|Around China: Returnees promote Tibet's cultural diversity|
LHASA, July 17 (Xinhua) -- In an obscure alley of downtown Lhasa is a club where returned Tibetans from overseas universities teach youngsters English for free and provide financial and consulting services for the needy.
The club, known to the locals as "Hope Corner," provides English training and consulting services concerning applications for visas and scholarships from overseas universities.
Its volunteers visit orphanages and senior citizens centers regularly and raise funds for needy students through college.
The club is aimed at promoting cultural diversity and serving public interests in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet autonomous region.
Communication is never a problem at the club, as the volunteers are all proficient in at least three languages: Tibetan, English and Mandarin.
"Last week, returnees from Britain gave a workshop about the different teaching methods in Chinese and British classrooms," said Tsering Dekyi, founder of the club. "The audience, mostly young Tibetan students, were all excited and asked many questions. You can see on their faces the desire to learn more about different cultures."
Tsering Dekyi taught English at a primary school in Lhasa before she got a scholarship to study at Goshen College in Indiana of the United States in 2000.
During four years in the U.S. she did not just earn a degree, but also gained ideas of serving the public interest and promoting cultural diversity.
After she returned to Lhasa in 2004, she began teaching English at Tibet University. In the following year, she founded an English salon, the prototype of today's Hope Corner, for Lhasa residents to learn to speak English.
"I thought the young people in Lhasa needed such a place to learn English and share their ideas," she said.
Tsering Dekyi was soon joined by dozens of people who had a similar background and were as enthusiastic in public welfare projects.
"I joined the program hoping to encourage young Tibetans to learn knowledge and exchange ideas in a healthier environment," said Gelsang Dorji, one of the co-founders of Hope Corner.
"It's a pity many Tibetans spend long hours drinking liquor and singing karaoke to kill time -- unlike residents in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they have little access to cultural activities such as operas and concerts," he said.
Gelsang Dorji, a Columbia University graduate and now a clerk at Bank of China's Tibet branch, was among the six earliest participants in the project.
Today, the club has nearly 100 volunteers and has become one of the most popular social organizations in Lhasa. More than 1,000 Lhasa residents have participated in its activities over the past seven years.
"Returnees from abroad often give lectures for free, and citizens are encouraged to speak English at the club's oral English sessions," said Tsering Dekyi. "Many young Tibetan students look up to the volunteers as idols and are eager to work as hard as they do."
In addition to English teaching, the volunteers have helped at least 60 needy students through college. "Many of them have graduated and secured jobs in different parts of Tibet," she said. "Those who work in Lhasa have become volunteers themselves hoping to repay the society."
Sonum Dekyi was a girl of few words when she first joined the club to practise oral English. Now she has learned to speak loudly in public and discuss a wide range of topics with the volunteers.
"I hope someday I can also study abroad, because you'll never open your mind if you stay home all the while."
Nyima, a lab worker at Tibet's disease control and prevention center, joined the club to learn oral English and was soon heavily involved in its community services. A fluent English speaker, he has just received an offer to study in the U.S.
"I owe a lot to the club and all its volunteers," he said. "Out of faith and passion to build a better community, they spend so much time and efforts helping other people fulfil dreams."
Thanks to the reform and opening-up drive, many Tibetans have had the opportunities to study and travel abroad. At Tibet University alone, 38 teachers have studied in countries including the U.S., Britain, Norway, Japan and the Republic of Korea since 2005.
They have concentrated on physics, biology, mathematics, history, linguistics, computer science and medicine. Twelve of them have obtained a PhD and 26 have got master's degrees, according to the university's foreign affairs office.
Across Tibet, about 420 people have studied abroad over the past decade, according to figures provided by the exit and entry administration of the regional public security bureau.