Tibetan Ability Center & Cafe

It’s that time again; time to announce our non-profit of the month for March! Drum roll please…

We are happy to share that our March non-profit is the Tibetan Ability Center, located in Dharamshala, India (home of the Dalai Lama). We got the opportunity to speak with Jamie Adams, the Volunteer Project Manager of the Tibetan Ability Center, about the big plans she has for the future and what news she is excited to share with the rest of the world. And we must say, we are elated to be involved in promoting her plans!

What is the Tibetan Ability Center?

First off, you should know that The Tibetan Ability Center is the only non-residential organization providing specialized service to people with disabilities in the community, and because the needs are so widespread there, they serve people of all ages and disabilities. From a two-year-old girl with cerebral palsy to a monk in his 60s receiving treatment for a bad knee, they help everyone!

In the next year, Jamie and many others are hoping to come together and create a cafe where the profits can go towards Tibetan Ability Center and all the potential good it can give. With local employees directly involved with the organization working, they will get experience in the workforce while leaving the visitors with a very unique experience they will never forget.

Want to learn more about The Tibetan Ability Center, Cafe, and how we all can help? Read on to hear from Jamie herself!

What inspired you to want to create the Tibetan Ability Center Cafe (TAC)?

As an American who’s fallen so in love with the Tibetan community, I looked for a long time to find my place here – a place where I could truly be serving this community who has taken me in so lovingly. After living in Dharamshala for a couple of years, I developed a better sense of the situation here with the disabled population. Inspired by Neema Crafts and Cafe, a cafe I visited in Tanzania during my gap year with Carpe Diem Education, I approached the Tibetan Ability Center with the idea to create a business that will both employ differently-abled staff and eventually make TAC financially self-sustainable.

How many people help, volunteer, and work at TAC?

The Tibetan Ability Center currently employs three office staff and two physiotherapists. In addition to these staff, there’s our volunteer staff, which include me and a range of physiotherapists who come to Dharamshala to provide physical therapy for our community as well as additional training to our physiotherapists on staff.

How are people with disabilities viewed in the community?

As a Buddhist community, it’s widely accepted here that a disability is the result of bad karma from a past life. And in my experience, many locals here don’t even realize that our community is home to so many people with disabilities, because most of that population typically stays in residential centers or at home with family. It’s typically accepted that our differently-abled population can’t work or contribute much to the community; which is the mindset that we are trying to shift.

How many people are sponsored at TAC?

From 2016 to 2017, twelve adults and children across various Tibetan settlements received individual living allowances from TAC.  There are still twenty-five applicants who are in need of financial sponsorship.

What will the profits from the cafe go towards?

After our staff is paid each month (with salaries allowing for medical care and therapies), our profits will go directly into the Tibetan Ability Center’s original projects. These include providing free physical therapy to our community, educating schools through inclusive education workshops, and providing private sponsorships to Tibetans with special needs across India and Nepal.  

What kind of therapy and rehabilitation is available at TAC?

Our clinic in Mcleod Ganj provides free physiotherapy to the community.  Last year, 608 patients received physical therapy and 90 patients received mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, and parallel bars.  We also provide psychological counseling and home visits to our patients.

How has working with people with disabilities impacted your life?

A term we like to use in our office is “differently-abled.”  It reminds me that through the differences we have, we also have different strengths. Working with differently-abled people has given me a broader sense of how people can be productive outside of our society’s typical beliefs.

How will the cafe make a positive impact on all those who come in contact with it?

Our hope is that for our customers, who we anticipate being local Tibetans, Indians, and foreign tourists, will have a unique experience in having the opportunity to communicate with our differently-abled staff.  So many people have never in their lives interacted with a deaf person or talked to a person with autism. We want to open up the barriers of communication by both empowering our staff and educating the public.

Will there be any specialty dishes at the cafe?

As the only restaurant in the region initiated by an American…I’m thinking mac and cheese is a must. It will be a simple menu, and we haven’t organized it yet, but we’re thinking we’ll provide soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Where would you like to see the Tibetan Ability Center and the cafe in two years?

Two years from now, I’d love to have seen multiple staff go through our training process and have left our cafe to work in other positions in the Tibetan community.  

How can people living outside of the community help?

There are three ways people outside of the area can really help us!

  • We need financial support to make this cafe a reality. Right now, we are working on securing our location and equipment. You can support this process by donating to our Youcaring page!
  • After opening our cafe, we’re looking to sustain our staff salaries for the first six months of operations.  You can sponsor an employee’s first six months of work by contacting us.
  • Share, share, share!  The coolest feeling is when our page has been shared so much that we’re receiving donations from people we’ve never even met.  Every bit of exposure helps us.

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