Intern Testimony- Sophia Tenzin Slater

sophiaWorking to Make Tomorrow Better Than Today

 As an intern at the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA), I am learning much about the Tibetan exile situation through helping publish the “Dolma” annual magazine, writing reports, editing books and articles, and brainstorming for campaigns and projects. What inspires me most at TWA is the work ethic of the women here. From morning to evening they labor tirelessly to meet their deadlines, collaborating to extensively document the Tibetan situation with a specific focus on women. I have never before seen such a dedicated and committed group of women working for a common cause, and this has made me even more motivated and eager to contribute by using my skills as a native English speaker.

It is easy to read about human rights violations that are taking place, hear a few speakers share their experiences, and then say you “know” the Tibetan situation. But to work alongside Tibetans who are on the front line, fighting every day for their country and culture, is completely changing my perspective. I am seeing the power of writing, of poetry, of speaking, and of spreading awareness. I am realizing that those organizing or taking part in the marches and protests are not the only ones who are important for Tibet. The women at TWA are the quiet heroes, working every day to help empower Tibetan women and raise awareness of the Tibet situation.

As a 17-year-old American born and raised in Tokyo, I have seen communities in Japan come together to help those affected by the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Traveling to India and working with the women at TWA is my second opportunity to see the efforts of the community to try to find solutions, in this case with regard to the Tibetan exile situation. The situations in Tohoku and Dharamsala are very different but the one common denominator is community. In their individual ways, people have pulled together and organized projects and initiatives to better their situation. The human factor is the same: every person is striving for relief from his or her predicament, and looking to improve the situation. In the end, people are simply working to make tomorrow better than today.

            Working at TWA is allowing me to see these commonalities across different cultures and countries, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that I have been given.

Intern’s testimony – Carolin Wichtermann

Carolin-1TWA through the lens of an intern

From April to July I was able to get an insight into TWA’s work as an intern at the headquarters. Climbing the narrow stairs up to the hidden TWA office on my first day of my internship, I did not know at all what to expect. At the end of these stairs there turned out to be some impressive experiences.

Trying to match my skills to the tasks, I was assigned with assisting the ‘Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile’ Project. This program lasts one year and had just begun when I joined it. We wanted to strengthen women through an approach which was new for TWA: the legal provisions for the women in Exile. The program not only stresses on the importance of official birth- and marriage certificates, the Indian Penal Code and procedural provisions in cases of violence against women, it also provides a glimpse into Human Rights and international women’s rights. Since I studied law, it was a great challenge to implement justice not only in theory but in the daily lives of exile women. In contrast to sitting at university and just repeating the theories we were taught, as part of the Legal Empowerment Training, I had to orientate towards the actual needs of the women in exile.

And this is in my opinion one of the biggest reasons why TWA does such a great work: it is a well-established and democratically organized institution and therefore knows what the people in exile need the most. The executive members have extensive experience in working with the Tibetan community and therefore know what issues to target and the support women in exile need. This greatly differs from organizations run by foreign institutions that sometimes do not have the experience and sources of information to provide the support that is needed.  And this contact to the women outside is even noticeable when you sit at a desk inside the office.

Also a very interesting experience and so different from what I normally do in Germany was being a substitute teacher at Stitches of Tibet:  This program of TWA gives women the opportunity to learn stitching and basic knowledge in English, Math and computing. I experienced how hard it can be to transfer knowledge and to make even fractions lively and interesting. At the same time it is a great feeling to see these women’s concerns and their interest in the program.

What stood out to me the most was hearing the feedback from the legal empowerment training in the first five regions: a third of the women think that they are born as women due to their bad Karma. As long as being a woman is seen as bad Karma it is worth still fighting for women’s rights.

I am very thankful to TWA for giving me insight into their various works. I plan to spread my knowledge and understanding of the Tibetan issue back in Germany. With a coordinated effort, I believe we can address the suffering of people all over the world to help build a better world together.

Tibetan Women's Association intern Vicki Robinson

Intern testimony: Vicki Robinson

Tibetan Women's Association intern Vicki RobinsonVicki Robinson, TWA Intern from Canada
November 2011 – February 2012

My time working with TWA has been exciting, enriching and fulfilling. I have worked with most staff and executive members in a number of different capacities appropriate to my skills. My main work has been mentoring, designing trainings and delivering trainings. I have also worked with one or two other NGOs in the McLeod Ganj area when they needed help in these areas (on loan from TWA). I have also done a lot of writing and editing work as required in English – reports, reviews, news releases, Voice (newsletter) and Dolma publication.

Specifically, I have worked with the Grants Officer researching potential funders for capacity building and administrative expenses of TWA. I have also written training materials and trained staff and leadership trainees in project proposal writing and implementation.

With the Empowerment through Action desk I have again written training materials and trained staff and leadership trainees in areas such as Goal Setting, Team Building, Time Management and Basic Communication Skills. I have also researched potential funders for TWA concerning training and women in leadership.

With the Women’s Environment and Development desk I have assisted in designing assessment documents and researching options for organizations who might appropriately receive the TWA Losar gift. I also worked with her in writing many of the documents and informations needed to take to the COP 17 conference in Durban.

While interning at TWA one becomes involved in many aspects of the diverse work of the NGO and a welcomed and appreciated member of the TWA team.

Natasha Stone - an intern with TWA in Dharamsala, India

Intern testimony: Natasha Stone

Natasha Stone - an intern with TWA in Dharamsala, IndiaI volunteered at the central offices of TWA in Dharamsala from August until December 2011. I had finished my university studies in 2009 and since taken up employment in online marketing, but was keen to travel and gain some experience with an NGO. The intern manager Dhardon Sharling did an excellent job of matching my jobs to my existing skills, meaning that I could immediately get to work and feel part of the team.

My main tasks were to redesign the website and to research and write a report on Tibetan nomads for launch at UN conference COP17 last November. I also got TWA’s social media up and running (check out the links to Facebook, Twitter etc on the right-hand side!), helped out with press releases, Dolma magazine and other reports, and took part in events such as film screenings and candlelight vigils in support of many Tibetan martyrs who self-immolated. Whilst challenging and busy, these projects allowed me to really feel I was making a difference whilst teaching me immeasurable amounts about Tibet, Tibetan culture, inspirational Tibetan women and the runnings of a dedicated NGO. I hope to go back in the future and would earnestly recommend work with TWA to anyone able to give some of their time.

Here are some ideas of what you could do: help TWA identify grants opportunities and write proposals, run campaigns for Tibet’s environment, support online marketing and website updates, undertake research, give English lessons to students at Stitches of Tibet… There are many opportunities for anyone who has skills matching TWA’s needs and who’s proactive and dedicated to TWA’s goals – just get in touch!

TWA intern Priscilla Hsu

Intern testimony: Priscilla Hsu

TWA intern Priscilla HsuPriscilla Hsu, TWA Intern from the USA

I volunteered with the TWA Executive Office in McLeod Ganj from June – August 2011. My internship was challenging and demanding, and it was a valuable experience that would be hard to rival as an undergraduate. Having just completed my second year of undergraduate studies in the United States, I came to TWA and was immediately put to work. I assisted with the release of several media outlets, whether it was editing and proofreading media releases as a native-English speaker or producing promotional videos for TWA. I was also given long-term projects, most notably the responsibility of researching, writing, and editing a shadow report submitted for supplementary consideration of the country of Nepal to the UN CEDAW conference. As daunting as the work may have been to an undergrad, it was all carefully guided under the TWA executive committee, particularly with the intern coordinator Dhardon Sharling. Dhardon did a great job of assigning projects according to my skills set but also made sure to give me work that was not confined to my resume. My time with TWA was quite the experience.

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