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weekly report 020713 1

Adventure Playground 'Roundhouse' going up

We built the frame of the timber roundhouse in the adventure playground, which is looking beautiful.
After asking for the housemothers assistance this week they came to help us begin planting flower seedlings on the spine.

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Planting on the residential spine

His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa was invited by His Eminence Thuksey Rinpoche, Chairperson of the Druk White Lotus School, to inaugurate the "Dragon Garden", and to watch a series of performances by the school children and a presentation by the landscape architects from UK.

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Three years ago this month, a big mudslide hit our school in the night and did a huge amount of damage. Nobody was killed on the campus, but more than 200 people lost their lives nearby in the Indus Valley. School staff saved our residential students and led them to safety on adjacent high ground. Villagers' fields were left covered in mud, boulders and debris, dramatically affecting their livelihoods.

The school buildings took a direct hit, but top-class design and good construction enabled them to withstand the large forces. The mud made a terrible mess inside buildings, and carried away books, furniture and equipment.

A huge collective effort by staff, neighbours, the army, public authorities, NGOs and volunteers enabled classes to get up and running again, with some held in tents while classrooms were cleared and cleaned. We took in some students who had lost parents or their homes.

Out of disaster came great good: Aamir Khan returned with His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa to 'Rancho's School' to offer encouragement and help get the school back on its feet; a large team of men and equipment from Hindustan Construction Company appeared and spent two weeks clearing mud out of classrooms; and the JCB company kindly donated a digger to enable and speed recovery.

Supporters rallied round to help replace computers and other school equipment, and responded to a call to fund defences against any future mudslide. With their financial support, we have almost completed a defence wall 1km long, averaging 3m high. Because we had to divert resources to the clean-up and to building defences, the school's building programme had to be pushed back by about two years.

Memories of the night of 5th/6th August 2010 are etched in our minds. Nobody knows whether the cloudbursts and resulting mudslides were due to climate change, collective karma, or fate. We remember and honour those who lost their lives, their homes or their livelihoods. We give thanks for the kindness of the hundreds of people who dug away mud or assisted from a distance by donating towards replacing school resources or creating our mudslide defences.

Even today, three years after that traumatic night, the open spaces on about half the campus are still scarred by mud and boulders.

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We are setting about transforming this mudslide devastation into a lush, 'green' learning environment that we are calling a 'Dragon Garden'. This is an artist's impression of a 'mandala' vegetable garden. It will probably take a further five years to overcome the physical effects of the mudslide on the campus. If you would like to participate or help in some way, do please get in contact.

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This year has seen the South block of Residence 4 constructed, from the foundations being dug through to completion, accommodating 44 students and including a latrine block.

The two-IT suites pictured below have also been completed, and facilities for the School Managing Committee are being built on site too.

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In order to landscape the school campus and create gardens, the site needs irrigating. A drip irrigation system is being installed that requires digging trenches throughout the site for the main water pipes. The JCB has been invaluable for this work.

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The final components of the 1km long defence wall are finished, this has been a huge undertaking and taken two years to complete. The wall averages 3m high.

 

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The JCB digging foundations at the beginning of the construction season in April.

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On Independence Day, 15th August 2013, Sumita Sinha, Executive Director of Charushila led a workshop at the school with the residential students.
Charushila is a small charity focusing on the empowerment of the individual and the community through participation and engagement.
Charushila engages in projects, research and events connected with the creation of public spaces using sustainable and local resources, knowledge transfer and community engagement. Charushila believes that in particular, engaging with children and youth encourages their potential and creativity through positive interaction with the built and natural environments. The Sanskrit word 'Charushila' is made from Charu meaning 'Beautiful' and Shila meaning 'foundations'.
The children were asked to draw their vision of Ladakh's future or their environment (school/home) on long sheets which became 'horizontal tangkas'.  Each group collaborated, debated, negotiated and finally drew their ideas on paper.

It was a fascinating process and the drawings themselves provided very revealing insights into what attracts, focuses and engages children into the built and natural environments. In particular, children were very close to the spiritual environment which is very dominant in the landscape and culture of Ladakh. Some significant themes emerged and could indicate further how children can become active citizens and responsible for future of Ladakhi society.