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Fellow:
Tsewang Sangmo Lama
Fellowship site:
International Campaign For Tibet (ICT), Washington, DC


Brief History of Organization:

During the summer 2003 from May through August, I interned at the International Campaign for Tibet based in Washington, DC. “The ICT is dedicated to helping protect and preserve the identity of the Tibetan people both within Tibet and in exile.” ICT has its branch organization in Amsterdam and Deutschland, Berlin. “ ICT works to promote human rights and self determination for Tibetans and to protect their culture and environment.
Some of the other works that ICT involves are:
- Conduct fact finding missions to Tibet, India and Nepal
- Lobbying Tibetan issues by testifying before the Congress, the UN and other international organizations
- Empowering Tibetans, particularly, the Tibetan youth.
- Works geared towards human rights, development, and environmental condition of Tibet.
Source: ICT website www.savetibet.org


Responsibilities:

Comprehensive Data of Tibetan political Prisoners

My initial work as an intern was assisting the office’s campaign coordinator, Lisa Sock, in collecting the information and categorizing the data of the Tibetan political prisoners. I created a new account on the Tibetan political prisoners. I researched extensively on each of the present Tibetan political prisoners. Under the guidance of my supervisor, I was given access to lots of information on internet, books, email correspondence, etc. Through out the summer, with new information coming in from different sources, I updated and compiled the data with a comprehensive report on each of the political prisoners. Using Microsoft Excel program, the data details the prisoners’ date of arrest, trial, detention, penalty- number of years/terms serving in the prison and lastly, the health condition of the prisoners. The report from differ in terms of date of trial, arrest and detention, so I had to check with different sources and consult the senior for their feed back.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Campaign

I worked for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche(TDR), a high profile Tibetan monk who was arrested by Chinese authorities. I corresponded with the supporters on a daily basis who were requesting the office to send the TDR Campaign postcards and other action kits. I sent TDR post cards and action materials to people every day who had requested the cards, so they could mobilize other people and pressure the Chinese government for his release. I took total charge of all the works related to Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

Beside human rights, I also assisted the campaign coordinator in research related to Development and environmental destruction in Tibet which gave me lot of time to read and do online research as directed by the coordinator.

Ngawang Sangdrol nomination for the Reebok Human Rights Award

Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun, is one of the youngest female political prisoners arrested at age 13. Sangdrol was released from Chinese prison for medical reasons and has been in our office since her arrival in the US. I spent more than a week reading extensively about Ngawang Sangdrol, filling out applications and writing about her life story for the Reebok Human Rights Award Nomination. I also prepared an informational packet about Ngawang Sangdrol for her English tutor in order for her to figure out what Sangdrol’s English vocabulary needs are.

Phuntsok Nyidron’s Resolution

I was also assigned to work on Phunstok Nyidron Resolution which was introduced in the House of Representative by Mr Udall (H.RES. 476). Nyirdon is a Tibetan nun and one of the political prisoners in Drapchi 14. She is also one of the "singing nuns." I read extensively about her to work but later the office delayed her campaign for the preparation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit in the September, 2003.

Congressional Hearings

I also attended different congressional hearings at Capitol Hill that were related to human rights and Asia in particular. I later briefed the important points at a staff meeting held at the office. My work also included visiting the Senate and the House building in the Capitol Hill meeting with the congressmen and women, and their staff informing them about the plight of Tibetans and in particular about human rights, refugees asking for their support in passing it to the house of representative and later to the senate.

Accomplishment

The political prisoner’s data that I created for the office and updated is being used by the office.

During my internship at the office, unfortunate events occurred to Tibetan Refugees fleeing from Tibet to Nepal. Tibetans fled Tibet to be free. But on April 15, 2003, Eighteen Tibetans who fled to Nepal were detained by Nepalese authorities and were in the course of deporting back to Tibet under the pressure from the Chinese authorities. Of these people, two were minors of age 6 and 8 respectively. In reaction to this, our office led a protest in front of Nepalese Embassy in which the local Tibetans and Americans supporters joined. With my knowledge of the Nepali language, I helped the organization with campaigns. The staffs were very impressed with my knowledge on Nepali language and my ablility to use it for the protest banners effectively.
The situation continues to develop and ICT has been actively pressuring the US government to take a proactive role in promoting respect for the human rights of Tibetans transiting through Nepal. I further delivered letters/reports to the appropriate policy makers and research situation in Nepal exp Nepalese language source, since I speak Nepalese.

As mentioned above, I went to the US Senate building and House building quite often to deliver the books, report updates published by our office or any important information on human rights in Tibet to the Senators, Congressman and their staff. I was able to communicate with the staff members urging them to support Tibetan human rights issues. This is one of my happiest moments as an intern since I am working to get support for the cause that I truly believe in from the people who can make difference through legislation. I always felt good doing this since I am helping the cause directly and I would be very happy if the prisoners that I worked for had been released sooner or later due to pressure from the people that I have approached in the US government.

Challenges

Lack of Professionalism:

Going to the workforce straight from the college is quite a challenging. The intern coordinator always asked the interns to be professional in whatever they do. I lacked these professional qualities a lot of the time, but it was a good learning process despite difficulties.

Other projects/works started or completed:

Free Tibet Action Camp: Phoenicia, New York

In the middle of the summer, the organization sent me to a one week free Tibet action camp organized by Students for a Free Tibet and volunteers from the Ruckus society. They trained us different tactics in handling the campaigns and protesting peacefully, mass media etc.
We had a morning briefing every day which was marked by human rights issues ranging from political prisoners to destruction in Tibet in the name of development. I also met two of the Drapchi nuns and one monk who was a follower of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who I had been working with all through my internship. There, for a week, I helped him with all the translation (English to Tibetan) during his participation in the action camp especially his speech on TDR. I had quite a conversation with all of them. I listened to their first hand knowledge of human rights condition in Tibet.

Other Projects:

I helped type all the captions for all the pictures in the Refugee Report titled “Dangerous Crossing: Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees. 2002 Update”

I also typed captions for the railway report which the office will be publishing soon in next few weeks.

Conferences Attended/ worked.

The office organized two different conferences. The one was on Chinese Literate Tibetans and the other was on Post Dalai Lama issues. (Details in my other essay)
We also had an American field worker from Nepal to give briefing on the problems faced by Tibetan refugees while trying to escape Tibet to Nepal. The center where the field worker is associated has seen a decrease in the number of refugees escaping Tibet over the past couple of years.

The major physical problems involve frost bite leading to amputation of the legs or other body parts, and common difficulties involve the risk of passing dangerous mountain pass.

In Nepal, especially near the border area, the newly arrived Tibetan refugees face culture differences. Language differences are one of the main problems. Due to the fights many Tibetans are beaten or even worse shot. The Tibetans face harassment from either the police or by the Maoist. The Police often take money from the refugees. While listening to the field worker, the question of the roles of the UNHCR struck me very hard. Where do their roles fit in?


Personal Essay Section

Q How has the fellowship changed the ideas and expectations you had before leaving?

Focusing on the issue brought me to a deeper understanding of Tibetan human rights issues. It also made me aware of the international laws and standards regarding the refugees and its treatment by the host countries or in supposedly the safe haven. I am more equipped than before in information on human rights issues occurring in the world and particularly on violation of human rights in Tibet by Chinese authorities.

Q Who had the greatest effect on you during your fellowship experience and why?

The greatest effect I had during my internship was Ngawang Sangdrol. Sangdrol is petite and looks very pale. But whenever I see her, I feel so inspired by her courage to stand up against Chinese repression. Sangdrol was sentenced to prison at the young age of 13. Even though, the office restricted any of the staff to ask questions of her about the Chinese treatment of prison and in particular of her at this time, I did extensive research on her while trying to write the application for her for the Reebok Human Rights Award nomination.

One time while working at the office, a Tibetan man visited our office and he said thank you to me for working on Tibetan cause. He bends his head as a mark of appreciation. It is very unusual for older Tibetan men to bend in front of someone younger than him. He further said, it makes him feel proud to see young Tibetans like me working for Tibet. It touched me very much.

Q How did your perspectives on the world change from interning at a local national/international human rights organization?

This summer, I realized how International organization like the United Nation agencies could do and what its limitations are with regard to helping Tibetan people who are disadvantaged in terms of modern concept of state or sovereignty. The UN is sometimes handicapped by powerful states like China and its allies.

How do you anticipate bringing your fellowship experience back home to your local community?

Recently, being a Resident Advisor (RA), I am in charge of 40 female residents on my floor. We had a floor meeting and taking advantage of the introductory time, I shared my story of internship and fellowship from the Human Rights Law Center of UM

I also made an informational chart on the United Nations Human Rights on a bulletin board of the Residence Hall. The informational chart stood there for a month.

Organizational Profile:
Name of the Organization: International Campaign For Tibet.
Organization Address: 1825 K Street NW Suite 520 Washington, DC
Telephone Number: 202
Email: savetibet@org
Website information: www.savetibet.org
Names of Executive Director and Senior Staff: Lodi Gyari, John Ackerely, Mary Beth Markey
Number of Employed Staff (15 Full Time 1, part time)
Number of Volunteers: (5 plus) Depending on the events they hold.
Objective of the organization: working for the self determination of Tibetan people, securing human rights for Tibetans in Tibet.Montoring Human Rights abuses in Tibet and exiles.
Domestic and International: Offices located in Amsterdam and Germany.
Date of information: February 8th 2004
Information supplied by Tsewang Sangmo Lama.


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