November 26, 2010

A passage to India

The little Himalayan town where I have spent the majority of 2010 is a far cry from St Peter Port. Shaven headed monks in red robes wander the rubbish-strewn streets while cows mix happily with the beeping rickshaws. Worlds apart you might think, but they were drawn together this year when, back home for a while, I set out to raise funds for a school educating Tibetan refugees.

Fundraisers are blessed in Guernsey to work in an affluent community with such a generous spirit. I was doubly blessed to have built up strong relationships with the media and key decision makers on the island during my time at Orchard. It made my goal of raising £2,500 seem very attainable.

As a PR account executive I had often been involved in charitable pursuits through my clients’ corporate social responsibility initiatives. This varied from brainstorming ideas, and helping to organise logistics to simply making the public aware of upcoming events.

I knew I could put all this to good use. In my year away from work I had been teaching English to adult students who had fled Tibet. £2,500 would pay rent for the school building for one year and give hundreds of students access to an education, something they had been denied in their own country.

I got to work. A flurry of St Peter Port Constables meetings, news releases, feature pages and BBC interviews followed, with many days at a computer and a few favours thrown in. The result, after various private donations, a bake stall and a new sporting event in partnership with the Culture and Leisure Department, was £4,330 for the school.

My friends were thrilled. No, they were ecstatic. £4,330 as you might imagine, is a lot of rupees. Their gratitude was largely shown through offering me meals. During my final trip I must have put on half a stone in thank yous.

Tibetans face hardships that we cannot imagine. They trek for 35 days to escape Tibet, across the icy Himalayas during the night without lights to avoid detection from the Chinese police. After leaving the country it is very difficult to return, meaning they are severed forever from family and friends. Yet still they come.

It’s hard to sum up how meeting these people has affected me without sounding terribly clichéd.

‘They have opened my eyes, I realise how incredibly lucky I am!’

Apologies, it’s true. And it is with real gratitude about my lot in life that I don my PR hat once again and return to the world that made their continued education possible.

Posted by Sam.

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