The Tibetan Diaspora community is growing worldwide with a majority of the population residing in India, especially in those 58 Tibetan settlements established in different parts of India. In order to bring all Tibetans together and build a sense of sisterhood amongst the scattered communities, the 14th Kashag headed by Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay initiated the “Puensigh Shichaks Lehshid” meaning Sister Settlement program. Under this initiative, two Tibetan communities living in different geographical areas are linked to form a sisterhood relationship, through which they can share and exchange information, culture, experiences, and assist in terms of socio-economic development of the community to strengthen solidarity between Tibetans and to promote self reliance. This program addresses all the three guiding principles of the present 14th Kashag i.e. Unity, Innovation, and Self-reliance.
Matching of the two communities are based on the economic status, population of a settlement and the population of the community abroad. Initially, a minimum of ten settlements in India and ten Tibetan communities from the western countries will be matched and introduced. Likewise the process will be replicated to match other Tibetan communities in order to create more Sister Settlements (Shijaks). However the success of the program rest upon the serious participation from the communities involved in order to explore new initiatives and fund new projects to support, especially by the communities in abroad. Once the two communities reach an agreement to bound each other in a sisterhood (Sister Shijak) relationships, further activities and events will be organized involving grassroots people to initiative projects to support the sustainability of the program and strengthening of the civil society.
The Settlement officers will be the key point of contact, they will form a management team including camp leaders, representatives from the monasteries and head of the institutions, whilst the Tibetan Association in abroad will manage their own team. The Department of Home of the Central Tibetan Administration will play an integral role of liaising between the two Tibetan communities and assist in strengthening the Sister-Shijak relationships. However long term sustenance of the relationship between the two communities rest in largely in the hand of the primary stakeholders i.e. the Settlements represented by the Settlement Officers and the Tibetan Associations abroad with their respective elected representatives.
Some of the outlined activities under the program include:
- Settlement development mapping – visualizing settlement five or ten years from now
- Develop program based on settlement development map
- Create a system to exchange information and knowledge – routine set up – flow of information
- Visit of community representatives to meet the communities to know the situation better and to build stronger relationship or partnership.
- Partnership agreement between two communities
- Children education or exposure trip to settlements or sister cities
- See various ways of doing commercial business by partnership
- Implement the first year plan of community development through fund raising, inviting volunteers, establishing businesses, producing entrepreneurs, educational programs etc.
- Create networking system between sister settlements to exchange experiences and strengthening the program
Currently five Tibetan Associations in North America have signed up for the initiative:
Portland and Phuntsokling, Orissa
Colorado and Rasua (Nepal)
New York/New Jersey and Hunsur and Bandra
Boston and Tezu Dargeyling, Arunachal Pradesh
San Francisco Bay Area and Norzinling, Dorpatan (Nepal)