'Building Bridges' Summer Camp

The 5-day summer camp, Building Bridges, had the aim of bridging the gap between the Tibetan an Indian youth, creating inclusion and mutual learning for a future generation of adults that are understanding and respectful of differences and that are inclusive.

The camp also focused on healthy living as well as respect of nature and environmental mindfulness. The camp was organized as a partnership between Ritinjali and Empowering the vision form the 2nd to the 6th June.

Students from Vasant Valley School in Delhi and the UPPER TCV School in Dharamshala participated in the camp. The camp was kicked off on an auspicious note with a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All the camp participants, coordinators and facilitators attended and it was a powerful moment for all. Subsequently we attended His Holiness' teachings and started the process of getting to know each other.

The following day we were set for a Trek to Triund, a 16 km trek! The weather gods were not with us and we were forced to take refuge in a shed due to a hale downpour. To pass time during the rain all our participants decorated the shed. Once the sun peaked out we continued our trek but this time we headed towards the waterfall. At the waterfall we had lunch, rested and the participants had to create groups to create nature art that they had to showcase and explain.

The following day the building bridges camp participants were divided into three groups to do a community mapping of two local Indian villages and one Tibetan community. Subsequent to the community mapping the students had to make a presentation to the respective community leaders and suggest an action that the group as a whole would perform the following day to bring something back to the community they had visited. The action had to help address one of the issues that the students had encountered during the mapping. Mr Arun Kapur, Chairman of Ritinjali, was present during the presentations.

The following day the participants spent the morning preparing for their actions and after lunch they set out on the streets of Mcleodganj and to the villages to showcase their play on alcoholism, their action against burning trash, setting up trash cans in the community as well as convince hotel owners to properly dispose of trash. In Mcleodganj the students did a Stop Honking campaign that proved to be very successful and attracted attention from locals, tourist and law enforcement. Our participants were also interviewed by Voice of Tibet - Norway about our project!

On the final day of the camp, we visited Nobulinka institute. Nobulinka is a replica of His Holiness’ summer palace in Tibet and it showcases Tibetan artisans and their handicrafts. After this we visited the Central Tibetan Administration and went to the library to meet with Minister of Communication and information that spoke about the Tibetan issue and answered many of question posed by the students.

For our farewell dinner we had an amazing performance by a local Tibetan troupe. After dinner, the Vasant Valley had prepared their own performances for their hosts as a farewell present including their school song. As we were wrapping up a wonderful evening, gifts, hugs and tears were exchanged among the participants with promises to meet again soon in Delhi. All the upper TCV students were gifted a Ritinjali T-shirt as a see you soon present.

The camp really showcased that even though the students come from very different backgrounds they had a lot in common and managed to forge strong bonds in just 5 days. This camp really shows how important it is to push oneself out of your comfort zone to discover bonds with people you otherwise would not have met. We are so proud of all our participants!