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How a Tibetan-Indian cafe avoided closure in the pandemic

A Tibetan refugee from India, who runs a community cafe in Scotland, is inspired by the Buddhist principle of compassion 

The Himalaya Cafe in Edinburgh is known for it's Tibetian food and chai. (Photo: Abhishek Sanwa Limbu, Unsplash)

A community cafe founded by a Tibetan refugee from India and serving Tibetan and Indian food in Scotland has attracted thousands of pounds in public support to prevent it from closure. The Himalaya Cafe in Edinburgh, founded by Reka Gawa as a community centre based on Buddhist principles, was inspired by a meeting with the Dalai Lama 17 years ago.

Gawa, the daughter Tibetan refugees who grew up in Mussoorie, now has the chance to buy the rented space and recently launched an online Go Fund Me appeal for funds to make up for GBP 45,000 she is falling short of. “After 14 years my landlord has decided to move on and is selling the premises. I have a chance to buy the business, and continue supplying tasty Himalayan food, and, of course, the best chai in town,” says Gawa, who has already met over GBP 35,000 of the target.

“I only have a very short time before the property is put on the open market. I've managed to negotiate a good deal and have already raised most of the money – through a bank loan and personal savings, plus pledges and fundraising commitments from my amazing cafe supporters. Yet, there is still a shortfall of GBP 45,000,” she says.

Gawa, who met the Tibetan leader in 2004 during her work at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, says the cafe was born in 2007 out of his inspiring words about importance of keeping the ancient Tibetan culture alive.

She recalls: “I knew there was something special about this place. I knew it could be a warm and welcoming space, run on the Buddhist principle of compassion. After all, it was the words of His Holiness which inspired me to open a café in the first place.

“I offer training to volunteers in the running of a community business, there is a ‘Pay it Forward’ scheme, where my lovely, generous customers buy meals for homeless people. There is also a large room which I offer for free, to various groups, for meetings, meditation, yoga and therapies. We also hold cultural events.”

Gawa is hopeful of being able to meet her target to acquire the place and keep it running as a community resource in the Scottish capital city. 

Also read | How to make Tibetan thukpa

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