1) Mr. Travis, can you do a brief introduction of your organization?
The organization is called T.A.C.T.I.C, which is targeting advocacy to conserve traditional indigenous cultures. The idea is we work as a volunteer coordinating organization and fundraising management. We work with local grassroots organizations that are formed out of the community, by the community. We try to help out with as much volunteer effort as we possibly can in our communities, in hopes to be able to insource our job, making sure it is not just volunteers of other countries, not just westerners, that are helping but we are trying to get more Tibetans to volunteer in their own community, to strengthen their own community.
2) Can you tell us how T.A.C.T.I.C's recent projects, like its computer project, English class and football league, are going on?
This is the alternative activities project, the football league. The idea for this football league is to accumulate as many as alternative youths - alternative meaning the ones don't have jobs, don't have RCs, drinking and smoking constantly - that kind of feel hopeless that they are not doing anything with their life. So we are offering them the chance to play soccer as a team, and at the same time teaching them English improving their academic skills. The hope is that all of these players will be able to be a team both on the field and off the field, whether through education or through physical activity. The idea is, later on, we want these kids going through FCE exams, Pet exams, letting them have an idea what they want to do for the future and giving them that avenue. These are what you call misfits. These are the kids who are kind of looked down by society as troublemakers. I am trying to give them discipline, the education and the camaraderie so they can join. The idea is they are going to be used as volunteers to help out the community as well. They're going to be used with the English program to highten their English skills and give them something to do on their side, give them meaning to they want, and as we progress, we will learn how to make résumés and apply for jobs, and actually get a more self-sustainable life. So they are not depending on handouts, alcohol, drugs those types of things.
3) In terms of cultural relativism and cultural preservation, which is said to be your organization's main goal, how are these projects are linked to that?
The idea is that a lot of refugees that come over, especially like lot of these youths, they come from a nomadic way of life, they come from a culture that doesn't really embrace the same things that the Indian culture does, so the idea is to get them volunteering in Tibetan language courses, get them improving their own language skills, and have more a cultural exchange with our volunteers, more integration of knowledge, but the idea is to allow them to be creative.
Most of these kids, no matter if it is people born in India or people that came and are looked as misfits, they all have the same hope for autonomy in Tibet, but this generation seems to be becoming more hopeless, because it has been almost 51 years now since Tibet has been taken over and we want to tell them that home is not just a physical place, but also a spiritual place. That is why with volunteering in the community and insourcing the labor, you are more able to keep the culture in the community. Like as I said, everyone has the same hopes and aspirations. But once [you] despair, once you feel helpless or hopeless, that is when you start to flee from what you have known from your entire life. And I think, lots of these guys that come out here to play soccer or also played soccer when they were in Tibet. It gives them a link between their old way of life when they were back home and their new way of life. It gives them hope for the future and, I think that with the confidence they build, the more they [will be] willing to help out in their communities and help to cultural preservation. The thing is that everyone hopes that Tibetan culture will [be] preserved, but sadly Tibetan culture has to be modernized that is inevitable. You can't stay in the 16th century in the 21st century. So you have to modernize, but you also have to be able to do it so that you are culturally modernizing. You don't have to wear Chupas, you can be a person of lower class or high class, a refugee, someone who is born here, they all have to link together and look each other as the same. Not Sanjour(Tibetan new arrivals) versus someone who is born here. You have to look each other that all Tibetans united together. The point is that a lot of these guys are fending for themselves on a normal basis.
But linking them together and giving them that team effort, the English activities would hopefully my aim.
I can't obviously say what the future is going to hold. But the aim is to get them more involved in community and get them more into helping out the youth, and helping out with cultural projects that TWA, T.A.C.T.I.C, TYC, SFT puts on, getting them more aware, also teaching. The big thing is they are also going to be teaching our volunteers. There are so many tourists in Mcleod Ganj that still don't know what is going on in Tibet. The idea is to get this group of guys to be able to relate one-on-one, to share their stories with the volunteers, to put on these events to show what they been through and what they are still going through. Just because they are in exile doesn't mean they are free and happy. They also have to suffer through a lot, I mean have to learn a democracy, the Indian way of life as well, and they have to share same ground.
4) Tibetan political and spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama always emphasizes that Tibetan culture is unique and that it has a very important potential to serve world peace. In terms of this, what do you think is unique about Tibetan culture?
It was said by Confucius that "once there is harmony in the mind, there is harmony in the family. Once there is harmony in the family, there is harmony in the community. Once there is harmony in the community, there is peace in the country. Once there is peace in the country, there is peace in the world". The big thing about Tibetan culture is the values and the spiritual believes is what will turn the world around as the Dalai Lama says. But when you have hopeless Tibetans and Tibetans that feel like they are worthless; you can't help other without helping yourself. So the idea is helping the people that may need a little bit more push, a little more bit more discipline. On the international level, so many people are working to save [Tibet], but on a base to base level, you have to be able to work individually. It is a slow process; you can't create world peace in one day. You have to be able to get every one on the same page. If you have group of people that feel like they are left out by their own people, you are not getting that unity. So without unity of one person to another person, to a community, to a country, to the planet, you have to start with one person. The idea here, is finding out what people want to do, that is why we have computer program as well, some people don't want to play soccer, some people want to learn how to use computers. But the thing is in India people don't have the wage. Sometimes to take these computer courses, 1500 rupees is a lot if you are not making all that much. So the idea of offering the reduced price computer teaching program is allowing anyone to come and be able to learn how to do software, internet websites, adobe - those types of programs. And the reason why we still charge 300 Rupees is it goes back into the program. We make sure that we have books, internet costs, and all that type of stuff. We get our computers donated in the US - we have six more computers coming over. The idea is to offer a sense of unity and a sense of hope to people that some don't have a job to support [them], or don't have the time. We want to be able to get them united together, and start on an individual basis. Unlike a lot of organizations [this is not a] fly-by-night organization. This is not just an organization that's here for a couple months and then we leave. The idea is to be long lasting. Just like the Tibetan [people] for 50 years have been in exile, [but] is still continuing. We can't just create programs and then leave. The idea for T.A.C.T.I.C is one day it won't be a Westerner running this program, it will be Tibetans. It won't be a Westerner running these computer classes, it's going to be a Tibetan running [them]. The idea is to come in, show that anyone is capable of doing anything that they want to do and then, as time goes on, handing it down. The idea is that, at the end of the day, I don't want these players saying "you helped us do this", I want these players saying, "we helped ourselves do this."
5) Can you tell me about future projects and the expansion of your organization?
Well the expansion of T.A.C.T.I.C. is almost an oxymoron. [We] are not expanding, in the sense of our own goals, we're expanding on the goals and hopes of the community. Right now I'm working with the Tibetan Women's Association to get non-profit status in the U.S., we can help them with that. T.A.C.T.I.C. is only expanding as other grassroots organizations are expanding.
Our future hopes [are] to get a solid, working football team here, going to Manali and getting a team there, going to Shimla and getting another team there, going to different refugee settlements and getting the same types of kids to actually [play] soccer together in hopes, as time goes on and the teams become more organized, [that] we could start having matches. You might have the Shimla team coming to Mcleod Ganj to play, you might have Mcleod Ganj going to Manali to play. Again, the idea is that we're getting people to do what they love to do. We're giving them the education to excel in life, and we're giving them the hope that they can do a lot more with their life than [with] what they are given right now. As far as expanding [goes], we just want to be able to reach more people in the community, whether it's with the computer program, whether it's just with the activities. Another future project that we're hoping to collaborate on with the Tibetan Nun's Project and the T.W.A. is temporary housing for impoverished Tibetan nuns. Right now (...) there's 3 types of nuns - nuns who are in the nunnery, sometimes there is not enough room in the nunnery, so you have nuns with monthly stipends to be able to live, and then you have some nuns who have no jobs, no housing, who live on the streets. Our hopes are to create temporary housing for these nuns, to find them a place that they can worship, eat, sleep, and learn, then as more vacancies in the nunnery systems open up, we can hand these nuns back into the system. The most vibrant part of Tibetan culture is its spiritual, religious philosophy, and if we're not taking care to the ones who are devoting their entire life to this higher [state of] being, then, in the end, the hope for Tibet is bleak.