Twelve caring and adventurous Expedians and friends of Expedians, representing a wondrously diverse 11 different nationalities, ventured to Tibet to immerse themselves in a challenged and culturally distinctive travel destination to learn about an ancient culture, visit socially focused organisations, and discover another side of humanity.
The Social Outreach Programs aim to inspire and empower Expedians to contribute in whatever way suits them, and range from long-term volunteerism with our APAC-wide charity partners to create sustainable change, to destination immersion to gain a glance into another culture and the life of those less fortunate.
The week began with the group arriving in Lhasa over the course of a sunny Saturday, and taking the day to acclimatise to the 3,600m altitude that Lhasa boasts.
The capital city of Tibet was surprisingly chaotic, comparable to that of any developing city, with the hustle and bustle of daily life, the constant honking of horns, the perilous crossing of roads, and small business owners and street vendors scrambling to make ends meet.
We spent time visiting a number of spectacular and intricate monasteries and temples in Lhasa and the surrounds, filled with spirituality and warmth. Walking through the centuries old sacred Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Monastery and Drepung Monastery, we were moved by its deep and enlightening history.
The Tibetan way of life is one of simplicity, and their teachings revealed much about how humanity should behave – lives free from hatred, ignorance and attachment from materialism; and ones inclusive of acceptance, compassion and kindness.
Local Social Enterprises
We had the opportunity to visit the Kangde Blind Massage Centre, who employ blind and visually impaired people, providing sustainable income to these talented individuals who would otherwise struggle to find work. The therapists receive formal training in Beijing, sponsored by Braille Without Borders, an organisation that assists blind and visually impaired people through jobs and livelihood training.
Relaxing (for some!) evening whilst giving back to society.
We also visited the Dropenling Handicraft Centre, a social enterprise that works with over 500 local artisans from the Tibetan provinces of Shigatse, Lhoka and Nagchu.
The centre provides free training to underprivileged and unemployed women in handicraft making and basic finances, to help provide them with sustainable incomes. The artisans create beautiful pieces of art that are purchased by tourists and also by monasteries across Tibet.
The centre also donates a proportion of profits to support local disabled, deaf and blind schools.
Understanding Local Challenges
The week was rounded with a trip to Lake Namtso, a marvellous and gargantuan salt water lake at an elevation of 4,700m. Surrounded by multicoloured pastel hued mountains, the lake is believed to be sacred and a place of peace and harmony. Goofing around at Lake Namtso
This part of the trip was particularly eye opening in many ways, and introduced us firsthand to what our chosen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) really mean. Especially ‘Reduced Inequalities’ where the majority of families live below the poverty line, and ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ due to the minimal sanitation infrastructure, where holes in the ground constituted toilet facilities. There was minimal running water let alone hot water in most parts. Going to the toilet was made even more challenging as squatting at altitude required a significant amount of additional energy!
Travel + Friendships + Humanity
Our group will continue to travel and care, and will bring home stories to share with their friends and family, who will then be inspired to travel to these destinations and stimulate the economy through tourism, and hopefully enlighten them, beyond the relative bubbles we live in, and empower them to contribute in whatever way that suits them as well.
The added beauty of these trips are the new friendships formed from bringing people of different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds together, to have these experiences together, and to care together.