Himalaya Cafe saved by community support

Recently, the owner of the Himalaya Cafe has needed to raise money to buy the property in order to keep the business going because the landlord had been wanting to sell it.

Speaking to The Student, shop owner Reka Gawa explained:

“So the landlord decided that he wanted to sell this place. He told me a few weeks ago and because I have been here for the last 14 years, he gave me the first option to buy it.”

Fortunately, that money has been raised thanks to the generosity of people on GoFundMe and the support of the Dalai Lama.

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When asked about ways people can continue to support the Cafe, Gawa said:

“I think you guys can come and hang out here, and make good use of the Himalaya. We have spaces here for students to study. There’s a meditation room downstairs. If you are interested in meditation, you can come and meditate.

“Lots of people use the space for free. If you need a space, lots of students live in the flat. They don’t have [enough] space, so they can always come and study here.”

Gawa then recounted how The Himalaya came to be and added:

“I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama around 20 years ago here in Edinburgh. So he told me I needed to do something to promote our own culture. I’m from Tibet and he’s also from Tibet. And we have a big history with China. They have taken over our country and so his advice always to the young generation, Tibetan generation, is to promote your own culture.

“More and more youngsters are moving out of wherever they are and living in the West.  He doesn’t want us to be too westernized.  He wants us to still carry on who we are and promote our own culture.”

But the Himalaya Cafe is not just an ordinary cafe, as Gawa told The Student:

“Himalaya is much more than a cafe. We do lots of things here. We help people who are in need, for example homeless people. They are always looking for food. We do the suspended meal where my customer would come here, eat meals, and pay for the homeless person. If there is anybody wanting to have some spare food, it has already been paid by my customers. And even if it has not been paid, the homeless people always know that they can come here anytime and get their hot food.”

She then added:

“I train our young people to get work experience in the cafe because I feel here in the West, lots of youngsters here need lots of experience.

“I’ve gone through that myself. When I first moved to Edinburgh, I didn’t have any job for a while. I struggled a lot because I didn’t have any experience, it was difficult to find jobs, and so this is one thing I do here.”

Himalaya Cafe is a favorite spot for many students at the University of Edinburgh.

“Everyone is so welcoming. It feels like a little family,” said Aimee Logue, a second year student studying Social Anthropology.

Wesley Edmonds, a second year student studying Social Anthropology with Development, said:

“I’ve definitely met so many people just by chance, by fate that I’ve made relationships with. There’s a lady who holds food drives for people and I’ve helped her with that. There’s a lady who does reiki here which is like a very therapeutic, spiritual way of connecting. She has a way of making you feel so at home it doesn’t matter what’s happened to you that day. You feel so warm.”

Now the Himalaya Cafe can be enjoyed by all for many years to come. 

Image: Reka Gawa, owner of Himalaya Cafe. Taken by Chris Wright.