Gail visited Ladakh for a week at the end of February 2012. She had a very difficult journey there, and a hectic stay, as you can see from her notes below.
Basically my days here were to see various families for schooling sponsorship – and there were many. The friend I stay with (Rinchen Dolkar) is now a social worker and works with all the councillors in Leh. So for this I now have some good contacts, which means that finding the families is easier, and it really is the most needy of families, because each village has a head and reports to the councillors in Leh.
We met with maybe ten families, a few from remote villages who came to me. One man from the nomadic area travelled by horseback to the nearest road then had a lift to Leh to meet us. It took him almost all day, and this was a good example of a worthy family. He is the Uncle of a little girl, Lamo, there is no father, just the mother and their life is very hard, because of the remote area, and having no jobs. Lamo will benefit from schooling and also hostel life, even though she will be away from her family, as she will learn social skills for life. For example her uncle brought her with just the clothes she was wearing, nothing else, so she will be clothed and clean once in school.
I met the Headmaster of the Nomadic School in Puga, Phunshok Angchuk, who showed me a different insight into the Nomadic lifestyle, which helped me understand the children from those areas.
The decision on worthiness of sponsorship was made easier by visiting the families in their homes. Most had just one room for sleeping, cooking, eating and also the play area for the children, but each household gave me a warm welcome, with Rinchen as my interpreter. I filmed each family, with their permission, and again it helps to show their way of life. I now know the relevant questions to ask, family history, owning of land, income if any, future plans for job, and then talk with the children if they are not too shy or too young.
I was able to see so much more this time, because of the trust from the people with me, and also because of contacts too. I have to say I was very touched by the families that I met, including the lady who was looking after two children alone as her husband had died from TB, she cried as it was only 18 months ago; the families who made a mammoth journey to meet with me.
I have details of 7 children to sponsor, three will be sponsored by individuals, and Himalayan Charity is taking on a further four. We have funds in place, and these will be backed up with further fund raising.
I have had to place the Nomadic girl immediately. With the help of the councillor’s letter she should be accepted into Druk Padma Karpo school as she cannot travel back to her remote village and back again and she is not in any school at the moment.
The others can be sorted for September. A couple will have to change schools because of the area and others are fine where they are, but parents cannot pay anymore as they have no job.
I also went to the Nunnery, where we are going to fund the employment of a teacher for a year. The existing teacher had returned to Himal Predesh as it was the school holiday; I left a message confirming that we will fund a teacher. It was good to see the young nuns again.
I also visited a sponsored family in Khaltse. I really like this family, they are so gentle. Ladol had started her new school in her village home and was very happy there. I asked her to write a letter to her sponsor but we realised she didn’t have the basics, like a pencil that wasn’t broken, a sharpener or a rubber, so I took her to the village shop and bought her some for school. The parents would never ask you for this.
The primary school in Huish Episcopi had organised a mufti day (thanks to headteacher Gill Islip) and the children had kindly donated £1 or pencils for the Nomadic Children. I took these over, together with clothing and other necessary items. They were to be handed over in the government office with the Executive councillor Gurmet Dorjay and the Principal Phunshok Angchuk. The local newspaper was present, and I was interviewed. Himalayan Children is now becoming well known in Leh.
I also visited the Principal of Lamdon School, Eshey Tondrup, we took tea and chatted and I gave him the letters for the children from their sponsors. It was not possible to see the children as school does not start until the beginning of March.
The aim of my visits is to keep meeting with various families and children and get to know even more about the life there and also the different villages, and through sponsoring the children in the families, build a relationship with them. I feel it is important to keep the families in touch with their sponsors, so that it is seen as much more than a cheque to pay for schooling.
In between, I was able to find time to play in the snow and slide on the ice like a child, with the local children.
Gail took lots of video clips, which have been skilfully edited by Brook and Rebecca – many thanks to them. Click on the icon to the left of ‘Vimeo’ to view in full screen.