Sun school for a village in Himalayas

The village Kargyak in the Indian part of Himalayas is located miles from anywhere. You have to climb, on foot, over the mountains; up to an altitude of 4200 m, because the road ends at a three day's walk away. There is no school in Kargyak and school attendance is no simple business for the local children. Either they don't even learn to read, or they leave for boarding schools in the towns below and usually don't come back home anymore. The project Sun School of the Czech non-governmental organization Surya shall set up an opportunity for these children.

The preparations for the construction of a school building directly heated by solar energy began in the summer of 2006. A group of Czech volunteers contracted the necessary agreements with the villagers, the village assigned a suitable plot for the building and a greenhouse was built with their cooperation as a test of the construction methods and materials that will be used for the school-building. The building itself combines traditional architecture and glass sheets that allow to preserve the comfortable interior temperature of 15 °C even in severe winter. It thus will be possible for eighty children from Kargyak and surrounding settlements to study even in winter, and not just in the summer, such as last year when the Czech volunteers opened a temporary school under the open sky.

What benefits does the school yield? In the first place, there is a better chance for all the villagers to acquire an education and prepare for the changes which will be brought upon the village by the coming construction of a road. The Indian government has already started the building operations and plans to bring the road to Kargyak in 15 years. Directly linked to this shall be a sudden influx of tourism, the arrival of strangers, and the emergence of trade. As this detached part of the world is the last remaining area of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture, it is highly in order that the people living here prepare for the arrival of civilization.

The school opening ceremony is scheduled for October 2007. Until then there is a lot of work to be done. In mid-February, Honza Tilinger and Jára Pecháček, members of the Surya team, went to the Himalayas to transport timber for the construction from a nearby valley up a frozen river to Kargyak. The winter river covered with ice is the only communication for transporting large loads, because the crooked and twisting mountain tracks are too narrow.

Honza and Jára are setting off on the chadar, the so-called journey on the frozen rivers, from Padum, the greatest Zanskar valley. A jeep takes them as far as possible in the snow-covered mountains and then they will have to take the icy track to the village Ichar, where the timber for Kargyak school is unloaded. The load will be pulled up over the icy river and gravel by the villagers with the help of animals; it's about a three day's walk. During chadar they will sleep in caves by the river, and often will have to wade in water or walk with the load over rocks where the mountain river is too wild.

Obviously, the team had to prepare for the extreme weather conditions. The temperatures will be low, during the day up to -20 °C and up to another 20 degrees lower at night, strong icy wind and piercing sunlight throughout the daytime. It's also necessary to take into account the altitude of 4200 m which requires good acclimatization as altitude sickness in such an isolated area could be fatal. Honza at Jára have set off with outdoor clothing from Humi, underclothing from Moira and a satellite telephone borrowed from the mountain climber Martin Minařík - all this equipment is absolutely necessary.

Honza and Jára are returning to the Czech Republic at the end of March, after the timber transport to Kargyak. Before the beginning of the summer they have to collect the remaining finances for the construction of the school and the construction material, most importantly the glass sheets. The whole team is then moving to the Himalayas in June so that the school can be built together with the villagers over the summer and on October 1st the first lesson can start with a ceremony.

For the news on the construction of the Sun school see

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