The journey to the making of our school.
Since the project’s preparation started in the year 2005, we have had a preliminary agreement and received guidance from the Kargil government in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kargil is the center of administrative functions for the Zanskar region and is superior to the Padum administration. The original plan has always been to build a government run school, in partnership with the Czech Civic Association Surya. We wanted to help build a school that can function in extreme cold conditions and which, after its completion, will be registered and run as a government school with our support. In order to reach this goal, the village of Kargyak applied for a grant of five lakhs of INRs (about ten thousand US dollars) for the school’s construction and in the spring of 2007 village members started digging the foundation.
In the summer of 2007, team Surya, supported by a number of volunteers, came back to Kargyak, with the goal of completing the school within a year. But the unfortunate reality that was awaiting, was a surprise to all of us. The government of Jammu of Kashmir didn’t, after all, approve the proposed and long discussed ecological construction of The Sun School and decided to build their own school model. This inefficiently constructed model is used all over India from the beaches of South India to the snow covered villages of Himalayas. This Indian universal school model is just a very basic concrete structure with a tin roof and is absolutely unsuitable for the cold and very windy climate of the arctic Himalayan desert of Zanskar.
In the end, the officials came to Kargyak and offered the villagers four lakhs of INRs (about eight thousand dollars) only if they agree to build the type of government school mentioned above. But villagers chose in favor of our school and dismissed the government’s offer. We were of course very happy to gain the villager’s trust but also puzzled by the circumstances and aware of the difficulties that were awaiting us.
What followed were many meetings and endless discussions about the status of the Sun School, the functioning of Civic Association Surya in India and the allotment of the school site. We faced many problems and delays, mainly because Zanskar is a very isolated region and a sensitive place with its own specific rules and regulations, due to its borders with Pakistan and China. To find the right approach, we had to follow proper procedure and learn how to keep within state law. While this was a valuable experience, it also took a lot of our precious time.
In the end we were lucky again and gained the trust and support of many officials who guided us through the maze of Indian bureaucracy. We have dealt with Padum, Kargil and Delhi offices. We have come to a decision to build a private school without major state support and interference. It was a fundamental decision, because as a result, Surya had to take much more responsibility than originally planed. We have bound our self not only to build a low energy building, but also to register the school as a private school and to ensure its functioning throughout the year.
The courage to make this brave step came thanks to the support and goodwill of an Indian NGO called the Himalayan Buddhist Culture Association (HBCA). We owe a big thanks to the president of HBC Ven. Lama Chospel Zotpa who took The Sun School project under his wings. On the 20.9.2007 we received a Branch Certificate that is a document acknowledging patronage and legitimacy of the Civic Association Surya and its Sun School project by the Himalayan Buddhist Culture Association. This certificate is a very valuable document, which allows us to function legally on Indian territory; to make an international money transfer; to have access to governmental grants; and to smoothly continue with the school construction, now a solely private school. HBCA is a Delhi based organization, supporting world peace and preservation of Tibetan Buddhism and Bodhik language. This organization already supports five schools in different parts of India and has great experience in this sphere.
Another achievement of the summer 2007 was the establishment of a local NGO – Gomborangjon Cultural Association (GCA) which is based in Kargyak village. Gombo in Tibetan Buddhism symbolizes a protector and it is also the name of the sacred mountain that welcomes everyone who makes his way to Kargyak village. GCA is now in a process of registration and its main aim is to support the Sun School in Kargyak. We decided to create a new NGO in an attempt to unite capable people in Zanskar and train them, so in the upcoming ten years they will be able to look after the school and ensure its future/continuity of the project.
The new year 2008 is an earth mouse year, according to the Tibetan calendar. We hope that this year will help bring us a successful finish to the Sun School in Kargyak.
Julley and many thanks to all the people who have been helping us for the last three years.
Thank you all very much, Gabriela