JULAY lovely people!
It's now exactly two years since we successfully concluded our fundraising endeavour to help the children of Lingshed. The idea was to publish a photography book about their life in one of the most isolated settlements in the world, and let the images do the work. This we did, and if you supported our project you should have received the copy of your book already.
Meanwhile, we managed to return to their valley twice since the project was launched, and now it's time to present you with a concise summary of everything we have achieved with your support.
WHAT WE PLEDGED
We will split this update into two parts, focusing today on the year 2015. What did we plan to deliver after successful funding? Let's recap. The final sum which we received from Kickstarter, after all the fees were deducted (5% for Kickstarter and 3-5% transaction fee), was around £7,200. We promised to spend one third of that on the book (£2,400), based on our plan at the time to print 1000 copies at 50 pages only. The remaining proceeds from Kickstarter (£4,800) were to be spent on:
We pledged to fly to Leh at our own cost, to do all the shopping and organise the transport of goods to Linghsed, which lays roughly 2 days trek from the nearest traversable road. This we accomplished, and you can refer to our previous updates for details, but let's sum it all up now point by point.
1. WINTER JACKETS AND SHOES
We needed to purchase 120 pairs of warm winter shoes, thick socks and thermally insulated winter jackets to equip all the school children in Lingshed plus a few little ones who would be attending school in the next year or so. Kristina Nadler and Tundup Tsewang were in charge of shopping and logistics, and they did a splendid job. We had to hire a pick up truck to transport our load as far as it was possible – you may remember that due to bad weather that year, much of the road was damaged. For the rest of the way we had to rely on a small but sturdy caravan of donkeys and ponies.
You may also recall that, having fitted over 100 children with new jackets, shoes and socks, we realised that six of the oldest kids were too large for their new clothes. We made a promise that after we leave, Tundup would take them back to Leh as soon as possible and furnish them with brand new sets of jackets and shoes, fitted to their size.
Tundup kept his word and few weeks after our return to London, he sent us some pictures from the shopping expedition to Leh:
The overall cost of purchasing jackets, shoes and socks, and transporting them to Lingshed (incl. hiring a 4x4 pick up track, donkeys and ponies, paying the handlers and Tundup who was our logistics expert and guide) was around £2,400. This part of our mission was completed with 100% success. On to the greenhouse!
2. THE GREENHOUSE PROJECT
Not many things grow in Lingshed, and what is particularly scarce are vegetables, which form an essential part of a healthy diet. Going to Lingshed, we imagined we would have to build a greenhouse from scratch, and our volunteer, Marcin Kreciglowa, worked out how to accomplish this using materials available in the valley. As it turned out however, there was an old greenhouse already at the site – except that it was turned into an open air clothes dryer, which is probably why we didn't notice it the previous year! All it took was for Marcin and Simon to organise a team of volunteers, dig up and clear the soil, strike a deal with a local villager who supplied a few wooden poles, cover the structure with a protective sheet and finally – plant the veggies!
Mission greenhouse: accomplished. The two students and two teachers pictured above volunteered to take over the duties and look after the greenhouse for the rest of the season. In Part 2 of our update we will tell you what happened to the veggies we planted when we came back next year!
3. NEW FLOOR FOR THE SCHOOL HALL
As we reported in our previous update from 2015, it was impossible to transport wood and concrete to Lingshed due to bad weather and damage to the road leading through Photoksar. No heavy vehicles could pass through swollen glacier streams, and recent mud slides blocked the passage as far as Singe La pass, some 5 km above sea and three days trek from the village. As a result, we had to delay our effort – and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise... More about this anon. Realising that bringing any heavy materials, including those needed for the shade canopy, would not be possible whilst we were in Lingshed, we organised a council meeting with the village head, his assistant, school headmaster, Tundup and our little team, to decide what to do next.
We were adamant that the floor should be completed before the end of the Summer. Tundup was nominated to supervise the purchase of materials and organise transportation and labour after we return to London. Soon however the weather threw a spanner in our plans: only a month after we left the village, Lingshed was struck with torrential rains which lasted for weeks.
On the 28th of August we received an e-mail from Mr Sonam Dorje, the elected Councillor of Lingshed, in which he informed us that the entire school hall was flooded. He attached the following pictures:
Furthermore, the roof was at a danger of collapsing due to heavy rainfall and required immediate repair. Mr Dorje's proposal was to provide carpeting and thermoplastic insulation instead of a wood and concrete floor; these could be folded and stowed away during holidays, or in case of heavy rain. Otherwise the costly wooden floor would be at risk of being damaged by water. The money we would save on materials and labour could be invested into repair of the deformed and leaky roof.
We made a joint decision to follow Mr Dorje's proposal, scratch the wooden floor and shade canopy, and make sure that children have a soft new floor with thermal insulation and a new, safe roof, which will protect them from rain and withstand the weight of snow in the winter. This became our main task for 2016.
4. HELPING TASHI TUNDUP AND ANGMO
But that's not all. Whilst we were in Lingshed, Kristina learned that Tashi Tundup and Angmo, our good friends and hosts, had trouble with the roof at their own house. It was collapsing after last winter and they were worried that in case of rain, their house will get flooded. Tashi Tundup and Angmo have three children, two of which now attend the school, including Lektup and Tsultim whom you have seen on more than one photograph in the book. Little Palzis was only 1-year old at the time.
We realised that the family's situation was precarious and decided to take action, offering to cover the costs of reparation to make sure that the old family house stays dry and cosy and survives another winter. Neither Tashi Tundup nor Angmo, who live from subsistence farming and make hardly any money at all, would be able to finance it themselves. The workers started later that summer and the overall cost was around £500 (including materials, transportation and labour), which we deducted from our Lingshed fund. Needless to say, a little gesture like this goes a long way for a young family in Lingshed – credits to or thoughtful friend and collaborator, Kristina!
Our first return to the valley was a success, even though we only managed to fulfil two of our initial four goals. Not being able to repair the floor on time saved our effort and resources from the damage heavy rainfall wrought in Lingshed just a month after our departure. Meanwhile, the children were equipped for the long winter with shoes, socks and thick winter jackets, the greenhouse was re-built and planted with veggies, and we focused on returning the next year to bring carpets, thermal insulation and make plans for a new roof for the school hall.
Overall, we spent around £2,900 in 2015, and set aside the remaining £1,900 from our budget for the floor and the roof to be completed next year. Meanwhile, the book was expanding with all the images we brought from our second encounter with the children of Lingshed, and soon it became quite clear that mere 50 pages simply would not do – the book would have to be at least 100-pages long!...
But more about this in Part 2 of our final Kickstarter update.
Until then, JULAY!
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