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Lha Cultural Exchange Program Evaluation Report April 2015

Thank you very much for creating, sustaining, and offering a program like this one to students like me. It was an experience that I will never forget. Thank you. (Exchange student)


Table of Contents Acknowledgements................................................................................................................................ Executive Summary.............................................................................................................................. 1. Introduction........................................................................................................................................ 2. Methodology...................................................................................................................................... 2.1 Document Review........................................................................................................................ 2.2 Data Gathering............................................................................................................................ 3. Effectiveness of Current Structure of Exchange Program................................................................. 4. Findings............................................................................................................................................. 4.1 Pre-visit Negotiations and Agreements....................................................................................... 4.2 Preparation for the Exchange...................................................................................................... 4.3 Accommodation & Living Arrangements in Mcleodganj............................................................... 4.4 Exchange Program Activities........................................................................................................ 4.5 Mutual Learning Partners [MLPs].................................................................................................. 4.6 Exposure to Leaders and Intellectuals.......................................................................................... 4.7 Excursions..................................................................................................................................... 4.8 Social Functions........................................................................................................................... 4.9 Program Evaluation..................................................................................................................... 5. Relevance/Value of Current Exchange Program............................................................................... 6. Outcomes for Mutual Learning Partners............................................................................................ 6.1 Improved conversational language skills....................................................................................... 6.2 Enhanced understanding of visiting students cultures................................................................ 6.3 Opportunity to raise awareness of Tibetan Culture and Political Situation................................... 6.4 Greater Appreciation and Tolerance for Cultural Diversity........................................................... 6.5 Broadened Knowledge and Greater Confidence.......................................................................... 6.6 Establishment of long-term and active International Friendships.................................................. 6.7 Period of Income via Daily Allowance........................................................................................... 7. Feedback from, and Outcome for, Visiting Exchange Students.......................................................... 7.1 Overall Level of Satisfaction with Exchange Program................................................................... 7.2 Reasons for Participating in Exchange Program........................................................................... 7.3 Outcomes for Visiting Students..................................................................................................... 7.3.1 Enhanced understanding of the Tibetan political situation...................................................... 7.3.2 Greater appreciation of Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy........................................................ 7.3.3 Personal growth & understanding about the world beyond their home................................... 7.3.4 Changed attitudes that lead to changed actions & involvement.............................................. 7.3.5 Long-term and active international friendships....................................................................... 8. Benefits from the Program for Organisations: Lha & Overseas Partners............................................ 8.1 Benefits for Lha.............................................................................................................................. 8.2 Benefits for Visiting Institutions....................................................................................................... 9. Effectiveness & Efficiency of Program Management............................................................................ 9.1 Risk Management in the Program................................................................................................... 9.2 Program Monitoring & Evaluation.................................................................................................... 10. Recommendations...............................................................................................................................

3 4 6 6 6 6 7 8 8 9 9 10 10 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 14 14 15 15 15 15 15 16 16 16 16 16 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 21 22

Annexes Annex 1 Evaluation Plan............................................................................................................................ Annex 2 List of Informants.......................................................................................................................... Annex 3 Collated results from Student Satisfaction Surveys......................................................................

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Acknowledgements This evaluation involved a lot of work and research and would not have been possible if we did not have the dedicated support of many individuals. Therefore we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all of them. First of all we are grateful to the Tibetan political and community leaders who were good enough to put aside their busy schedules for an hour or so to meet with us. Their insights and astute comments helped us understand the important role that Lha plays in the community in Dharamsala. Meeting with them was also a personal honour and inspiration to us as individuals. We are also very appreciative of those international faculty members and Exchange visit leaders who took the time to respond to the e-survey. This external perspective, from partner organisations, is extremely important in building a full picture of the program; their insights were valuable. Of course the evaluation simply would not have been possible without the considered feedback from participants, both International and Tibetan. We were touched by just how articulate so many people were in expressing their appreciation for the experience; it brought home to us just how valuable programs like this are for building greater understanding and trust. We would also like to express our thanks to Rebeca Soto, a past exchange student, who took the initiative to convert our Word document survey into an online survey, firstly through Survey Monkey and then through Google survey. This was extremely helpful. Finally, we would like to thank the team at Lha who gave us their time, their trust and their friendship. Marion Brown Mike Crooke [Volunteer Evaluators]

Cover Page Photograph: Students and teachers from Tec de Monterey University, Mexico with Lha staff on final evening of Cultural Exchange Program, December 2014

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Executive Summary It is internationally recognised that cultural exchange programs are an important tool in fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and self-realisation for young people. The Lha Cultural Exchange Program commenced in 2002 with an exchange visit from a group of graduate social work students from Tulane University School of Social Work in the USA. Since then Lha has been welcoming growing numbers of visiting school groups each year. In 2014 Lha organised cultural exchange programs for 17 international groups, including University and High School groups from the USA, Mexico and Australia, with approximately 320 participants. With the availability of two volunteers from Australia with experience in program evaluation, an evaluation of the Cultural Exchange Program was undertaken in March 2015. The purpose of the evaluations was to both assess program achievements, and focus on gathering and analysing data in a way that would encourage ongoing reflection and innovation leading to program improvements. The objectives of the evaluation were to: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v)

assess the achievements of the program against goal and outcomes; identify program strengths, challenges and lessons learned; assess the effectiveness of the program provided by Lha; explore the concepts of partnerships between Lha and visiting institutions involved in the program; provide realistic recommendations for further ongoing improvement of the program.

A combination of methods was utilised to evaluate program performance and outcomes of the program. Data collection components included: document review; key informant interviews; and e-surveys of past visiting students and leaders from visiting organisations. Informants were selected, using purposive sampling, and based on consultation meetings with the Lha team. Data was analysed according to the draft program framework developed as part of the evaluation process. The report was drafted by the evaluators and revised after feedback from Lha staff. The evaluation confirmed that Lha was doing a very good job in planning, managing and implementing the Cultural Exchange Programs. The report summarizes findings in relation to each step of the Programs, revealing that while the program runs well, there are some areas that could be improved. These findings covered: o

o

o o

o

o o

Pre-visit negotiations: which do not seem to be as well defined or documented as they might be. In most cases there is no partnership agreement or contract outlining the roles, responsibilities and expectations of both parties. Arrangements in most cases are decided and recorded via relatively informal email communication between Lha and the visiting educational institution. Preparations for the Exchanges: only a quarter of visiting students surveyed said that they had felt well-prepared for the exchange visit, with 28% reporting that they would have like better preparation, both prior to leaving their home country and on arrival in the visiting country. Feedback suggested that appropriate preparation of students, physically and psychologically, is vital to the success of a visit. Accommodation and living arrangements: students reported high levels of satisfaction with both accommodation and food provided. Mutual Learning Partners (MLPs): this feature of the program rated highly and was very much appreciated by visiting students, there were some small issues that, if addressed, could improve this element. Recruitment criteria for MLPs needs to be better defined, tailored to the needs of each visiting group. In addition, MLPs could be better prepared in pre-visit briefings and included in the postevaluation process. Exposure to leaders and intellectuals: the findings showed that Lha has excellent networks in the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, and is thus able to prepare a varied and high calibre program of presenters and facilitators to meet the needs of the visiting groups. Community leaders are very willing to be part of the program. Excursions and social functions: findings were clear that the excursions arranged by MLPs and the social functions were fun and obvious highlights of the program, providing lasting memories. Program evaluation: tends to be currently limited to student satisfaction surveys, with no obvious evidence that these are analysed usefully so that lessons learned can be fed back into the program.

The evaluation found that Lha has been effective to-date in managing the tension posed through the implementation of running Exchange Programs: the tension between making money for Lha and the primary mission of the organisation, servicing Tibetan people in the region. Areas of management and risk that were 4|Page


found to warrant immediate attention were: (i) the need to develop a Child Protection Policy to ensure that measures are in place to protect young people involved in Lha programs; and (ii) the need to develop a monitoring and evaluation system to adequately document, track and evaluate the Program. The evaluation then explored outcomes for the various groups involved in these Programs. The benefits for MLPs were found to be substantial and included: improved conversational language skills; enhanced understanding of the cultures of visiting international students; greater opportunity to raise awareness about Tibetan culture and the situation in Tibet; greater appreciation and tolerance of cultural diversity; and the establishment of long-term international friendships. The visiting students, in the post-visit survey [78 respondents], rated their overall experience very highly; the average rating being 9.32 out of a possible score of 10. The benefits of the Program for visiting students included: greatly enhanced understanding of the Tibetan political situation; greater appreciation of Tibetan Buddhism and philosophy; personal growth and understanding about the world beyond their home; changed attitudes leading to changed actions and involvement; and long-term friendships. The evaluation found there were also clear benefits for both Lha as an organisation and the visiting institutions. The main benefits for Lha included: enhanced international credibility; increased reach in advocacy about the Tibetan situation and struggle; additional income; enhanced local reputation; and strengthened management and administrative skills. For visiting institutions, key benefits were: reliable service provision through arrangements with Lha; increased student interest and potential enrolments; enhanced reputation in their home country; and relevant social exposure for their students, within a very different cultural context. The evaluation concludes with a series of recommendations, divided into three primary [the most important] and nine secondary recommendations, which aim to improve the quality of what is, overall, an already highly effective program. These recommendations are as follows: 1. That the one page logic model and theory of change schematic be confirmed as a working document for the program and monitoring systems be set-up to track progress and achievements against objectives and potential outcomes. 2. That Lha ensures a contract is prepared for all Cultural Exchange Visits and that, where agreed by both parties, a partnership agreement is negotiated between Lha and its more regular overseas partners. 3. That Lha develops a Child Protection Policy that outlines how the agency addresses the potential risks to children [anyone under 18 years of age]. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4. That sending institutions that are not already doing so develop a simple pack of pre-travel information for student participants and, where possible, arrange a preparatory meeting. 5. That Lha develops a generic pack of information to be used by the visiting institution to help them adequately prepare students for the visit. 6. That, where applicable, visiting students be provided with some guidance about how to approach English language teaching. 7. That selection criteria for MLPs be tailored to suit the particular needs of the visiting group, with the names and details of selected MLPs forwarded to the visiting institution well in advance of the visit. 8. That alternative MLPs be recruited and available ‘on-call’ by Lha to ensure that absentee MLPs can be easily covered. 9. That a briefing meeting for recruited MLPs be scheduled prior to the arrival of the visiting group. 10. That, in line with current practice, allowances to individual MLPs only be paid for the days they participate in the program. 11. That a meeting be held with MLPs at the end of each Exchange Visit to gather evaluative information for analysis, with findings and lessons learned applied to future programs. 12. That guest presenters be selected with gender balance in mind and be provided with adequate briefing about their expected role and feedback about their presentation and the visit in general.

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1. Introduction The Lha Cultural Exchange Program commenced in 2002 with an exchange visit from a group of graduate social work students from Tulane University School of Social Work in the USA. Since then Lha has been welcoming growing numbers of visiting school groups each year. In 2014 Lha organised cultural exchange programs for 17 international groups, including University and High School groups from the USA, Mexico and Australia, with approximately 320 participants. Currently, Lha works with student groups every summer from the Tulane School of Social Work, Tulane University, Centenary College, Loyola University, Rustic Path Way, Lifework International and other US universities and high schools, and also a university in Mexico. Most student groups come between May and the end of September and stay anywhere between one week to one month. With the availability of two volunteers from Australia with experience in program evaluation, Lha decided to undertake some program evaluations, selecting both the Cultural Exchange and the Skills Building Programs for review. The purpose of the evaluations was not only to assess program achievements, but also to focus on gathering and analysing data in a way that would encourage ongoing reflection and innovation leading to program improvements. With this in mind, the evaluation of the Cultural Exchange Program adopted an improvements-oriented approach. The objectives of the evaluation were to: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v)

assess the quantitative and qualitative achievements of the program against the goal and outcomes; identify program strengths, challenges and lessons learned; assess the effectiveness of the programs provided by Lha; explore the concepts of partnerships between Lha and visiting institutions involved in the program; provide realistic recommendations for further ongoing implementation of the program.

It was envisaged that the evaluation would be a learning process and another step towards strengthening the capacity of Lha in implementation and management of its programs. The evaluation was conducted over a four week period in February and March 2015. 2. Methodology The evaluation methodology employed was designed to be flexible, but have sufficient rigour to ensure that all or most of the required data was captured. An evaluation plan (see Annex 1), including draft question guides, was drafted, reviewed by the Lha team, and approved for implementation. Using purposive sampling, informant groups were identified in consultation with the Lha team (see Annex 2). The Lha team took responsibility for contacting potential informants once the groups had been identified. 2.1 Document Review The evaluators reviewed all the available documents relevant to the program, including documents on the website, past end-of-visit surveys completed by visiting exchange students (74) and contract documents with partners. In addition the evaluators reviewed current technical and strategic documents related to cultural exchange programs through a rapid literature review on the internet. Using this information the evaluators drafted a one page program overview, summarising the objectives, potential outcomes and activities of the program. This draft, based on both current practice and international approaches to cultural exchange programs, was tested for its validity to Lha's program, as part of the evaluation process.

2.2 Data Collection The evaluators prepared two email surveys that were circulated to: (i) faculty members and organisers of past cultural exchange programs to Lha from overseas; and (ii) past overseas students who had previously participated in the program. These surveys were sent out to relevant e-lists by and in the name of the Lha Director, with recipients requested to send completed surveys directly to the evaluators. The response to these emails was unfortunately limited. The evaluators feel the poor response from past exchange students was 6|Page


mainly due to the email addresses being school-based rather than personal, with many students potentially having left school in the period since the exchange visit. Despite this, the responses received did provide valuable feedback. In addition, the evaluators conducted semi-structured group interviews with ten Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners and key informant interviews with community leaders and Lha staff who had been involved with the program. Question guides were prepared and used for these interviews. The people interviewed, without exception, all said how pleased they were to be interviewed and were pleased that their opinion might be valued. For some students it was the first time they had ever been interviewed or asked for their opinion and this is a very empowering experience for them. People tend to think more highly of an organisation that would agree to asking for their opinions on its programs. It shows the organisation is open to listening and possibly to change. Before leaving McLeodganj the evaluators presented the draft findings and draft recommendations to Lha staff at an after-work meeting. This session provided an opportunity for staff to hear emerging findings and discuss or challenge these findings. The data was then further reduced and summarised under key themes by the evaluators. This process brought together the document summary notes, survey data, and the transcript notes from the group and key informant interviews. Using colour coding, the data was then further clustered into sub-sets under each theme, in preparation for writing the report. The process of data reduction continued with the writing of the report. The draft report, drawing on the findings, was then prepared by the evaluators. The Lha team reviewed the draft and provided feedback. Using this feedback, the evaluators finalised the document. Final evaluation findings will be circulated as determined by the Lha Director. 3. Effectiveness of current structure of exchange program The main aim of the Cultural Exchange Program is to facilitate meaningful, mutual learning and cultural exchange experiences between Tibetans and groups of students who visit from other countries. The program involves a number of steps: 1) Communication and negotiation between Lha and visiting partner institutions/organisations to determine a plan, schedule and contract agreement for the exchange visit. 2) Once dates and visit plan are agreed the visiting organisation identifies and takes responsibility for pretravel briefing of participating students. 3) Lha organises accommodation and living arrangements for the visiting group, if they are to be accommodated in the Lha-managed, Ahimsa House. If the students have opted for home stay accommodation then this may also be organised by Lha. 4) Lha identifies and recruits Tibetan students to be ‘Mutual Learning Partners’ (MLPs); one individual MLP for each of the visiting students. These MLPs provide a morning program of activities and teaching/learning for the visiting students. 5) Lha identifies and briefs guest presenters from the local Tibetan community to present and/or facilitate sessions on Tibetan culture and history, the current Tibetan situation and the situation for the Tibetan community in exile, for the visiting students. 6) Lha identifies volunteer placements in local social service and education organisations for the visiting students, if this is required as part of the exchange visit. 7) Lha organises any social functions, such as a final dinner, that may have been agreed as part of the program. 8) Lha conducts a final feedback survey with the departing students. Currently there is no overall logic model for the program, a framework that describes what the program is trying to achieve, the potential outcomes of the program, how the activities fit together and the theory of change that underpins the program. As a first step in the evaluation, the evaluators drafted a one-page schematic (see below) to bring together these elements of the program and then tested this in interviews with overseas organisers of the exchange visits and the Lha team involved in the program. Revisions were made to the schematic based on feedback from respondents. It was agreed by respondents that this model would be useful as a tool to guide ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the program. 7|Page


LHA Cultural Exchange Program 2002 – 2015 TARGET GROUPS: Tibetan refugees students living in India and international exchange students coming from overseas educational institutions PROGRAM GOAL: To facilitate meaningful, mutual learning and cultural exchange experiences between Tibetans, volunteers and groups of students who visit from other countries.

COMPONENT 1: Cultural and Educational Enrichment for Tibetan host students

COMPONENT 2: Enhanced cultural & civic diplomacy understanding and skills for visiting exchange students

COMPONENT 3: Institutional Strengthening

Objective of this Component To deepen ties between individuals and communities and to advance the goals of public diplomacy

Objective of this Component To strengthen the skills and enhance the reputation of LHA to provide meaningful, relevant and effective student exchange programs.

Potential outcomes: · Improved conversational language skills · Enhanced understanding of the cultures of visiting international students · Greater opportunity to raise awareness about Tibetan culture and the situation in Tibet · Greater appreciation & tolerance of cultural diversity: o Increased awareness of shared values and world views o Increased awareness of the key differences between cultures · Broadened knowledge, leading to greater confidence to engage in activities outside the Tibetan community · Establishment of long-term and active international friendships · Period of income via daily allowance

Potential outcomes: · Greater awareness about the Tibetan refugee situation and the need to preserve the endangered Tibetan culture · Enhanced mutual understanding of different peoples and cultures · Greater appreciation & tolerance of cultural diversity: o Increased awareness of shared values and world views o Increased awareness of the key differences between cultures · Self-development and awareness leading to enhanced selfconfidence and self-esteem · Behaviour change on return home in the form of: o Greater tolerance o Greater involvement in social justice and social service roles · Enhanced employment prospects due to exchange experience · Establishment of long-term and active international friendships

Potential outcomes: For LHA · Increased international recognition, networks and partnerships that potentially broaden the understanding and support for Tibetan refugees in exile · Increased core funding resulting from organisation and management of the exchange visit and hosting services · Increased international knowledge and understanding of LHA’s work leads to further philanthropic donations · Strengthened management and administrative skills · Enhanced reputation within the Tibetan community of the work of the organisation

Activities: · Pairing of international participant with a 'Mutual Learning Partner', a Tibetan English language student at LHA · Home visits · Language instruction

Activities: · Daily language teaching and learning · Program of learning arranged by LHA based on mutually agreed goals for visit · Social, political and cultural awareness program arranged and implemented by LHA · Volunteer work in local social service programs

Activities: · LHA organisation, management and administration of exchange visit · Promotion and pre-travel arrangements for exchange visits by visiting institution · Tracking and monitoring of student welfare during visit · Ongoing monitoring/tracking of institutional changes and alumni by both LHA and visiting institution

Objective of this Component To assist Tibetan students to develop skills and positive relationships, and to understand and learn from people who are different from themselves.

For visiting institution: · Increased student interest in enrolling in institution due to exchange program on offer · Enhanced reputation of the institution within its local community due to social and media coverage of the program

The purpose of this box is to check the theory of change underpinning the program; i.e. to make sure that all elements make sense when put together and will lead to the desired change,. The logic here is that: The main aim of the program is to facilitate meaningful, mutual learning and cultural exchange experiences between Tibetans, volunteers and groups of students who visit from other countries. · In order to do so, the LHA and partner overseas educational institutions have established an ongoing program, based on mutually agreed goals/aims, for overseas students to visit Macleodganj and participate in educational, cultural and social programs to enhance the self-improvement of all participants. · For these exchanges to be meaningful, relevant and effective, it is necessary to: · Ensure that the specific goals/aims of each visit are negotiated and agreed, so that the program is vibrant and relevant to the needs of both the Tibetan and the overseas students.; · Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of both partners are clearly understood and agreed; · Ensure that the training program is well-organised and that welfare arrangements are in place for the required oversight and care of the students ; · Set up effective systems for the ongoing monitoring and tracking of those involved in the program, to determine the long-term changes that are generated through the exchange visits. The theory of change underpinning the program is, that the opportunity for Tibetan refugee students and students from overseas countries to: a] spend time together; b] exchange information; and c] learn from one another, will lead to personal change for each participant, both attitudinal and behavioural. The program should evolve and improve over time based on: · Feedback and lessons learned from participants, and · Evaluation of program outcomes.

4. Findings Everyone interviewed, including those who had some criticisms, said that Lha was doing a good job in planning, managing and implementing the Cultural Exchange Programs. Findings in relation to the effectiveness of each elements/step in the current Exchange Program are discussed below: 4.1 Pre-visit negotiations and agreements Expectations from both parties, Lha and the visiting educational institution, do not seem to be as well defined or documented as they might be. In most cases there is no partnership agreement or contract outlining the roles, 8|Page


responsibilities and expectations of both parties. Arrangements are decided and recorded via relatively informal email communication between Lha and the visiting educational institution. Where a contract does exist, this tends to have been drawn up by the visiting institution and is quite legalistic, stipulating what they are expecting from Lha, but not outlining their own role and responsibilities. To assist and protect both parties, there is a need for a simple contract/agreement that spells out the roles, responsibilities and expectations of both Lha & the visiting institution. In cases where institutions tend to be visiting on a regular basis, consideration could be given to developing a ‘partnership agreement’ between Lha and that organisation; such an agreement would define what both parties might hope to achieve through a long term partnership. This would not be so much a “contract”, with financial and contractual obligations, but a document that explores the potential long term gains that might be achieved through the two organisations working together. Such agreements have become common in international development circles and constitute more of an understanding between equals, rather than a colder, less-friendly legalistic document. 4.2 Preparation for the Exchange Most of the visiting organisations provide an orientation that speaks to their policies, expectations, travel logistics, etc, but does not include much information about the partner organisations in the host country or the nature of the in-country program. This orientation is generally left until arrival in the visiting country and then to Lha once the students arrive in McLeodganj. Although some students were relaxed about the level of pre-travel briefing, many reported feeling unprepared. The comments revealed that the responsibility fell with both the sending agencies and Lha. Only a quarter of visiting students surveyed [23.08%] said that they had felt well-prepared for the exchange visit. 22 of the 78 [28.21%] said that they would have like better preparation, mentioning things like availability of a handbook and access to relevant movies or documentaries. Five said they would have liked to have had a better grounding in basic Hindi and Tibetan prior to their arrival. A further 16 students said that they would have liked more information about the way in which the exchange was going to be structured, and the role they would be playing, citing the need to prepare so they could be more effective in that role. Whilst the sending institutions would need to provide them with this information, it would need to initially come from Lha. There were also a number of suggestions regarding the need for better information about weather conditions, the types of activities that would be undertaken [e.g. hiking] and the sorts/range of clothing needed. Beyond that, there were individual suggestions on a range of things [e.g. the best way to access cash in Mcleodganj]. Feedback from one visiting student in the post-visit email survey provides some practical advice that could perhaps be shared with students prior to their departure on future visits: Experiences are what you make of them and I think a very important part of the success of the program is the original expectation of the students who will take part in it. Each mutual learning partner and each student is different from the next, therefore partnerships will be unique, and it is the responsibility of the students taking part to enrich it with their own unique personalities – what they give will affect what they “receive”. It is important, when embarking on travel to a place quite different, that expectations are practically non-existent and that an open-mind is the most important thing to bring with you. I felt that the exchange program was structured quite well and really its success depends on the partnerships themselves. [Exchange student] This feedback suggests that the pre-departure arrangements and appropriate preparation of students, both physically and psychologically, are vital to the eventual success of the visit. 4.3 Accommodation and Living Arrangements in McLeodganj Some visiting educational institutions rely on Lha to organise the accommodation and living arrangements, while others, such as Rustic Pathways, usually make their own arrangements. Lha has a dedicated building and service, Ahimsa House, for accommodation. Food can be provided through the Ahimsa House kitchen, but a communal kitchen is also available for guests to use during their stay. 9|Page


The end of visit student surveys showed that students were satisfied with the food and accommodation provided through and by Lha. The levels of satisfaction for accommodation and food were very high, with details as follows: · ·

74.36% of respondents said the accommodation was good or excellent; 92.31% of respondents rated the food provided as good or excellent. [End of visit satisfaction surveys, 78 respondents]

The rating for accommodation was, in fact, probably higher as some respondents used this question as an opportunity to be critical of accommodation elsewhere, not commenting on the Lha accommodation centre, Ahimsa House. Nine respondents [11.64%] were critical of accommodation in Bir, Tso Pema and Lotus House. Seven respondents, whilst positive about Ahimsa House, said that linen needed to be changed more regularly. A number of the Mexican students, from Tec de Monterry University, [6] said that they were cold in their accommodation and would have liked more heaters to be available. This is probably understandable as their visit was in December, one of the coldest months of the year. 4.4 Exchange Program Activities Overall scores suggest that most people were very happy with the exchange, with 58.97% of students rating the volunteering and mutual learning role components as being a very positive experience. However, there was a certain amount of frustration expressed through the survey in terms of the need for greater preparation, so that they could fulfil their roles more effectively [15 students]. Another 11 students complained that there was a lack of structure and guidance in the mutual learning program. However, a few students saw this as positive, as flexibility. This really comes down to personality types; some people require a clear structure to feel comfortable, while others are relaxed with a more flexible approach. A few people [5] said they had too much free time and would have liked to have been more involved in volunteering activities, but did not know how to make this happen. 4.5 Mutual Learning Partners (MLPs) Mutual Learning Partners play a crucial role in the Cultural Exchange Program. They are former or current Lha English language students who are recruited to be the local learning partner for each visiting student. Their role, for most visits, involves organising a program of activities each morning (9.00am – 12.00pm) for their visiting student partner. This might include visits to places of interest, such as Bhagsu Waterfall, Tsuglagkhang Complex, the Tibetan Library, Dal Lake and the Kalachakra Temple, as well as the visiting students adopting a tutor role and supporting the Tibetan MLP with his/her English conversation and writing skills. In relation to the MLP role, the following points emerged from the findings: ·

Recruitment of MLPs – Lha recruits MLPs according to the following criteria: s/he must be or have been an English language student with Lha; and have an English language proficiency sufficient to communicate with a visiting student. MLPs are then matched with a visiting student according to gender. Some organisers from the visiting institutions/organisations have suggested that the selection criteria for MLPs needs to be more defined and tailored for each visit, and that this criteria and the short summary bios/details of the MLPs selected needs to be forwarded to the them much more in advance of the visit than is currently the case. Additional selection criterion might include: - An age difference of no more than 5 years difference between the visiting student and the MLP; - The preparedness of the MLP to undertake some pre-visit learning of vocabulary and terms related to any specialist area of studies relevant to the visiting students; - A willingness to attend a pre-visit briefing meeting to share ideas and discuss approaches for dealing with potential difficulties.

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Alternative extra MLPs also need to be recruited and available ‘on-call’ by Lha to ensure that all visiting students have a partner in cases where the designated MLP is not able to attend. It should be noted that, since March 2015, with the new Education Coordinator in place, Lha has been taking steps to ensure that the information about MLPs is forwarded to the visiting institutions well in advance of visits. ·

Briefing of MLPs - A very simple briefing has been provided to the MLPs prior to previous exchange visits by Lha. This has amounted to little more than learning the names of their visiting student partner and the basic rules of the role. Five of the MLPs interviewed would have appreciated more information about their assigned student partner so that they could better prepare for the visit. The MLPs would benefit from a pre-visit meeting that brings them together as a group, providing an opportunity to share ideas and lessons learned from previous experiences in the role. This would be particularly helpful for ‘first-timers’ in the role. For example, some MLPs have clever ideas about how to approach the English language learning aspect of the program. One MLP, with an interest in basic science and no formal education, uses a science text book as the basis for some of the English, thereby supplementing not only his/her language skills but also subject matter missed through not having attended school. Sharing ideas would also help MLPs to individually come up with an interesting and varied program of activities for the time spent with their visiting student partner. Such a meeting would also be an opportunity to share strategies for dealing with difficult visiting students. For example, MLPs during the interviews explained that the “boring” partners, those who don’t talk very much, are really hard work. To manage time with these students, the MLPs adopted strategies, such as taking them for walks, playing chess, or meeting together with others in the group. One MLP had partnered a visiting student who tended to be emotionally unstable. Discussions about these sorts of situations should be part of these meetings, with advice given by Lha about appropriate responses.

·

Payment of allowances – at the proposed briefing meeting for MLPs it should be made clear to those selected MLPs that, in line with current practice, the daily allowances will only be paid for the days that they actually participate, in order to encourage maximum participation and regular attendance of MLPs. This would mean that MLPs would receive the allowances in tranches to be determined by Lha.

·

Evaluation feedback – Lha needs to collect evaluative feedback from the MLPs at the end of each exchange visit, both for monitoring purposes and to ensure that lessons learned are summarised and applied to subsequent exchange visits. The feedback summary and analysis should be shared with the overseas partner institutions/organisations.

·

Post-visit meeting – At the end of the exchange visit, once the visiting group has departed, Lha should hold a meeting with the MLPs as a ‘debriefing’ and a further opportunity to share lessons learned. At this meeting the MLPs could hear the summarised feedback from the visiting students about their visit. This would not only be useful for MLPs in any future role as an MLP but also potentially provide positive reinforcement of the role they had played. 4.6 Exposure to Leaders & Intellectuals

Due to its excellent networks in the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, Lha is able to prepare a varied and high calibre program of presenters and facilitators to meet the needs of the visiting groups. Presenters available to Lha include: · Mrs Ama Adhe Tapontsang: an inspiring 86 year old woman who spent 27 years in prison in China for resisting Chinese occupation of Tibet. In her address to the exchange students she recounts her life with an indescribable calmness and provides a rare and personal glimpse into the history of the Chinese occupation in Tibet, the spirit of Tibet’s people and the strong religious beliefs that helped her spirit remain intact throughout her years of imprisonment. · Mr. Karma Chungdak – School Administrator, Shambota Tibetan School Society, who talks about the realities for education in exile. His key message is that education is not only a pathway to a career but 11 | P a g e


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that it is also about life-long learning – it is open like the sky. He strongly believes that education cannot be limited to being a ‘factory for professions’, it should aim to promote “humanness”. Mr Penpa Tsering – Honourable Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament – explains about the current situation in Tibet, the structure and workings of the Central Tibetan Administration, democracy in exile and Tibet-China issues. Mrs. Tenzin Pema - Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. Tenzin provides an understanding about conditions in Tibet, especially in relation to education. Besides this, her other main message is the importance of maintaining and not losing your mother tongue, because of the importance it has in being the "seat of culture". Venerable Bagdro – ex political prisoner, speaker and author of several books about the Tibetan struggle. Venerable Bagdro talks to the students about “true” Tibetan history and urges them to go back to their homes and advocate on behalf of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Sessions are also organised for students which involve informal discussion with the representatives of Tibetan NGOs in Dharamsala, which might include directors, researchers and media persons from several organizations. Through these discussions students have the opportunity to learn about Tibetan NGOs, their roles and work in the exile community. The general consensus amongst students [54], according to the end visit surveys, seems to be that this aspect of the Exchange is excellent. Ama Adhe was the one person most singled out for positive mention. There were a range of other comments from individual students, but many of these were contradictory [e.g. "the talks are too long", "the talks are too short". etc.] It is clear that this is an important and essential aspect of the Exchange Program. From the perspective of the presenters, it is an enjoyable opportunity to meet young people from different places and to explain to them the situation that faces current day Tibet and Tibetans. Although there is no formal briefing provided by Lha to these presenters, all were quite comfortable with the letter of invitation that came from Lha; describing the students that would be coming and their backgrounds, the process for the session and the areas that they were expected to discuss/share. Similarly, at the end of the visit, Lha should provide feedback to presenters about their presentations and how they were received. This could be done via a letter of thanks. Most key informant guest presenters interviewed did not have any suggestions for improving these sessions. Mrs Tenzin Pema, however, suggested that the time for discussion after the presentation could be extended as the time allocated, especially if there was also a meal, was far too short. She also raised an issue related to the gender of the presenters. For the session that she attended, she was the only woman out of 10-12 Tibetan speakers. In relation to this she commented: “I don't know if other women were invited and didn't come, or whether I was the only one asked. Either way this sends a wrong message to the students about gender roles in Tibetan society. There are actually a lot of clever, articulate women who could and should be involved. So in future I would like to see more gender balance in the groups from the Tibetan side”. This is an important point, especially given that the majority of Exchange visit students seem to be young women! 4.7 Excursions 62.82% of students [49] said that the trips and sightseeing destinations were good. The number was probably higher, but again, some students used this opportunity to talk about a single destination in particular. The most mentioned and appreciated activity seems to have been hiking - both to Triund, as well as the walk to Bhagsu Falls with learning partners. Ten students said they thought the visit to Tso Pema was too long. In contrast, two mentioned it as their highlight. 4.8 Social Functions The final dinner is the main social function that has been organised for each exchange visit. The visiting students and accompanying staff, all guest presenters, staff involved from volunteer placement organisations, home stay hosts (where applicable), mutual learning partners, and Lha staff are all invited to these dinners, held at Ahimsa House. Photographs suggest that these are fun nights, sometimes with performances by some invitees. For many of these functions the visiting students and staff have been encouraged to wear traditional Tibetan dress, with support for this provided by the home-stay host families and/or Lha staff. One MLP reflected 12 | P a g e


on this, commenting that the wearing of traditional dress was very good, all sides were happy. He went on to say that at the last few parties this has not happened and that this had been disappointing. He added: I think this should be continued as everyone liked it. These nights are obviously a celebratory way to end what has been a very memorable and sometimes lifechanging experience for some young people. For the Tibetans it is an important social occasion that fits with the Tibetan ethos of hospitality. 4.9 Program Evaluation The current practice is for visiting students to complete a satisfaction survey at the end of the cultural exchange program visit in McLeodganj. These survey forms ask students to rate and comment on the preparations for the exchange visit, the activities undertaken, the accommodation arrangements and food and any other feedback they wish to give. The survey questionnaires vary from group to group, which is potentially positive, but there still needs to be some standard set questions that apply to all groups to allow for common analysis and comparison. The survey forms need to be reviewed to ensure that they clearly show: the date; the institution the student is from; and have an instruction that students be specific in their responses, giving examples where necessary. Adequate time should be built into the program for students to complete the form thoughtfully. In addition, group evaluation processes could be introduced to cross-check the information provided through the individual surveys. 5. Relevance/value of current exchange program The value of cultural exchange programs is increasingly recognised around the globe. Program options for students are abundant and provide individualised experience. Cultural exchange programs provide an avenue to study cultural traditions, language, etiquette, and history. In addition, participation can enhance a student’s transnational competencies, a valuable quality for future employment opportunities. As one institutional respondent said, “Anything that gets American students out of America is good!” It is therefore not surprising that cultural exchange programs have become a business in many developed countries, with for-profit companies competing to offer the ‘best’ product for potential participants. While recognising the indisputable value of these programs, key informant, Mr. Karma Chungdak, School Administrator for the Shambota Tibetan School Society added: “Unfortunately exchange programs globally are gradually becoming a tourist industry, aiming to make a profit.” In this environment, there is therefore a need for organisations like Lha to maintain a balance in the tension between making money for Lha and the primary mission of the organisation, which is to help the Tibetan people survive and prosper in their new home and to preserve their profoundly unique culture. Currently Lha has been managing this tension well. The management team is well aware of the importance of these programs in generating much needed income for Lha, while ensuring that the programs do not impact negatively on other Lha programs. In fact Lha has created a model for these programs where Tibetan students studying with Lha are able to be part of the delivery of the program and thus benefit from the experience. When asked about whether Lha would want to increase the number of exchanges if they could the response from senior management was somewhat mixed. On the one hand, there is an awareness that this is not Lha's main purpose and that a large increase in the exchange program could overwhelm the staff and have a negative impact on other programs. On the other hand, there is a pragmatic understanding that the agency requires ongoing funding sources to keep operating. The evaluation team felt comfortable that this situation was being actively discussed and managed by Lha's senior management team. Key informant Mr. Karma Chungdak (Shambota Tibetan School Society) corroborated Lha’s current approach to these programs: Speaking as a human being and as a Tibetan – Lha approaches exchanges with compassion, not just as a money making venture. Yes, they make money but students benefit and learn from the experience. Lha does these exchanges better than other agencies; some agencies are not good. Based on the programs of moneyminded agencies some people are becoming cynical about these programs.

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6. Outcomes for Mutual Learning Partners In relation to the Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners, the objective of the program is to ‘assist Tibetan students to develop skills and positive relationships, and to understand and learn from people who are different from themselves.’ It is clear from the findings that the benefits to the MLPs from their involvement in the program are considerable. These benefits are discussed in relation to the potential outcomes listed in the diagram: 6.1 Improved conversational language skills Interviews with ten MLPs confirmed that a key reason for agreeing to be an MLP was the opportunity that the role provided to improve their English language skills, especially in speaking and writing. Reflecting on their MLP experiences the informants confirmed that the role had indeed helped them improve their language skills, particularly in relation to extending vocabulary, understanding ‘natural’ English, informal conversational English, and practice with writing. The one-on-one tuition provided by the exchange students provides a valuable chance for writing practice and deep explanations of the corrections and related grammar. In addition these sessions allow MLPs to discuss topics that are of interest to them that may not be of interest to others in conversation classes, such as science, economics and religion. The value of the exchange program in relation to conversational English is well summed-up by one MLP who said: “I enjoy the talking. I was born into a nomad family, so I have never been to school. I enjoy talking my partners about topics that interest me. For example, I have a science text book but I can’t understand some of it so I ask them to explain to me some of the basic science topics”. 6.2 Enhanced understanding of the cultures of visiting international students A main reason for volunteering to be an MLP, for five of the ten learning partners interviewed, was that it would enable them to learn and better understand other cultures. However, when discussing the personal value of the exchange visits, this outcome did not rate as highly as might be expected. Two of the female MLPs did report that they had appreciated the chance to hear about the way others live and their cultures, but they were not able to talk in any detail about what they had actually learned. Interestingly, one male MLP agreed that learning about different cultures had been important for him, adding that he had learnt that many of his exchange partners were unhappy and did not value the lives they lived. He went on to say: I tell them they should be happy, as they have everything! When they are here they see how difficult life is for us, so maybe they learn to value their lives more. I found that some students are quite unhappy. For me, their life is perfect – they have freedom and social rights – I tell them they should appreciate their lives! [Male MLP] 6.3 Opportunity to raise awareness Tibetan culture and Political situation Perhaps not surprisingly, the opportunity to be a spokesperson for Tibetan culture and the situation in Tibet rated highly for eight of the ten MLPs interviewed. The MLPs are genuine and committed advocates for the Tibetan cause and are keen to impart an understanding of Tibetan culture and religion. They recognise that the opportunities they have available to them to raise awareness on the international stage are limited and so they eagerly grab this chance and try to ensure that their exchange partner has an understanding of the Tibetan situation in human terms through their personal stories and through recounting the “true” history of what has happened in Tibet. Three MLPs agreed that the most valued part of the role was that it had enabled them to impart some understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist Philosophy. The reason this was important for them emanated from their belief that Tibetan Buddhism was the most valuable thing that the Tibetan community has to offer the world. 6.4 Greater appreciation & tolerance of cultural diversity Greater appreciation and tolerance of cultural diversity, although not directly discussed by the MLPs, can be deduced from some of their comments. It was clear in the interviews with the MLPs that their knowledge about people and their lives had increased as a result of the exchange visits. Some aspects of their partner’s lives were obviously perplexing, with some MLPs sharing their stories with their partners in the hope that the partner would learn from them and perhaps appreciate their own lives more. For example, one MLP commented: My personal stories affected my exchange partner. Maybe, through hearing these stories and the hardships that I had faced, my partner now valued their own extended family more.

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6.5 Broadened knowledge and greater confidence This is a longer term outcome that, although important, could not be explored in this evaluation. It is to be expected that the increased confidence in their English language skills and the increased understanding of other cultures will be contributing factors to the eventual greater confidence to engage activities outside the Tibetan community. 6.6 Establishment of long-term and active international friendships Only three of the MLPs cited making new friendships as an outcome of the MLP experiences. Two MLP reported that they had occasional contact with their exchange partners, on Facebook and via email. Both agreed that this was “nice”. The reality seems to be that the relations between the MLP and visiting exchange student are intense while the group is visiting and in McLeodganj, but once the students leave the relationship fades. 6.7 Period of income via daily allowance Only one MLP mentioned the daily allowance as being an outcome of the program that was of benefit to him. The Lha staff, however, reported that this was in fact an important outcome for the MLPs, providing them with an allowance that was relatively substantial (Rupees 200-250 per day). The allowance allows the MLP to feel an equal in the exchange with the visiting students, enabling them to pay for their own refreshments, when discussions are held in local cafes. 7. Feedback from and outcomes for visiting exchange students 7.1 Overall Level of Satisfaction with Exchange Program Based on an analysis of end of visit satisfaction surveys [see Annex 3 for detailed survey data] and an email survey conducted in March 2015 with previous visiting student participants, LHA's Cultural Exchange Programs can be confirmed as having been very successful from the point of view of students’ satisfaction. One question in the end of visit survey, requires students to rate their overall experience between 1 and 10, with 10 being the most positive. The average rating across all 78 survey respondents surveyed was 9.32. The highest average for a group was for the Tecnologico de Monterrey and was 9.81. The lowest average for a group was from Tulane University and was 8.87. The lowest individual score was from one Tulane student and was 7; all other scores were 8 and above. This represents a very high level of satisfaction. This high level of satisfaction was confirmed in the feedback via the post visit email surveys where respondents were unanimous in agreeing that they would and do recommend the Cultural Exchange Program visit to other students. The reasons behind recommending others to participate in such a Program are varied and include the following responses from past exchange students: I have recommended this exchange to hundreds of people and will continue to do so. I think Junior year of college was an amazing time to take part in a trip like this one. For me, above all, it was a chance to change my perspective and open my mind and heart (not to sound overly sentimental – but I say this with all sincerity). It is a revealing experience and it makes you conscious of social problems that need to be solved. Also it creates in you a need to do something with the problems back home. It enriches your life in many ways. You are given the chance to share something and have an impact over someone's life while still enjoying yourself. I think everyone should realize what is going on in the world around them and seeing it in the news versus hearing from someone in that culture has a much bigger effect on a person. I one hundred percent would recommend this Program to others. I learned and experienced a lot on my trip and I would want others to enjoy themselves as much as I did. I would recommend the Program. I think it is a valuable and unique learning experience.

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7.2 Reasons for Participating in Exchange Program Although there were only a small number of responses to the email survey [9], it was clear from the responses received that students had chosen to participate in the cultural exchange program for a variety of reasons. Some were primarily interested in learning more about Tibetan culture and history, while others were interested in challenging themselves and using the experience to prepare more for their chosen career and/or to help others. The following quotes from past exchange students demonstrate these different motivations. Because I was becoming a social worker I thought it was beneficial to my career to submerge myself in a culture and do things that required me to leave my comfort zone to better understand what others may be going through. I chose to participate because I was interested in Buddhism, in India, and totally unaware of what had been happening in Tibet. I was also very interested in experiencing completely new cultures, both Indian and Tibetan. I felt that being able to share my culture and provide English lessons, to be a part of the mutual learning partnership, would have the potential to be much more fulfilling and enriching than more classic travelling – and above all I hoped that I could be a part of something positive in someone else’s life – particularly someone who had faced hardships (in this case of the political oppression faced by Tibetans). I thought it would be a more productive and authentic way to come to understand Tibetan culture, rather than simply taking tours of Dharamsala. I saw it as a unique experience that would not only help someone in another culture, but I simultaneously would be learning about that culture. 7.3 Outcomes for visiting students Although there were difficulties in reaching the returned visiting students via the email survey, the responses that were received (9), were rich in reflections about the cultural exchange program and what it offers. These responses were complemented by feedback from the Mutual Learning Partners who shared insights about the changes that they observed in visiting students over the course of the visits. The findings show that there were a number of ‘life-changing’ outcomes for many of the students who participated in the visits. Many of these are in line with the potential outcomes outlined in the proposed framework for the program (see framework on page 8). As one Mutual Learning Partner pointed out: “It is a very short time in which to expect someone to change”; so the fact that some returned students have been able to attribute significant personal changes to their visit, is quite impressive. Changes that returned students, Mutual Learning Partners and leaders and organisers from visiting institutions identified for visiting students are briefly described below. 7.3.1 Enhanced understanding of the Tibetan political situation Some visiting students, both in the end of visit surveys and in the email surveys, reported a much greater understanding of the political situation in Tibet and Tibetan history. This was summed up by one Mutual Learning Partner, who stated: “Some became much more interested about Tibet – they hadn’t known much at the start of the exchange but by the end they had learnt about the Tibetan situation and wanted to do something to help Tibetans”. Hearing recent Tibetan history via personal stories from both Mutual Learning Partners and eminent Tibetan community leaders, gave the visiting students not only an understanding of the history itself, but of how it had affected particular individuals, their families and their communities. This enhanced understanding is captured in the stories of change below from past exchange students: I have definitely become much more aware of the on goings globally as I was quite disgusted that I had no idea what had been going on in Tibet. I have become vocal about these issues and try to be aware of as much as I can because I feel that ignorance of the issue is part of what will stunt any change from occurring. I was already quite passionate about social justice but I felt all of the different organizations that we spoke to who looked at issues from different avenues (education, access to clean water/toilets, representation in the judicial system etc) allowed me to see how many different ways a problem could/should be approached and also made me much more aware of corruption and injustices that I, again, was unaware existed. All in all, it was an experience that allowed me to open my eyes and rid 16 | P a g e


myself, at least a little, of some ignorance that I had and begin a new wave of awareness where I seek information (knowledge is power!). I think the situation that Tibetan people live is a very difficult one. After you go there and hear what they have to say about being exiled makes you reflect when you return home. You look it different simply because you don't have to run from home. I was volunteering with Lha, and spending a few hours each day with my mutual learning program partner so that she could practise her English and I could learn about her culture. Giggling in solidarity as we watched the first raindrops come down, I started to ask her questions about her life. Slowly, with apologetic pauses, she told me her story, beginning with the two-month trek she had taken through the mountains to escape the Chinese occupation of Tibet. When she later learned that her mother in Tibet had become ill, she tried to return but was barred by Visa complications. She had joined the Lha program because she realized that English skills would be invaluable to support herself and her ailing mother. When she told me this, I was struck by a new understanding of how important our time together was. These stories powerfully demonstrate how personal stories can quite radically change peoples’ perceptions and understanding of history. 7.3.2 Greater appreciation of Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy Feedback from both the Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners and visiting students suggest that some visiting students completed the visit with a greater understanding and appreciation of Tibetan Buddhism and philosophy. For some learning partners, especially those who are Buddhist monks, this would be seen as a significant outcome, as the opportunity to share Buddhist philosophy is a prime motivator for some learning partners joining the program. One Tibetan learning partner said: “We tended to talk about Buddhism and meditation”. Another reported that, “One learning partner, from Korea, converted to Tibetan Buddhism and I am still in contact with her – she went through a big change throughout the visit.” Without, unfortunately, providing any detail, one visiting student reported that, since the visit, “I have adapted some of the Buddhist philosophy to my life”. Similarly, another past visiting student revealed: I learned and deeply understood the relevance of having a single element that joins all of the people in a community, which in the case of Tibetans is religion. So I decided to focus my attention in something deeper and permanent to follow. For young idealistic students, in a formative stage of their life, the awareness and appreciation of different religions and what they offer can be a very positive influence. 7.3.3 Personal growth & understanding about the world beyond their home It was clear from the feedback from both Mutual Learning Partners and visiting students that the visits had been a period of significant personal change and growth for many of the visiting students. Being outside their ‘comfort zone’ in a new and very different setting had resulted in a time of personal reflection and questioning of personal values. One Mutual Learning Partner, for example, reported: “Many of the visiting students came from very different backgrounds from me (mainly cities) and so my stories, from rural, nomadic Tibet, really affected them”. Similarly, another Learning Partner commented: “My stories affected them. Maybe they valued their extended families more at the end of the visit, because they heard the regrets I have about my family and not being able to see them”. There was general agreement from all Mutual Learning Partners that the knowledge of the visiting students on many things had increased due to the visit – “they had more compassion and increased awareness, they had learnt a lot!” Some of the visiting students reported change in terms of their personal character. For example, one student wrote: I am much more flexible and patient after spending time in India. For others, the experience opened their eyes to the differences and inequities in the world and the lack of justice that exists for some communities/countries. Examples of the changes shared by past visiting students are captured in the comments below: 17 | P a g e


I have realized that I lead a very privileged life. Also, I no longer think of minority groups in an “us and them” context but rather a “we” context. We’re all humans, but they are treated unjustly and that’s why we label them “minority.” It’s not right. I have become more aware of how even when a group of people are fighting for their rights it doesn’t mean they are always heard or that people care enough to do anything about it. Sometimes it is easier for people to ignore the problem than to fix it. As a result of the visit, I am able to appreciate the things in my life, and when I feel stressed or overwhelmed or something doesn’t go exactly as planned I am able to realize that my struggles could be significantly worse and I need to remember to be thankful for what I have. Especially after meeting everyone in the program and how positive they are about their lives despite being forced out of their homes. In some cases, visiting students became much more aware of and grateful for the lives they lead and the opportunities they have. For example, one past visiting student reported: I had an amazing experience with my mutual learning partner. She taught me to be so grateful to be a US citizen, as it is so difficult for her to get her visa. This was particularly confronting for one past visiting student who was bold enough to share the following reflection: If I may say so, respectfully: Overall, I very much dislike the idea of upper middle class young people, who have received many opportunities throughout their lives, going abroad to do “feel good” work and feeling that “they’ve changed as a person” etc. etc. I feel that perspective and a sense of reality when it comes to viewing what you have taken part in, what you have contributed, and what you have gained is extremely important. In this particular trip, I gained so much it is impossible that my contributions equalled my gains. Perhaps the questions raised by this past student are somewhat mitigated by the views of another past visiting student, as expressed below: My time in India was full of challenges- the palpable heat, the sudden rains, and the stomach-aches, not to mention the difficulties associated with tutoring English when I did not speak the native language. And yet I thrived, awakening each morning excited for days permeated with immediacy. I was able to succeed because I quickly learned that the most worthy experiences are had when enthusiasm trumps discomfort. Leaders and organisers from the visiting institutions/organisations reinforced the changes relating to students’ expanded world views and social justice issues that came from participation in the Lha Cultural Exchange Programs. These changes are captured in the box below. Some students return home inspired to pursue professions that may work towards a more socially just society, or begin projects, related to the Tibet issue or not. But many of our students come on our program because they are already committed to social justice, so I think we solidify students’ attitudes and provide them with further insight and context. Some students are inexperienced when they come, and the experience of working with Tibetans, as well as traveling in India, has a strong impact upon them. The age our students are at is crucial in forming values that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They are impressionable, and their entire worldviews are blown wide open by our program. From indirect sources, I do believe the program sparks future work in social justice, at least for some of our students. Overall, these reflections demonstrate the significant impact that the visit had on many of the visiting students, as they grappled with revelations about themselves, the world beyond their home country and social justice. 7.3.4 Changed attitudes that lead to changed actions & involvement Importantly, email survey feedback from visiting students reported various ways that these changed attitudes and personal values had materialised into led to changed actions and involvement in social justice issues and causes. This involvement varied from establishing or participating in social justice organisations, to raising funds 18 | P a g e


for specific causes, to taking a more active interest and involvement in social justice issues in home countries. One past student from Tec de Monterry University in Mexico, for example, reported that she “decided to be a social entrepreneur back in Mexico” as a result of the visit. Another described her practical action on return to the United States: I wanted to do something to help, so we raised $1100 selling fair trade goods for the TongLen Charitable Trust. Tong-Len is an NGO which works to help displaced communities in North India achieve a secure and sustainable future by addressing the root causes of their poverty and ill-health through a range of education and health-based projects. Yet another visiting student reported that she now: “pays more attention to bills being passed that help or further repress people that are in need of assistance and take action such as signing petitions or making phone calls to express my concerns”. One student has made changes on a personal level and intends that, in the future, this will lead to changes for others. This is described in the explanation below: In terms of my daily life and how I approach situations or view the situations of others I think that my mindset and perspective have changed. I am focused on disseminating information and seeking out sources that are as unbiased as possible – to eliminate ignorance. I am not currently involved directly with organizations consistently combatting a particular issue but I am making changes within myself daily on this small level and hope that one day I can be more active in a literal sense. For another student, the visit helped her to confirm her career path and her fight to challenge social injustice both in her home country and globally: I fully believe that this trip was monumental in shaping who I have become. Though, many seeds had been planted before the trip, I feel they were fully instilled during my time in India. My experiences solidified what I had already “decided” would be my path in terms of my career. It also helped me to see that human beings face horrendous hardships all over the world and it became more and more important to me to begin my “work” of helping others and “curing” injustices where I live, in my own community, first. The examples above demonstrate the profound impact the Cultural Exchange Program can have on visiting students, impacts that can change the direction of lives. 7.3.5 Long term and active international friendships Similar to the outcomes reported by Mutual Learning Partners, some visiting students mentioned the ongoing friendships they enjoyed as a result of the Exchange Program. Although communication seems to be erratic and reasonably sparse, it seems that these friendships are still valued by both parties. Some students hear from their Mutual Learning Partner a few times a year via email. An example of this communication is described below I was very lucky to have “clicked” very quickly with my mutual learning partner. We connected quickly and this allowed us to share many experiences, thoughts, and pieces of our culture with each other seamlessly. In fact, we had been keeping in touch for a year with weekly emails – all of a sudden they stopped and I became very worried – then I received an email that she was in the United States and when I responded again, I didn’t hear back. . . I would love to get back in touch with her. In conclusion, the findings suggest that the impact these Cultural Exchange Visits can have on the lives of visiting students is quite profound. However, the long-term impact of the visits is unlikely to be known for many years. This was summed up by key informant, Karma Chungdak, School Administrator for the Shambota Tibetan School Society: When I give my talk to groups, I hope they will get awareness about the meaning and purpose of education. My message will remain in their hearts as a fixed deposit to be accessed later. After I talk to them I say ‘the flower from this talk will blossom in 20 years’.

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8. Benefits from the program for organisations: Lha and overseas partners As well as benefits for visiting exchange students and Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners, there are also benefits flowing from the program for both Lha as an organisation, and the visiting educational partners. 8.1 Benefits for Lha There are clear benefits to Lha and to the Tibetan refugee community as a result of Lha’s role in the Cultural Exchange Program. The main benefits are: ·

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International credibility: as long as they are well-run, the Program provides Lha with international credibility as a responsible agency and service provider for international exchange programs. Lha now has a competent team of staff who are skilled at running the program and an impressive collection of guest speakers who can contribute to the program. Advocacy: the Exchange Programs provide Lha with an opportunity to promote greater awareness of the Tibetan situation. The recognition, networks and partnerships that are generated by the Program can potentially broaden the understanding of and support for Tibetan refugees in exile. Income: the Program generates much-needed core funding, resulting from the planning, organisation and management of the exchange visits and hosting services. Ahimsa House, owned and managed by Lha, is already well set up as an accommodation centre. The exchange visits ensure that this resource is well utilised, providing funding for the centre and employment for staff. The income provided by the program is invaluable, as it is ‘undedicated’ funding that can be used to pay staff salaries and support administrative costs. Local reputation: Lha’s local reputation is enhanced through the involvement of Dharamsala-based institutions, leaders and prominent community members in the Cultural Exchange programs. It also provides an excellent opportunity for these leaders to advocate on behalf of Tibetan refugees and to increase awareness of the situation in Tibet. Key informants interviewed for the evaluation all shared very positive feedback about Lha and its work, including the organisation and management of the Cultural Exchange Programs. For example, Mrs. Tenzin Pema, Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, commented: “The Cultural Exchange Program brings a lot of credibility and prestige to Lha because there are lots of NGOs trying to do things, but only Lha has the capacity to run something as complex as the Cultural Exchange Program.” There is no doubt that, through its partnerships with the Cultural Exchange Programs, Lha increases its profile and reputation in the local community and demonstrates its effectiveness as an organisation. Philanthropic donations: the increased international knowledge and understanding of Lha’s work through hosting exchange groups has the potential to generate philanthropic donations. Some students have returned to their home countries and undertaken fund raising for Lha’s programs. Strengthened management and administrative skills: the management of the program strengthens the skills of staff, especially staff new to Lha. A manual that clearly outlines the steps involved in organising the program would allow senior staff to confidently delegate more of the running of the program to others in the Lha team. This would give less senior staff the opportunity to learn and apply new skills. 8.2 Benefits for visiting institutions

Some of the visiting partners are ‘for-profit’ organisations in the business of organising and running student exchange visits. For these organisations, the main benefit therefore is financial gain. For other educational based organisations, such as Universities and secondary colleges, the main benefits of the program are: ·

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Reliable service provision – Through interacting with Lha, both cultural exchange travel businesses and University and College Faculties have a reliable service provider, experienced at providing well organised exchange programs. Increased student interest and potential enrolments - A potential increase in student interest in enrolling in the educational institution due to the exchange program on offer. An exchange program such as this, if it has a good reputation, can attract increased student interest. Word of mouth is a powerful means of attracting students to courses where there is something unique on offer in the program. The positive feedback from returning students on these exchange programs will have undoubtedly filtered throughout the wider student body and beyond. 20 | P a g e


· ·

Enhanced reputation of the institution within its local community, due to social and media coverage of the program and through being able to provide this kind of cross-cultural experience for their students. Relevant exposure – students who are studying social work and other courses related to social justice, are exposed to similar work in a Tibetan social context. This exposure is invaluable to students, providing insight into their potential field of employment, beyond the social context normally available to them. 9. Effectiveness and efficiency of program management

Overall the findings suggest that the Lha Cultural Exchange Programs are well run and effective in meeting the needs of the visiting organisations. Much of the pre-visit negotiating is done by the Lha Director who then delegates roles and functions to various staff members in the Lha team. While this has been effective to date, the development of a “manual”, outlining the steps involved in planning and organising visits, might enable higher level management duties to be delegated to others in the Lha team. Two areas of program management that need to be addressed are discussed below. 9.1 Risk Management in the Program The management of risk means looking at what could go wrong in a program and trying to put measures in place to prevent it from going wrong – in other words being proactive. With this in mind, one area that Lha needs to address is Child-Protection. Many of the students visiting are under the age of 18 years and are therefore legally children. This is an area of concern that was raised by some leaders and organisers of the Cultural Exchange Visits from the visiting institutions, especially those whose student groups are under 18 years old. For example, one leader explained in the email survey: Above all, safety is our primary priority. We hope it’s the same for Lha. We hope Lha thoroughly screens the people that will be interacting with our youth. We also expect open and clear communication. If there are any issues with our students, we hope our staff will be informed immediately. It’d be nice to know how the Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners are screened for participation/interaction with our students. Our teenagers can range in age from 14-19 years, so it can be a bit nerve-wracking knowing they spend time alone with adults…people that we are not familiar with. I do feel the risk is low in Dharamsala for our students to be involved in an unsafe interaction. However, as I mentioned, safety is our primary priority…it would provide some peace of mind to know how the MLPs are selected to work with our teenage students. In the global civil society context, all agencies are becoming increasingly concerned about child protection in their work. No organisation is immune from the issue and the extent to which organisations develop measures to protect children is a matter of increasing scrutiny. Everyone involved in working with children has a fundamental duty of care towards them. Given that Lha is both hosting students from overseas, some of whom are under 18 years, and also has secondary students participating in its Skills Building Program, it is imperative that Lha develops and implements a Child Protection Policy that addresses child protection issues and demonstrates that it is aware of the related risks. Such a policy would outline measures it takes to reduce these risks. This policy would apply to all Lha programs, including the Skills Development Program which uses many external, foreign volunteers, most of whom are totally unknown to Lha. 9.2 Program Monitoring and Evaluation It is currently more difficult to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the Program as there is no systematic approach to monitoring and evaluating the Program. Student Satisfaction Surveys are completed at the end of each visit, but there is little evidence that these are collated and analysed in order to gather lessons learned and provide ongoing guidance to the program. Whilst it is important to gather information back from visiting students, it is equally important to collate and analyse that data in a timely manner, otherwise there is little point in gathering it. Some leaders and organisers of the visiting exchange visit groups requested, via the email survey,

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that the documentation, monitoring and evaluation of these programs be improved. One respondent recommended: “Greater feedback be collected from Lha students after the exchange program�. The program needs to have a very simple monitoring and evaluation system in place, with a staff member designated with responsibility to see that it is undertaken before, during and after exchange programs. As well as the Student Satisfaction Surveys, evaluation feedback should be sought from: the organisers from the visiting educational institutions; the guest presenters and host organisations for placements (where applicable); and the Mutual Learning Partners. This data should then be collated and analysed so that lessons learned can be applied to the ongoing program. Pertinent findings should then be shared with key staff and other participants, including staff from the visiting institutions and the Tibetan Mutual Learning Partners participating in the program. As part of the evaluation process, it would be in the interests of both Lha and the visiting educational institutions to set up a system, where possible, for more regular post-visit feedback from visiting students, perhaps on an annual basis for a set period (maybe five years?). This information would be invaluable in determining the longer term impacts that cultural exchange visits can have on visiting students. Besides program improvement, there is a further reason for undertaking effective monitoring and evaluation. Organisations that provide funding have become increasingly sophisticated in their approach, this is because there is so much demand and so few funds, they need to be confident that their funds are going to organisations that are open, transparent, relevant and effective. Well designed, managed and reported monitoring and evaluation is the way that most 'receiving' agencies use to show their openness and effectiveness. These funding organisations have become very adept at "reading" organisations; rightly or wrongly the expression of need and the request for solidarity with a cause no longer constitutes enough evidence for support. As most social justice organisations mature they develop the ability to "look both ways"! Both inwardly to address their own vision and purpose, as well as outwardly to address the needs of those that would support them. The key tool that they use to do this is evaluation of their programs and open reporting of those findings. 10. Recommendations Overall, the findings show the Lha organized Cultural Exchange Programs have been effectively organized and well managed and run. However, there are always aspects of a program that can be improved and continuous improvement should be an ongoing goal. Given this, this evaluation concludes with a series of recommendations which aim to address some of the problems identified with the current program. The recommendations are divided into 3 primary and 9 secondary recommendations. The reason behind this thinking is that the 3 primary recommendations are seen as having the greatest immediate impact on program quality. Monitoring and Evaluation 1. That the one page logic model and theory of change schematic be confirmed as a working document for the program and monitoring systems be set-up to track progress and achievements against objectives and potential outcomes. Currently Lha collects some monitoring and evaluative data. However, this information is not analysed and is overall not sufficient to provide guidance to the ongoing program in relation to lessons learned and problems/concerns that need to be addressed. A monitoring and evaluation framework/system needs to be developed, with a Lha staff member delegated responsibility for implementation and management of the system. In addition, and more specifically, Lha should review its current evaluation questionnaires (Student Satisfaction Surveys, etc) to ensure that they cover all areas where information needs to be collected in order to provide comparative analysis: the date of the visit; the institution the student is from; etc. Questionnaires should include instructions that students be specific in their responses, giving examples where necessary. Adequate time should be built into the program for students to complete the form thoughtfully. To augment and triangulate results from the survey sheets, Lha should also have each group of students undertake a group evaluation, an exercise that often produces results than complement and further explain individual surveys. Partnership Agreements and Contractual Arrangements 22 | P a g e


2. That Lha ensures a contract is prepared for all Cultural Exchange Visits and that, where agreed by both parties, a partnership agreement is negotiated between Lha and its more regular overseas partners. To assist and protect both parties, there is a need for a simple contract/agreement that spells out the roles, responsibilities and expectations of both Lha & the visiting institution. In cases where institutions tend to be visiting on a regular basis, consideration could be given to developing a ‘partnership agreement’ between Lha and that organisation; defining what both parties might hope to achieve through a long term partnership. This document would explore and outline the potential long term gains that might be achieved through the two organisations working together. Risk Management: Child Protection 3.

That Lha develops a Child Protection Policy that outlines how the agency addresses the potential risks to children [anyone under 18 years of age]. It is imperative that Lha develops and implements a Child Protection Policy to ensure that it has measures in place to protect the best interests of children, whether visiting students on cultural exchange programs or young people involved in their skills building program.

Visiting Student Preparations 4.

That sending institutions that are not already doing so develop a simple pack of pre-travel information for student participants and, where possible, arrange a preparatory meeting. The findings show that some visiting students would appreciate more information about the trip prior to departure. A simple pack could be developed that provides language basics; culture basics [dos and don’ts]; weather and clothing requirements; and key resources in the form of important websites, books, documentary movies, etc. The pack should also include an outline of the expected program that students will be part of. Where possible, sending institutions should arrange for student participants to meet together at least once prior to departure for India. Face-to-face meetings would enable students to learn more details about the trip and to ask questions of concern.

5.

That Lha develops a generic pack of information to be used by the visiting institution to help them adequately prepare students for the visit. In order to ensure that visiting students are sufficiently prepared for the Cultural Exchange Visit, Lha needs to develop a generic pack of information that the visiting institutions can share with students as part of the pre-travel preparations. The pack might be adapted for each group and its specific program, but should cover: Lha and its work; what to expect from the Mutual Learning Partner component of the program; simple details of the likely placements in other social organisations (if any); and important websites student might visit for further information. In addition, Lha could adapt the current "volunteer guide" from its website [could also be in PDF format] covering the practicalities of being in Mcleodganj. End of program surveys could be scanned each year to see if this then requires any further updating.

6.

That, where applicable, visiting students be provided with some guidance about how to approach English language teaching. Some students mentioned that they had no idea where to start with helping the learning partner improve his/her English. For exchange students who will be involved in mutual learning programs or volunteer roles that involve the teaching of English [even informally], two possible further recommendations could assist: - it may be worth producing a brief guide on the basics of language training: where to start; what to concentrate on first; common issues for English learners; etc. It might be possible for Lha to have a visiting volunteer with TESL experience prepare such a guide. the Education Sending Institutions may have someone from their college who could give exchange students a brief introduction to the issues of teaching English as a Second Language and some practical tips for how to approach their teaching.

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Management of Mutual Learning Partners There are a number of recommendations related to the Mutual Learning Partner (MLPs)roles and how this role might be strengthened to achieve better outcomes for both Learning Partners themselves and for their partner visiting students. Recruitment of MLPs 7.

That selection criteria for MLPs be tailored to suit the particular needs of the visiting group, with the names and details of selected MLPs forwarded to the visiting institution well in advance of the visit. The current selection criteria for MLPs of being an Lha student and having adequate English proficiency needs to be augmented with additional criteria, that is tailored to meet the needs of each specific group. Additional selection criterion might include: - An age difference of no more than 5 years difference between the visiting student and the MLP; - The preparedness of the MLP to undertake some pre-visit learning of vocabulary and terms related to any specialist area of studies relevant to the visiting students; - A willingness to attend a pre-visit briefing meeting to share ideas and discuss approaches for dealing with potential difficulties. These criteria and short summary bios/details of the MLPs selected needs to be forwarded to the partner visit organisers much more in advance of the visit than is currently the case. It is noted that in 2015 Lha has made improvements in this area, sending information about MLPs to visiting organisations more in advance of visits. On-call MLPs

8.

That alternative MLPs be recruited and available ‘on-call’ by Lha to ensure that absentee MLPs can be easily covered. The unreliability of some MLPs has been a problem in the past, leaving some visiting students without a learning partner on some days. An ‘on-call’ group available at short notice, even if paid a small retainer, would overcome this problem. Briefing Meeting for MLPs

9.

That a briefing meeting for recruited MLPs be scheduled prior to the arrival of the visiting group. To be effective in their role, the MLPs need to be adequately prepared for the Exchange Visit and understand what is expected of them. A brief meeting prior to the arrival of the visiting group would provide an opportunity to: pass on details of the visiting students to each MLP; to outline their expected roles and responsibilities; and to share ideas and lessons learned from previous MLPs. This would be particularly helpful for ‘first-timers’ in the role. Sharing ideas would also help MLPs to individually come up with an interesting and varied program of activities for the time with their visiting student partner. Such a meeting would also be an opportunity to share strategies for dealing with difficult visiting students, such as students who have emotional problems or those who are reserved and not talkative. Allowances

10.

That, in line with current practice, allowances to individual MLPs only be paid for the days they participate in the program. At the proposed briefing meeting for MLPs it should be made clear to those selected MLPs that daily allowances will only be paid for the days that they actually participate, in order to encourage maximum participation and regular turn-up of MLPs. This would mean that MLPs would receive the allowances in tranches to be determined by Lha. Visit evaluations

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11.

That a meeting be held with MLPs at the end of each Exchange Visit to gather evaluative information for analysis, with findings and lessons learned applied to future programs. Evaluation feedback needs to be collected from MLPs via an end of visit meeting and, once analysed and summarised, shared with overseas partner institutions/organisations. A post-visit meeting could be both positive reinforcement of the role they played and an opportunity to share lessons learned to be applied to future exchange visits.

Guest Presenters 12.

That guest presenters be selected with gender balance in mind and be provided with adequate briefing about their expected role and feedback about their presentation and the visit in general. Guest presenters on the Exchange Visit programs are crucial to the success of the visits and therefore need to be respectfully managed. Lha needs to invite speakers with gender representation in mind, ensuring that Tibetan women are equally represented. The letters of invitation to speakers, while currently described as adequate, should provide speakers with as much information as possible about: the visiting group; expectations about what they should present; and information about other speakers and the topics they will cover. This would help guest speakers reinforce messages from others and not duplicate information already covered. In the letter of thanks to presenters, Lha should provide them with feedback about their presentation and the visit in general.

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ANNEX 1 EVALUATION PLAN

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Lha Cultural Exchange Program: Evaluation Plan March 2015 Purpose and objectives of the evaluation As requested by the Lha, the evaluation of the Cultural Exchange Program will take an improvements-oriented approach, with a focus on gathering and analyzing qualitative information to inform an ongoing cycle of program reflection and innovation. The objectives of the evaluation are to: 1. assess the quantitative and qualitative achievements of the program against the goal and outcomes; 2. identify program strengths, challenges and lessons learned; 3. assess the effectiveness of the programs provided by Lha; 4. explore the concepts of partnerships between Lha and visiting institutions involved in the program; 5. provide realistic recommendations for further ongoing implementation of the program. It is envisaged that the evaluation will be a learning process and another step towards strengthening the capacity of Lha in implementation and management of its program. The process will be kept as flexible and open as possible so that agreed suggested changes can be incorporated into the process as it unfolds. Principles Guiding the Evaluation Process The evaluation process will be based on an approach that: · Genuinely involves the participation of all stakeholders · Builds capacity – learning by doing · Promotes a team approach · Provides feedback to all those involved in the process who have contributed information · Is ethical · Is efficient · Respects the views of all contributors Methodology The methodology will be kept as simple as possible, while still aiming to ensure a thoroughness that will ensure findings and recommendations that can be utilised by Lha. The steps involved are: 1. DOCUMENT REVIEW Existing program documents will be reviewed, such as: - End of trip student evaluation forms [to be collated & analysed]; - Previous program reports; - Lha Annual Reports; - Documents and articles from Connect magazine; - Documents and/or emails from sending institutions that express their objectives for involvement; The document review will also include online research related to other cultural exchange programs, including evaluation findings and implementation processes. ↓ 2. CONSULTATION The evaluators will meet with the relevant Lha team aim to: - confirm the program logic; - gather further information about the program from the perspective of the Lha team, especially in relation to management and facilitation of the exchange programs; and - gather suggestions and/or recommendations for changes needed & priorities for the ongoing program. ↓ 3. RAPID OUTCOME ASSESSMENT SURVEY OF PREVIOUS INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPANTS A succinct e-survey will be developed and emailed to international partners and previous participants, with a time frame of 2 weeks given for responses. The email list will be generated from Lha records. There will be a separate survey for student participants and teachers/leaders/organisers of the cultural exchange visits. ↓ 27 | P a g e


4. KEY INFORMANT INTERVIEWS AND FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSIONS WITH TIBETAN STUDENTS If possible focus group discussions will be conducted with Tibetan students who have participated in previous cultural exchange programs. These focus group discussions will be complemented by key informant interviews with prior participants who are not able to attend the focus groups. Question guides will be prepared for both the focus group discussions and the key informant interviews. As many students as possible will be interviewed, using purposive and snowball sampling methods. ↓ 5. KEY INFORMANT INTERVIEWS WITH OR SURVEY RESPONSES FROM OTHERS INVOLVED IN THE PROGRAM Others who have been involved in the program will either be interviewed, using prepared question guides, or be invited to respond to prepared survey questions. Depending on availability, informants might include: those who have presented cultural, social, political and educational sessions to exchange students; representatives from social services programs who have been involved with the students; and any volunteer teachers who have been involved and are able to be contacted. ↓ 6. COLLATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA Information will be collated into findings (expected and unexpected) for each of the three objectives of the program and recommendations for the future of the program. ↓ 7. FEEDACK TO STAKEHOLDERS Feedback about the findings and recommendations emerging from the evaluation will be presented to the Lha. This session will provide an opportunity for a “reality check” as to whether the findings and recommendations align with the LHA team’s own perceptions about the program. This session may also alert the evaluators to the need to collect further information. ↓ 8. REPORT WRITING A draft evaluation report will be prepared by the external consultant and forwarded to Lha so that it can be circulated to key stakeholders for review and feedback. Following this process the report will be finalised. Ethical considerations The involvement of Lha staff, partners and other external stakeholder representatives in the evaluation will be voluntary. Prior to interviews/workshops, participants will be assured that they can withdraw from the meeting/workshop at any stage if they wish and that they do not have to answer any particular questions if they did not want to. As far as possible, the anonymity of respondents will be respected. No names will be attributed to any quote used in the report; however, the organisation of those quoted may be included. Resources The evaluation will be undertaken by two external evaluators from Australia, Ms Marion Brown and Mr Michael Crooke, in collaboration with the Lha Director. Interviews will be conducted either by a small team trained by the evaluators or by the evaluators with interpreters assigned by the LHA. Arrangements for meetings with key informants will be organised by the Lha or by the evaluators, with a letter of introduction from the Lha. Relevant program documents will be provided by the Lha Director.

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ANNEX 2 LIST OF INFORMANTS

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Lha Cultural Exchange Program Evaluation: List of Informants

Type of Informant Group Mutual Learning Partners

Male 8

Female 5

Total 13

Guest Presenters

2

2

4

Local placement organisations

0

0

Could not be organised

Faculty staff (email survey)

4

Past international exchange students (email survey) Lha staff

2

4 9

9

2

4

Survey questionnaire -

74 TOTAL

108

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ANNEX 3 COLLATED RESULTS FROM STUDENT SATISFACTION SURVEYS

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Annex 3: Collated results from Student Satisfaction Surveys [78 students from four educational institutions] The responses below have been colour-coded in the following way:  Comments more relevant to LHA are in Red  Comments more relevant to Education Sending Institutions are in Blue  Comments that require no further consideration are in Black 1. Do you have any suggestions on how you could have been better prepared for you time in India? · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Pre-course/handbook/movies on Tibetan & Indian culture & situation [22] 28.21% More information about the structure of trip & our volunteering roles [16] 20.51% Preparation was appropriate, I was well prepared [18] 23.08% Better suggestions on clothing to bring & weather [9] 11.54% I don't think it is possible to fully prepare for such an experience [7] 8.97% More of an intro to Tibetan and Hindi language [5] 6.41% More information about the LHA [3] Accompanying Teachers/Guides were not well prepared [2] More time together as a group before coming to India [2] More accurate information on drawing cash @ ATMs i.e. debit cards [2] Better information about the diet, hygiene situations etc [1] Wish I'd known more about Buddhism before going [1] More detailed information on local businesses restaurants etc [1] Bring toilet paper [1]

2. Give any feedback on accommodation during the trip · · · · · ·

Accommodation was good/okay Accommodation other than LHA was not good [specifically mentioned: Bir; Tso Pema, Lotus House] Linen, towels, blankets and pillow need to be cleaner & changed More heaters to be provided [all from Mexico group] Brighter lights in rooms Rooms need electric sockets that work

[58] 74.36% [9] 11.64% [7]

8.97% [6] 7.69% [1]

[1]

3. Please give any feedback about meals provided during the trip · · · · · · ·

The food was good/great Breakfast was a bit too repetitive Would have liked a non-veg option occasionally Food in places other than Mcleodganj was not that good More option for drinks with the food A little bland & repetitive, would have preferred more spices Orange juice and more fruits

[6] [3]

[72] 92.31% [9] 11.54% 7.69% [3] [3]

[2] 32 | P a g e


· I thought all meals were included in the trip, but they weren't · I enjoyed the cooking classes [1] · Weekend breakfasts were too early · Food was often too salty · More fruit with less with curd for breakfast · 4. Please give any feedback about the volunteering and mutual learning programs · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

[2] [1] [1] [1]

It was a great experience, I enjoyed it very much [46] 58.97% Greater need for preparation through identifying role before departing [15] 19.23% There was a lack of structure/guidance to the mutual learning program [11] 14.10% Would have enjoyed to be more involved - not sure how [5] Volunteer programs lack consistency and commitment from volunteers [4] Need for greater hygiene at the BCC [3] In the soup kitchen we could have done more than just menial tasks [3] The one-to-one program was patchy in terms of local attendance [3] Work at the TCV was not very fulfilling [1] There is not enough opportunities for conversational learning [1] There are too many volunteers to organise properly [1] Would like to opportunity for more classes - yoga, meditation etc [1] Mix volunteers from different countries to increase socialisation [1] There needs to be a much more reliable way to contact partners [1] Mutual Learning program went on too long [1] Mutual learning would be enhanced by having contact prior to arrival [1] Mutual Learning program was too short [1] I wasted this opportunity by not getting to know my partner better [1] They should be told not to cook for us as it makes us sick [???] [1] The person I had been emailing was not the same as I ended up with [1]

5. Please give any feedback about places visited throughout the trip or sightseeing · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

They were good My favourite was the hiking The trip to Tsopema was very long to visit just place did not enjoy A little more information on places before visiting would be good The taxi drivers are really bad and put us in danger Tso Pema was a highlight Less time in Delhi please Preferred the meditation and other group activities It would be good to visit other sites in region besides Buddhist ones More of a social/cultural justice approach would be good Too many Monasteries in a short period of time - repetitive Trip to the Library was boring as I couldn't understand the Director Would like to undertake some service/volunteering at places visited The TCV and the Tibetan Medicine College were favourites Accommodation in Bir and Tsopema was not good Bir was a highlight

[49] 62.82% [18] 23.08% [10] 12.82% [4] [2] [2] [2] [1] [1] [1] [1] [1] [1] [1] [1] [1] 33 | P a g e


· Perhaps there should be a part of the trip in Southern India [1] · 6. Please give any feedback about the lectures and informal exchange talks with local leaders · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

They were good/interesting/enjoyable etc [54] 69.23% Ama Adhe was a favourite speaker [10] 12.82% Hard to stay comfortable due to overcrowding or talks too long [3] Would have liked more time with these important leaders [2] I wish there had been more, there weren't many [2] The conversation was a bit forced, may be a better way to share [1] It would be good to get more advance notice of these lectures [1] A lot of the speeches were repetitive, covering the things [1] Sometimes there was just a bit too much emphasis on Buddhism [1] Would have been good to hear from younger Tibetans as well [1] Didn't enjoy the Tibetan Cultural Group as much as others [1] Would liked to have heard from more Indians, e.g. relationships between Tibetans and Indians [1] Good that there were some Indian speakers [1] Did not enjoy Ani Tenzin's lecture [1]

7. Please rate your overall experience on a scale of 1 to 10 Mexican Group Average = 9.81 Tulane Group Average = 8.87 Centenary Group Average = 9.33 Loyola Group Average = 9.27 Overall Average Score = 9.32

8. Any other comments or suggestions? · · · · · · · ·

I would have preferred to be better prepared for the one-on-one [2] Have volunteers program more organised so that we have something to do all day [2] Make the evaluation form back-to-back to save paper [1] Bring groups from two different countries at once so they can be mixed together [1] Employ a professional tourist guide for some activities [1] Despite having the greatest respect for Buddhism, I felt that the practices were sometimes forced onto me [1] I would be good to have more gender balance in the group [1 male] [1] Have one night as a movie night with the volunteers & their Tibetan partners together [1]

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Lha cultural exchange program evaluation report 2014  
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