It's about time to conclude our series of updates with the promised summary of our 2016 return to Lingshed. So, without further ado, here's the rundown!
In our previous update (Part 1) we informed you about the progress of our mission back in 2015. Whilst we managed to succesfully deliver winter jackets and shoes, the issue of the school floor remained unsolved. Moreover, a flooding which occurred shortly after our departure significantly slowed down any potential progress and brought to our attention the danger of the roof caving in under the weight of rain and snow. We also left our friends in Lingshed with a freshly seeded greenhouse, curious to see what we would find upon our return. With the spending of £2,900 in 2015, we had around £1,900 remaining for further help, with additional £2,400 set aside for the production and printing of our photography book — which, meanwhile, kept swelling in size! Now let's begin with our top priority.
1. NEW FLOOR
After the previous year's discussions and subsequent flooding, we were advised by Lingshed Councillor Mr Sonam Dorje to bring carpets and thermal insulation for the floor in the main school hall, instead of costly wood which could get damaged in case of another flooding. With Tundup's help we found a shop in Leh, ran by a Kashmiri carpet trader, which had just the right type of carpet for our needs – and for our budget.
The carpet was then cut to size into six parts to make the transportation to Lingshed on ponies and donkeys possible. Still, it would be a bit of a challenge due to sheer weight, but nothing that a small team of ponies and donkeys can't handle. Apart from the carpet, we also purchased a sheet of thermal-insulation foam to spread underneath it; this was cut into 10 strips and neatly rolled for transportation.
Overall cost: 50,445 Rupees, which is roughly £600. Not bad for a floor of this size. Now to Lingshed!
Laying down the layers of thermacol and carpet didn't take much time — with a motivated team of school boys led by Tundup and their headmistress Tashi Lamo, within two hours the entire hall transformed before our eyes. The excitement was contagious!
The floor was something of a revelation to the children. Instead of the cold, dusty and dirty surface, now the school hall enjoys a warm and cosy carpet with a layer of thermal insulation, on which our little friends can sit, play, do their homewark and doze off to their hearts' content. Job done — now to the next task!
2. THE ROOF
The flooding in 2015 and subsequent winter with heavy snowfall demonstrated the vulnerability of the roof in the main school hall. The old wooden planks which held it together started caving in under pressure and there was a serious risk that the roof could collapse; at the very least, it would be impossible to prevent another flooding which could destroy the new floor. We were advised by Mr Sonam Dorje that a cost of a new roof would be around 246,000 Rupees – circa £3,000. Since the Indian government was unlikely to fund it anytime soon, we agreed to cover half of the cost, the other half supplied by the Councillor himself.
The repair work began shortly after our departure in September '16. Nepali labourers were hired to undertake the construction of new roof, which would consist of sheets of tin supported at a slight angle on wooden beams, preventing rain and snow from building up on the surface.
By the end of September, Mr Dorje informed us that the roof was completed and sent a few pictures as a final proof. Credits to him for not wasting any time! Now that the roof was secured, we could breath a sigh of relief: the school hall was safe for the winter and there was no more danger of another flooding or collapse under the weight of snow.
The cost of the new roof (£1,500 for our party), combined with the carpet (£600), meant that we exceeded our remaining budget by £200 – but it also meant that we exceeded the expectations of our little friends in Lingshed, which gave us much pleasure! Now they have a new floor AND a new roof, which will go a long way in this environment. The additional cost was relatively small and we happily covered it from our private resources.
3. THE GREENHOUSE
We're not going to lie — we weren't sure at all if the greenhouse which was restored and seeded by our team in the previous year, would have proved to be of use for the school children a year hence. You can imagine our curiosity when we arrived in Lingshed in 2016! We immediately asked the teachers if they have been growing any veggies, and the answer was a resounding YES – the kitchen chef in charge of preparing school meals has been growing leafy veggies for the better part of Spring and Summer, and including them in children's meals. When he showed us inside, we gasped with amazement!
It's by no means easy to grow edible vegetables in the harsh desert climate of Ladakh, and we were heartily impressed by the efforts of the cook who took charge of the operation. Moreover, we had a chance to share one or two of the children's meals, complete with green veggies from the greenhouse, and we were satisfied to conclude that whether steamed, boiled or simmered, they tasted just as good as they looked!
4. LITTLE EXTRAS
Aside from making good on our promises from the previous year, we decided to bring some special gifts for our little friends in Lingshed, and for Angmo, whom we helped the previous year with the reparation of the roof in her family house. We decided to purchase some extras at our own cost, thinking mainly about the outdoor activities in Lingshed and the children's inexhaustible supply of energy. Here's a little selection we had put together before our departure:
Frisbees, skipping ropes and badminton. Guess what: no one has ever seen those in Lingshed! It caught like wildfire:
For Angmo, we opted for a simple but efficient solar light, to illuminate the main hall of her house which is windowless, and where her children spend a lot of their time.
And here's the result:
But that's not all – the best is still to come...
5. LINGSHED CINEMA
That's right, you read it correctly: cinema! The children in Lingshed have never seen a Disney animation, or a nature documentary, or any other sort of film – let alone projected onto the wall of their school, cinema-style. We decided to delight them and bring them something they would never forget: a portable projector packed with classic Disney animations, David Attenborough's nature documentaries, and more. Just imagine their faces when they saw Blue Planet for the first time – and remember: there's no fish in Lingshed, not even one fin, let alone a whale!
Apart from the projector, we purchased a single Amazon Fire tablet and filled it with even more hours of stunning nature documentaries by David Attenborough, as well as a number of educational apps. The tablet can be used in classes for teaching and educational games; it can also be used by the teachers after hours to make the long nights a little more entertaining.
Meanwhile, for our movie premiere in Lingshed we chose Disney's original Jungle Book from 1967 – a timeless classic which never fails to delight and entertain. It was a huge success! Our audience sat spellbound, laughing and cheering as Mowgli, Baloo an Bagheera went about their unforgettable adventures in the jungle... seen in this side of the Himalayas for the very first time in history.
The projector was a gift to the school, but upon visiting Lingshed monastery one morning we decided to ask the head lama if he would allow us to organise a movie night for the monks. We had the perfect film: Ron Fricke's stunning "Samsara", a meditative documentary with beautiful imagery and music, which includes scenes from the nearby Thikse Monastery in Ladakh as well as some of the most breathtaking locations around the world.
The head lama gave us his consent, and we quickly set up our makeshift cinema in one of the assembly halls inside the monastery. Soon we were joined by as many as twenty monks, some well in their 70s, and some still in their teens – all deeply absorbed in the film which took them around the world, and beyond, in less than 90 minutes...
After the screening, we returned the projector to the school, but not before some of the monks requested that we come back next year and show them another film... Well, why not? Everybody loves a bit of cinema!
6. THE BOOK
Last but not least – our photobook, which made all of the above (and more!) possible. When we had originally planned the campaign, we thought that we would print 1000 copies of a 50-page, thin but well-designed and printed album. Since then, we had returned to the valley in 2015 and took an awful lot of photos, and since that time we had been hard at work crafting the book and editing the images.
In the end, "Children of Zanskar" swelled in size to well over 100-pages. We felt that we owed it to our supporters to make the book into something more than a thin album of photos. After all, it had been a long wait, and we wanted to be sure that it would have paid off for everyone involved. However, once the pagination and the book design were finished, we soon found out that even though we chose to print in Poland to reduce the costs, and limited the number of copies to 500 (a minimum run for offset printing), the new quote we received from Chromparess was twice the amount we had originally set apart for the purpose (£2,400).
In short, the price was 24,470 PLN, which equals circa £5,000. We were faced with a simple choice: either we reduce the book to half its size, or we have to pay the difference (£2,600) from our private resources and print the book exactly how we want it.
We chose to do the latter, as the thought of yet another compromise (and there had been many!) after all the time and hard work that went into the book, was hard to accept.
Judging from the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received from our Kickstarter supporters since the book was shipped, we hope that you all agree we made the right decision.
To sum up: the final cost of the project, including the book, came up to £10,000, which is £2,800 above our original budget (£7,200). We have covered the difference from our own pockets and never looked back – it was well worth the effort and the resources put into it, and we hope that the "Children of Zanskar" book and this small series of updates will testify to this. The little extras like sports equipment, projector, tablet and solar lights were funded privately by the members of our team. And if you have ever wondered what it feels like to watch The Sleeping Beauty or Planet Earth in a tiny village high up in the Himalayas, you need only visit Lingshed one day and experience Lingshed Cinema for yourself!
That's about all folks. It's been an amazing adventure and a privilege to embark on this project with your generous support. We have managed to clothe over 100 children in a remote Himalayan valley in winter shoes and jackets, lay down a new cosy floor in their main school hall and build a new roof to protect it from the elements; we have re-built their greenhouse and helped them plant some greens which have gone to enrich their meagre diets; in the end, we even made a photo book out of it! All this was possible with the help of your donations, for which we will always remain grateful – as will our friends beyond the mountains. Making a small difference to a small community somewhere at the other end of the world STILL translates into a world of difference to those on the receiving end... Especially if you're stuck in a valley surrounded by huge mountains and covered in snow for six months in a year. Every little helps.
This concludes our main series of updates, but the adventure continues. Until next time!
JULAY dear Friends!
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