An emerging NGO in India, headed by Byron Shire resident Louise Harrison, is appealing for assistance after the tourism economy collapsed 16 months ago.
We Love India is based in the well-known region of Dharamshala, India, located in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Up a steep hillside is McLeod Ganj, where the large Tibetan community live in exile. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has attracted spiritual tourists for decades, who come from all over the world, in their thousands, to immerse in Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practise yoga and meditation.
They rent houses and guesthouses that cover the surrounding hillsides. The local Himachali people, the Kashmiri businessmen, the Rajasthani labourers and Gaddi shepherds all co-exist.
For 16 months, visits by these affluent aspirants have come to a standstill. The guesthouses are empty; cafes, tea shops and tour operators have no customers.
The day labourers live eating day-to-day and now there is widespread unemployment.
The government provides food vouchers only to local Himachali people, all the others are left without.
Mullum magic toastmasters
Byron Shire resident Louise Harrison has a heart that knows no end in giving. She was the inspiring president of Mullum magic toastmasters club two years straight, and their membership soared.
While living many months in Dharamshala during lockdown, having a daily meditation practice in an ashram, going inward, seeking guidance, she had a vision that became We Love India.
Louise says, ‘We began in response to a food insecurity crisis here, after a year or more of dramatic economic downturn, lockdowns and border closures, during the last lockdown’.
Louise’s connection to the charity in Byron Bay, called Global Ripple, receives regular donations, then deposits them into her account, since her NGO is still being formed.
They’ve built a small warehouse and have We Love India food bags sewn. The bags are filled with rice, flour, lentils, potatoes, onions, spices, salt, tea, sugar, milk powder, biscuits, cooking oil, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The bags feed four people for two weeks.
They have given out more than 2,000 food bags, equating to about 118,000 meals.
They had long queues of people from every demographic, including Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns, people with defunct businesses, but mostly day labourers, construction workers, maids, itinerant food vendors and people who live on the streets.
In July, a shanty village along the river was displaced in a flash flood.
We Love India have provided three water tanks, gas burners, clothes and provided labourers to help them build new dwellings.
They also provide donated clothing, tarpaulins and wheelchairs to disabled locals, and cash for medical care. They plan to start a mobile chai cart employing local disabled people.
One of their main interests at present is to help provide 20 laptops to a school for girls who are first generation learners from rural villages.
Louise says, ‘Each person is treated with absolute dignity, respect and love without distinction… regardless of caste, creed or race… absolutely.
‘I suppose simply put we just love. That’s what we do. We love. We come up against so many cultural walls and barriers. Each time I despair and lament for a while, but then a door opens and we keep on moving through.’
Louise envisions much more: she wants to fund We Love India hubs throughout the state.
‘If we had the funds, we would develop more hubs to ensure as many people as possible had food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
A place for women to work to make food bags and pack them. It’s essential to give women jobs.
‘We would also open specialised schools for street children’.
We Love India is helping to turn a community around, to care for each other in these hard times.
It’s a work in progress and with your donations, the projects can grow and reach many more needy people.
Please give generously to Global Ripple Inc. at BSB- 064-404, Account: 10522329 Reference: We Love India.