With support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and an enthusiastic local community, the threstened closure of the Tibetan-Indian Himalaya Café in Edinburgh was averted this week. Reka Gawa, owner of the café and a daughter of Tibetan refugees, launched a fundraiser to purchase the shop she has rented since 2007. Gawa ran the fundraiser throughout September and today announced that the effort has exceeded its target of £45,000 (US$61,623).
In a statement on GoFundMe, Gawa wrote: “So everyone . . . as you probably know by now, the cafe is safe. Although I knew it would work out, it is still a relief. The Himalaya is well-loved, and needs to continue—we all know that.” She continued: “So, it’s just the small matter of paying for the bank loan, which is why the campaign will continue as long as folks are able to support it.” (GoFundMe)
At the outset of the appeal, she made clear that the café had been and would always be, “run on the Buddhist principle of compassion. After all, it was the words of His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] which inspired me to open a café in the first place.” (GoFundMe)
Gawa grew up in Mussoorie, India, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, some 100 kilometers north of New Delhi. She later moved to Denmark and then Scotland, where she took a job at the Scottish Parliament.
“I served the Presiding Officer George Reid coffee every morning,” she told BBC Scotland, recounting her 2004 meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. “And one day he said did I know the Dalai Lama was coming later that day and would I like to meet him as he knew I was Tibetan.” (BBC News)
She met the Dalai Lama later that day, and he spoke to her of the importance of preserving her culture. It was from that interaction that, Gawa said, she was inspired to create the Himalaya Café.She set out in search of a location and found a shop for rent on the busy south side of Edinburgh.She began renting the location to create her café. Gawa noted that in addition to the café:
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. So . . . as well as a cafe, the Himalaya is a venue, a resource, a hub. But the most important thing is the people – we are a community. Surely that is true nourishment. (GoFundMe)
Recently, the property was listed for sale and Gawa was given first opportunity to purchase the site. She was able to secure a bank loan along with loans from family and friends, but she still needed additional funds to secure the property. That was when she decided to launch the online fundraiser, with a deadline of 1 December to reach the needed funding.
Sonam Steering Farsi, representative of the Dalai Lama in northern Europe, Baltic states and Poland, said the spiritual leader knew of the café and Rekha’s work to promote Tibetan culture. He observed: “I appreciate it very much that Reka has been promoting Tibetan culture in Scotland for many years and would like to see her café business uninterrupted, providing the taste of Tibetan food and tranquility to the Scots in Edinburgh.” (BBC News)
Dalai Lama backs bid to save Edinburgh café he inspired (BBC News)
Dalai Lama inspired Tibetan-Indian café in Scotland appeals for funds (Outlook India)
Dalai Lama backs fundraiser to save Edinburgh café (Independent)
Save our lovely Community Café (Go Fund Me)
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