2001-2015 – Teaching to fish …

Because i’m a bit slow, it took me a few months to realise that Tibetans were perfectly capable of building their own websites. At that time few people had Internet, or access to books and teachers to learn Web. So my goal became the “teach someone to fish” thing. I tried as much as possible not to build a website for an organisation, but to get them to give me a staff person to teach. (My apologies to those victims who were assigned arbitrarily and really had no interest — i did try not to torture you too much!)

Another thing i saw early on, watching the multitude of volunteers aid organisations in mcleod ganj, was the pernicious quality of “helping”.

So with those concepts in mind:

  1. “I don’t do, i only teach!” was my boilerplate response to orgs and individuals asking me for Web help.
  2. I only do something when asked. I didn’t publicize in any way that i was teaching Web. I don’t volunteer web building or teaching services, and i don’t volunteer ideas or suggestions for websites or other tech needs. If initiative doesn’t come from the organisation or individual, then they won’t be able to use what i have to give — or don’t need it!

All this sounds so nice and idealistic, but in practice it’s a bit hard for me. I am by nature a coder, and a loner. I am told that i’m good at explaining things, especially in a one-on-one situation. I am good at sharing my knowledge with motivated people, but lack all the other social and organisational skills to run a class. I can “play teacher” in a classroom, but i’m not very good at it! Another difficulty is the deep cultural assumption that if you are a white Westerner, you are here to “help”, just to give. So working against that flow is difficult sometimes.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Aboriginal activists, via Lilla Watson

So that is what i tried to do.

This is always an individual initiative. I never charge — it is about service. I have never been part of any organisation, and most of my contact has been “on the ground” with tech workers and web developers, both as individuals and as workers for Tibetan exile organisations. I have always felt that i was most useful if i did my service this way, one-on-one. And that i give/teach only when asked, give only what is asked, and then get the hell out of the way. I have purposely kept low-profile in all my years here.

For these reasons, along with staff turnover at organisations and population turnover in the community, i am not much known among the big monkeys. And i like it like that 😀 .