WHY PAY THEIR BUS FARE?
Bus Fare was founded in February 2011 by comic strip artist, David Pugh in response to the cancellation of the Scorer football strip, which had appeared in the Daily Mirror for twenty-two years. David has been doing some hard travelling for many years and has been helping out the good friends he’s met in India, Africa & Nepal. The time had come for him to turn his little philanthropic gestures into something more dynamic.
Having spent several months doing volunteer computer graphics teaching at Lha Charitable Trust for Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, he got to see how the charity worked first hand. David learned so much about the struggles of the Tibetan Diaspora, despite being a supporter of Free Tibet movement for many years. He was much affected by a newsreel he saw on his grandmother’s television in 1959. The news item featured footage of his young holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, arriving in India after being forced to leave his mysterious mountain country. Working with his Tibetan friends brought the fantasy of a magical mountain kingdom into very personall and bitter stories of individual struggle. His friend, Lobsang Rabsel told him of his three week long winter walk across the Himalayas, a small group of desperate refugees, not all of whom would survive the journey. He told him of the snow blindness, following the loss of his dark glasses and the fact that he had brought a spare of shoes to sleep in, which saved him from the severe frostbite and amputation of toes, that two of his colleagues suffered. Almost every Tibetan in Dharamsala could tell a similar story and all can tell a story of separation from loved ones. Over 250,000 Tibetans have left their homeland to eke out a living in the many colonies dispersed all over India. Families get separated by bureaucracy and rarely getting the chance to see their loved ones. The family is important as so many like Rabsel haven’t seen their parents, still in Tibet, for over twenty years. His wife, Pema has to travel 2,400 kilometres to visit her mother on the opposite end of India. As wages are so low travel becomes an almost impossible expense, this is where Bus Fare can help, by at the very least buying them a return ticket.
For now the charity has to limit its activities to Nepal and West Africa. There are so many unsuccessful asylum applicants, wandering the streets of Europe just looking for the fare to return home discretely. At this stage it is too much to consider taking on such a huge challenge as that. We need to grow the fund, so for the moment we are still at the little acorn stage and ask for your help to become an oak.
Lucas Jatta left Guinea Bissau when he was eleven years old with his father to earn money as a palm tapper in the Gambia. Palm tapping is a tradition in Cassalol, Lucas’s home but not a means of making money. Lucas and his father hoped they could sell palm wine to tourists and local Gambian businessmen. Lucas lost his father before he was out of his teens and continued to climb the trees on his own, he’s lucky to make £2 a day, he’s now a forty-seven year old widower, with two sons to look after. Every year he tries to return to Guinea Bissau to help his two very poor brothers and their extended families. David has helped him return on two occasions and through travelling with Lucas and staying with his family, gave them the money that would have normally gone to a hotel.
Sarjo’s dream has come true, he’s left the Gambia and now he’s living in the UK, the “Promised Land”. However, he’d didn’t know about low wages and high rents. He saves the little he earns to send home every month. He could earn a lot more, he was offered work by a drug dealer but he’s a good man and said, “No” to easy money. Instead he takes any honest work he can find, labouring or teaching African drums. There’s no money to visit his little daughter back home in Brikama, who knows if he can ever afford to go home. He misses the African sun, his family and friends, one day Bus Fare hopes we can grow big enough to pay for his return flight but that’s a long way away. So many young Gambian men leave their country villages, to look for work on the Smiling Coast. Most are offered unpaid jobs in hotels, in exchange for food and shelter. They rely on tips from tourists, which they save and send home but there is no money for the bus fare home. A few are lucky enough to persuade a tourist to travel with them and experience village life.
Bhumo Tsering is a young Tibetan woman, born in Mysore, India in the Tibetan colony there. She was married to a much older Tibetan man, living in the very small Tibetan colony of Tashiling, Pokhara, Nepal. Tsering finds it very hard to save any money to visit her mother in Mysore and look after her small children. She is twenty-four now and hopes to have enough money to visit her family when she is thirty. Tsering is totally dependent on her mother-in-law for pocket money, anything she might earn working in Tibetan restaurants goes to the mother-in-law. Bus Fare hopes to make Tsering a little more independent, giving her more self respect.
Bandari has been working in the Gem bar in Delhi’s Paharganj since he was nineteen; he’s now twenty-nine. He left Nepal to earn enough money to support his family in a remote and isolated rural area. He works seven days a week in the bar, which is open 11am until 1am and is dependent on getting tips in this twilight zone. Two weeks a year he gets unpaid leave and returns to Nepal to carry on “normal” life. During these short visits he has been married and now has a child, it’s no way for a young man to live life. The least Bus Fare can do is find the fare for the return trip from Delhi and perhaps find him a little in pocket money, so he doesn't have to spend too much of his hard earned savings
For now the charity will limit its activities to India, Nepal and West Africa. There are so many unsuccessful asylum applicants, wandering the streets of Europe just looking for the fare to return home discretely. At this stage it is too much to consider taking on such a huge challenge as that.
We hope that you can help with Bus Fare’s endeavours, either by donation or buying a piece of artwork from us. Alternatively, for the more adventurous, we could arrange for you to meet with Rabsel, Tsering and her cousin Phurpur or Lucas and experience travelling with them yourself.
Volunteers are always needed at the Lha Charitable Trust and can be contacted through their website.