I've been a fan of TAP for several years now. I'm so impressed how much of their budget goes directly to helping Tibetans and preserving sacred Tibetan texts. TAP is full of selfless people who devote so much of their time and energy to help preserve and promote awareness of Tibetan culture. It's amazing how much this organization has done to repair the damage and preserve the knowledge lost in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution.
In the beginning of 2012 I was fortunate enough to travel to Bodh Gaya, India for the World Peace Ceremony. While there I saw first hand the powerful, life-changing results of TAPs work. Books are given away, literally-- for free-- and not just to monasteries but to individual monks, nuns, and lay practitioners who come to the ceremony. This isn't just preservation of a culture in a dusty museum exhibit or on the shelves of a library. This is the active preservation of a threatened culture by giving back to living teachers, students and practitioners the texts necessary to maintain their cultural and spiritual tradition. I have seen monks and nuns overjoyed at being given the opportunity to have their OWN copy of a sacred text to study. I have seen the broad smiles and heart felt thanks of members of monasteries who are carting back, by whatever means necessary, what they feel is a truly precious treasure that can help them and their communities thrive as compassionate, wise human beings. One can only wonder how different and how much richer the world would be if organizations like TAP existed to work so tirelessly supporting other endangered cultures the world over. In helping to create the conditions for the Tibetan people to thrive, despite systematic efforts by the Chinese to eliminate their culture and language, TAP is helping to accomplish something truly historical and worthy of praise and emulation. If the Tibetan culture exists for the world to learn from and be enriched by 50 years from now, I have no doubt it will be due in part to the efforts of this organization. Bravo!
I have been a periodic donor to TAP over the years. I am always totally amazed at their work - what gets accomplished with just volunteers. The work is supported by a very clear intention to safe and spread sacred Tibetan texts to places where it will be truly appreciated and containing knowledge which can transform our world. Not sure it gets any purer than that. It is a very good place to put your money. :)
I'll admit - I'm a person who likes tangible results. I find political activism frustrating because it always seems like you are fighting someone else who is keen on reversing every victory you make. That's why I love volunteering for Tibetan Aid Project--they get things done! Their current project is simple: raise funds, print books, give them away. They've given away 3 million books. They've reprinted thousands of copies of the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon. If those aren't tangible results, I don't know what is. The work is extremely satisfying (and I haven't even been to India yet to see the books given away!) Their model for success is also ingenious and I would encourage other non-profits to use it. This is how it works: everyone who works there full-time, whether they have been there for 40 years or 4 months, is an unpaid volunteer. It's a community model - instead of paying wages, they provide room and board. Volunteers live at the Nyingma Institute, a related organization, and generally walk to work. The Nyingma Institute also offers free, optional classes about Tibetan Buddhism to volunteers. It is the perfect arrangement for anyone who is interested in Buddhism or meditation and who measures success based on accomplishment rather than material gain. It's also a much more green way of living than having your own place and spending a whole lot of money on stuff you don't need! Of course, if having a TV, a car, and your own kitchen is important to you, then the residential volunteer program isn't for you. There are some negative aspects to Tibetan Aid Project, and some aspects that take some getting used to. First of all, full-time volunteers do work long hours, and some find this to be extremely difficult. The work is intended to be a spiritual practice, but if you aren't used to it, then it is easy to burn out and feel like a work-horse. Second, only a few people go to India each year to distribute the books to Tibetans, so most of us don't get to directly see the results of our work. (The ones who get to go always come back inspired, so it's a coveted role). Third, the organization is run by volunteers, so if there is a skill needed, they can't just go out and hire someone with that skill. They take whoever they can get, so many of us do jobs we weren't specifically trained to do. There is some inefficiency as a result. For example, our cook recently left, so now we take turns making lunch for 20+ people. Some of us have never cooked in our lives! But this type of stuff frequently happens with IT, graphic design, bookkeeping, and other skilled tasks as well. That's all I can think of, hope this was helpful!
I have been with TAP for over a month now. I believe this is an ample time to get a feel of how things are. So I am just going to share few of my thoughts, which some of you might find helpful. Working here has evoked a range of feelings inside me. Before coming here I worked in an Investment bank, so quite understandably the first definite contrast that I find here is the type of work, working environment and people around me. Because the motivation for working here is not based on how much bonus one will get or a race to outshine the coworkers, hence it so much more relaxed, yet there is no lack of drive coz we all work with our hearts, with the understanding and satisfaction that we are attempting to do something good. It is spiritual in the sense that we all aim toward one goal, and self improvement is one of the important goals. Other than the satisfaction part, there are numerous things to learn here. It is enlightening in many ways to see how a nonprofit works, and to gather how sometimes transforming ideas into actual actions is not so easy as we might think and so on. Work study volunteers also can choose from and attend various classes at the institute, which is such an invaluable opportunity to learn about Tibetan culture and underlying Buddhist teachings, Tibetan Yoga and meditation etc. Although we have to adhere to 6 days/week work schedule, but we do get time to pursue our hobbies and do other stuff. Being here also has given me time and chance to discover myself which is so not possible in the corporate world with its perpetual whirlpool of distractions and fear. A caveat - Don't come here expecting any mystic experience. It is just the same world. On the top of that some people also might find the work a little boring and of little use for their careers. However I can bet on my life, there is a lot of scope to accomplish things and to fill holes. The only thing you require to enjoy here is an open mind with willingness to learn and render humble service.