had previously hosted Mr. Panda overnight, my summer was filled with moments illuminating complex issues, which I could then explore in conversations with those most knowledgeable of the facts on-the-ground.
My experience with Mr. Panda's team taught me a great deal about the ways dedicated government officials can tackle issues such as poverty alleviation from all sides. I am grateful for the opportunity The Forgotten International gave me to interact with such an experienced and dedicated international public servant and for the hospitality shown me by Mr. Panda and his entire team during my stay. Although I was only able to scratch the surface of the issues Mr. Panda's team tackles every day, I am confident that the connections I made during my fellowship as well as the lessons I learned will assist me in my work in the future.
Supatra BashamIndia, Summer 2011
When I left for Dharamsala in June 2011, I had no idea what to expect of the two months I was to reside in the Himalayan hill station in India. The first few days were dizzying; Dharamsala is place with incredible diversity. Tibetan, Hindi, English, German, French, and Hebrew could be heard at any given moment. It is easy to be swept up in the flurry of popular activities such as language tutoring monks and nuns, Buddhist meditation and lectures, yoga, rock-climbing and hiking. Every once in a while, one can catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama or even attend one of his free teachings at his temple. Dharamsala, after all, is the current residence of the Dalai Lama.
Every year, Tibetans risk their lives in crossing inhospitable mountain passes to escape an even more inhospitable government. Their destination is not only the home of the Dalai Lama but the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Despite its many distractions, Dharamsala is a meeting point for so many people with a common plight and purpose. Even as a visitor, it is easy to become similarly motivated to contribute to the Tibetan struggle for basic freedoms in their homeland.
It is in this context, that I joined the staff at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). TCHRD is the first Tibetan non-governmental human rights organization to be established in exile in India. As my main task, I researched academic journals, law documents, government publications, and investigative reports to develop the "Civil and Political Rights," "Freedom of Religion," and "Development" sections of an annual report on the Tibetan situation in China. My contribution to TCHRD's Annual Report is set to be published at the end of 2011. Aside from being professionally rewarding, given the breadth and complexity of the assignment, my work at TCHRD was also intellectually stimulating.
Ultimately, it was difficult to stay very long in Dharamsala before even the most abstract research became informed by real-world experience. I have been humbled and inspired by my personal interactions with TCHRD staff, members of the Government-in-Exile, refugees at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center, local residents including monks, nuns, and activists, visitors, and NGO volunteers. I am grateful to The Forgotten International, through which I received the funding that made this experience possible.
Mark JohnstonIndia, Summer 2011
Having been given the privilege to work with The Forgotten International as a Fellow in an exotic country, one that has always been personally enriching, was extremely satisfying. I spent two months during the summer of 2011 working with the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, India, and was exposed to a reality one would not normally experience; one that took me into the issues facing the Tibetan people who were forced to flee from their homeland in hopes of being able to enjoy the simple freedoms we often take for granted. Witnessing the circumstances and the struggle Tibetan refugees face has inspired me to continue to work for the rights of marginalized people.
I spent my time working at the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) conducting research that was compiled into a report entitled "Policy and Practice: Chinese Propaganda and Freedom of Information" that sought to understand the methods and organization of the Chinese Propaganda machine and how they control public discourse by censoring, monitoring and restricting sensitive information. Throughout the project I was able to engage in several interviews with Tibetans who had been exposed to these realities who told stories of unimaginable hardships. The research was both enlightening and humbling as I came to understand more about the Chinese system and what the conditions are like for those still living in Tibet. I also helped out as an English editor for other staff members whenever it was needed, which proved to be interesting in being able to get an insight into some of the information being passed through a government office. One particularly memorable moment was when I visited the Tibetan Reception Center, where newly arrived refugees are first processed. I can remember coming into the big hall and seeing a group of forty or so Tibetans, amazed that they were mostly women and many of them teenagers.
I was especially excited to hear that my report was to be published both separately as a research paper and in an abridged version for the bi-monthly magazine the Tibetan Bulletin. Overall my time in Dharamsala has definitely been a rewarding experience, one that I can proudly say has influenced me for the better and will prove to be an instrumental step in my continuing work with refugees and human rights.
Policy and Practice: Chinese Propaganda and the Freedom of Information
Sherry Shen and Yolanda PenedaPeru, Summer 2011
Thanks to TFI, I have had an amazing, and one of the most humbling experiences, working with children, teenagers and young adults in La Comunidad de los Ninos Sagrada Familia in Lima, Peru. A community that started as a refuge for orphans and street children in 1989 in the middle of a sandy desert on the outskirts of Lima, it has now expanded into a home for 850 children, ages 1 month to 21 years, complete with a public school, more than eight after-school programs to teach children to be self-sufficient (including bakery, sewing, welding, music and different levels of English classes), and a medical clinic that serves residents from within and outside of the community.
For eight weeks, my colleague, and now a dear friend, Yolanda Peneda, and I lived in the dorm with about 50 girls, ages 15 to 21 years, and we participated in all aspects of their lives, acting as their supervisors, mentors, English tutors, mediators, occasionally even as parents. I have also carried out various informal talking circles with the girls on different health issues, and resolved a few conflicts among the girls.
Beyond close relationships with the girls, we have supported various projects and participated in the daily function of the entire community. We offered four to eight hours of English classes weekly for middle and high school students, organized the girls to cook meals for a community of 850, helped raise funds for a funeral and a project caring for the environment through freeing caged birds, and worked as interpreters / liaisons for the community when groups of foreign visitors arrived. We also translated and updated information for the community's website, explored alternate funding sources and ways to make the community more visible. I also taught Chinese to a few interested students.
Currently, they are seeking support for: 1) Clothing items (preferably ones that dry quickly due to the winter drizzle, and because they are in continuous shortage of clothing); 2) second-hand musical instruments for the youth who frequently perform at local fundraising events, and for those in the music workshop; 3) English teachers who can stay longer than six weeks; 4) Volunteers with experiences working with teenagers and college students to serve as mentors (preferably ones who know Spanish and can stay for two months or more), and 5) funding and setting up a microloan system to support university students and encouraging them to give back to the community.
Danielle BicknellPeru, Spring 2011
Through The Forgotten International's Fellowship Program, I volunteered for two months at a shelter and school for women and children called Mama Victoria in Lima, Peru. The school and shelter is located in a district of Lima called Chorrillos, which has the highest rate of domestic abuse in the city. The organization, Mama Victoria, provides a safe environment for women escaping domestic violence and gives refuge to their children as well. The shelter was started by a local woman and is maintained by local volunteers. I was their first foreign volunteer, and they welcomed me with open arms. I helped create a website for the organization and also taught English to the children who came to the shelter for after school care and guidance.
Mama Victoria's founder, Nelly Villegas, is an amazing woman with a big heart and a dream to create healthy relationships within her community. Everyone went to great lengths to make me feel comfortable, and I was able to learn so much from these women because they felt Mama Victoria was a safe place to talk about the problems and struggles they faced everyday. Mama Victoria's mission is to make their community better by giving women and children a safe place to live, work and grow. For two months, I taught English four days a week to 25 kids ranging in age from 4 to 12 and coming from all different backgrounds. It was the first time Mama Victoria had an English teacher and they were very grateful. The children were animated and enthusiastic. My methodology was simple: teach with compassion and love. Through rigorous and passionate practice of this method I tried to teach and inspire the children through hands on activities, educational songs, and lesson plans.
Currently, the organization is working towards achieving their goal of becoming self-sustainable. They have two classrooms for teaching and tutoring, bedrooms for women and their children, a small farm and garden, and a recycling program. Mama Victoria also operates a gourmet chocolate company where the women make and sell chocolate with the goal of learning job skills as they begin to rebuild their lives. As the business grows, they will use the profits to continue to expand their educational programs and services.
By creating a website for Mama Victoria, I used technology to shine a light on the organization's work and their mission in the world. I felt by creating a website for them, they could draw more attention to their cause and make it easier for others around the world to learn about the work they do and try to get involved. The organization is dedicated to building loving relationships within their community. I am humbled and grateful to have had this experience. It was so rewarding, and I will always remember that.
Click here to see a simple video I created showcasing the school. For more information please visit: Mama Victoria
Jeffrey KaloustianIndia, Summer 2010
Living and working in the Dharamsala area during the summer of 2010 was truly an unforgettable experience-extremely rewarding both personally and professionally. Each morning I was filled with awe at the beauty of the Himalayan landscape, as well as the resilience of the people, around me.
I served as a fellow at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy ("TCHRD"), which is located on the grounds of the Tibetan Government in Exile. I was immediately accepted as an integral part of the TCHRD team. The office atmosphere was friendly and professional and I felt that my contributions were valued throughout the summer. The office staff were always willing to answer my questions, support my efforts, and to share their perspectives.
I was assigned the task of researching and writing a Special Report on a critical and timely issue-the targeting of Tibetan intellectuals, writers, artists, and cultural figures in the wake of the 2008 Uprising in Tibet. Freedom of expression was the over-arching issue at play, and my research constituted a fascinating journey into both international and Chinese law. In addition to legal research, I explored the cases of dozens of Tibetans who have been arbitrarily detained in recent months under China¡¦s vague "state security" laws. These factual investigations revealed the profound courage of the people involved, as well as the real human cost of human rights violations in Tibet.
As the summer progressed, the Center received fresh reports of detentions and prosecutions of Tibetans over their writing, artistic, or professional work. Mainstream media outlets, such as the New York Times, the Associated Press, and BBC began running stories on the cases I was covering, and the seriousness and urgency of the issues inspired me to do my best work for TCHRD. The Special Report, far and away the most substantial writing project I have ever undertaken, will be published in both hard copy and electronic format. The experience most certainly helped propel me along my professional pathway, and it is my sincere hope that my work will shed some light on the plight of the Tibetan people.
Annette AndreIndia, Summer 2009
As the Copy Editor for the Department of Information and International Relations for the Central Tibetan Administration located in Dharamsala, India, I spent the majority of my time working under the guidance of the Secretary of Information alongside the Editor of the Tibetan Bulletin. Together, we researched and reported on the advancements made in Tibetan education over the past 50 years of life in exile in India and Nepal. Some of the most memorable interactions I had were through interviews with many of the leaders in Tibetan educational system. It was amazing to see just how hard the Tibetans living in exile have had to work over the past 50 years to adopt the host country¡¦s educational ways and standards, while at the same time preserving Tibetan language, arts and cultural traditions. My article on Education in Exile in the Tibetan Bulletin can be read at: http://tibet.net/en/tibbull.php?bullart=974&bullvolume=13&bullissue=3
Some of my other responsibilities included helping the Department of Information and International Relations establish reporting guidelines while also copy-editing all articles written for publication in English. I also assisted in a film documentary translation project with the government TV station which can be viewed at: http://www.tibetonline.tv/videos/77/unveiling-the-truth
My overall objective in working with the Department of Information and International Relations was to help the Tibetan English writing reporters understand, develop and improve upon their print reporting techniques. Just as it is for nearly every reporter, the main difficulties those in Dharamsala faced was learning how to write effectively, while dealing with the pressure to produce quality stories under a deadline. There were, of course, language barriers to overcome as well, along with a few conflicting methodologies; however, this just added even more beauty to the experience of working with some of the kindest, most driven people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Nicole KnudsenIndia, Summer 2009
Living in Dharamsala, India, for two months was an incredible experience. It was very inspiring to see how the Tibetans have developed their thriving community-in-exile, and I was honored to be warmly welcomed within that community during my brief stay. Dharamsala itself seems to have been literally carved into the side of the Himalayas, and it was amazing to see how the community successfully co-exists with the harsh natural conditions imposed by the monsoon rains, remote location, and soaring altitude. At the center of the town and of the people¡¦s consciousness is the home of the Dalai Lama, and it was a great comfort and cure for the occasional bout of homesickness to know that His Holiness and his temple were so nearby. One of the most memorable experiences for me was seeing the townspeople line the streets with flowers and incense offerings to welcome the Dalai Lama home after one of his many trips, and it was deeply moving to witness the happiness he radiated as he waved from the motorcade to his people.
I worked at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), where I wrote the "Education¡¨ and ¡§Development" chapters of their 2009 Annual Report to describe the current country conditions within Tibet. This required researching international norms and domestic Chinese law, and comparing these standards with the actual living conditions reported by refugees why had recently fled from Tibet into India. I was given the opportunity to interview many recent refugees to obtain those first-person accounts, including young children and people who had participated in the historic protests of 2008. Those interviews were an invaluable source of information about the real living conditions within Tibet, and I made a special attempt to gather information about groups under-represented in the existing data, such as women and people with disabilities. Meeting with these refugees was a deep honor and very humbling, and I think about and reflect upon that experience often. My co-workers at TCHRD were great, and I looked forward to going in to work each day for the opportunity to interact with and learn from them. Many of my co-workers were refugees and former political prisoners, and knowing this inspired me to deliver my best work to such an impressive and important organization.
Dianna EckhardtUganda, Summer 2008
In the summer of 2008, I was sent to Uganda on behalf of The Forgotten International to continue some work at the Zinunula Omunaku Education Centre originally started by The Rotary Club of San Jose. While there, I was asked to do two things: work with the children at their primary school to teach, among other things, English and Social Studies. Also, with part of the funds provided to me, I was to supervise the building of the roof to their newly constructed Educational Centre, as well as look into how best the school could get clean water, build cement walkways, repair and install new windows and doors, and supply the residence and some of the school with electricity.
This was a brand new school, serving children who, in some instances, walked four miles each day to receive a very basic education. It was a difficult yet wonderful experience. Living in this part of Africa is hard. Getting used to the bugs, finding clean water, bathing whenever possible, and simply dealing with a culture that moves at a very different pace was at times frustrating. I learned much, and gave as much as I could. In fact, it was very difficult for me to leave, but before doing so, I also decided to work with an organization called "The Right to Play" and got the school soccer balls, a first aid kit, pencils, books and a variety of school supplies. Today, even though it¡¦s been a few years since I¡¦ve been there, I still remember many of the children and many of the experiences I had there as if it were yesterday.
Melinda TischIndia, Fall 2007
It was my dream for quite some time to take a leave from being a lawyer and go off to see India. In the Fall of 2007, The Forgotten International gave me the opportunity to do just that.
Originally, I thought I would stay for two months, but I ended up staying for five. I was placed with the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), and there I worked through the end of the year, finishing their work on their Annual Report. The Centre reports on the conditions of Tibetans within China, as well as researches issues related to Human Rights violations, both within and outside of China as it relate to the Tibetan community. As a lawyer who had practiced for six years, legal research came easy to me, and the opportunity to work with an international NGO on issues related to some of the kindest people in the world was an honor and a privilege.
In addition to the work at the Centre, I took on the responsibility of teaching at a nearby Tibetan village school. The school is called The Model School, for at this school, the Tibetan Government in Exile attempted to create a school that was the perfect learning environment for Tibetan refugee children, and a school that other teachers would visit and attempt to emulate in their own communities. I taught English at the school, my students were fourth graders, and as it turns out, it was a wonderful break from the work at the Centre. After all, what could be better than being surrounded by adorable little children!
After my work in Northern India was completed, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was in one of the most interesting countries in the world, and could not bare to leave without seeing more of the culture and sights. I traveled throughout the country, met some other travelers, and learned so much. The Forgotten International gave me the opportunity to help and learn. It was an unforgettable experience.