In our country we collect wood for winter storage. Sticks, branches, cones everything we find on the forest floor that burns for a good fire. The idea of collecting manure from yaks does not occur to many people in our latitudes. The situation is different in the high mountain landscape of Ladakh, where the hospitable Ladakhi live at an altitude of about 5000 meters and where the second highest pass on earth, at 5200 meters, is located. There the people and especially
the children of the nomadic peoples in the Changthang valley collect dung from yaks for the winter supply for heating. Because there is no wood in the heights of the Himalayas. It is their only possibility to heat and the winters are severe. Short and hot summers are replaced by long and extremely cold winters, the snow is meters high, it falls early in November and stays until March. Constant temperatures down to minus 30 degrees are common.
Meaning of “GoGreen GoOrganic”
The Schachukul Gonpa School which Susanne Mic tells us about in conversation is closed from December to March because of the cold winters. There is no heating in the school. Susanne made her first trip to Northern India in 2016, but her contact to Ladakh began in winter 2017 when she learned about the school from Northern India during a visit to Regensburg. At that time she spoke with the Mountain Ambassador of the Uno, His Holiness Drikung-Kyabgon-Chetsang-Rinpoche, about the prevailing environmental problems they have in their country and about the project “GoGreen GoOrganic” for which the people living there are strongly committed. To give you a better idea, Ladakh is a high mountain desert whose glaciers are melting drastically fast. The monsoon is held by the Himalayas to also move to Ladakh. This is why Ladakh has very little rainfall and is very dry. The meltwater and glacier water form the irrigation basis for the fields. The project “GoGreen Go Organic” supports the planting of trees in the Changthang valley. The trees are essential for the survival of the nomadic people. When the ice melts in the Himalayas, it concerns us all, even here in Europe.
Nomadic children attend Buddhist school
During her visit to the environmental conference in March 2018, which Susanne followed at the invitation of His Holiness Drikung-Kyabgon-Chetsang-Rinpoche, she got to know the ice stupa for water extraction, which His Holiness presented. In addition, she visited the Schachukul Gonpa School, which was founded 10 years ago, for 2 days. In summer 2018 she stayed one week and could also visit the family of the Changpa nomads of her godchild Rigzen. They live in tents and simple dwellings. Their country is characterized by deep gorges and wide plateaus. Out there it is so lonely that the other Ladakhis only call them “somewhere out there”. Their life is simple and labour-intensive. Life at the Buddhist school includes living and learning together. The thirty-three children, who are exclusively
male, between the ages of 3 and 16 have their own dormitories, which cannot be heated. Classes take place in the corridors between the rooms and outside in nature. In the kitchen there is a cook for everyone and the children help out. The girls from the area have their own monasteries and go to school there. The fact that the children attend school is very important for the country, because it increases the chances that they can make a living with education for their country. “There are children for whom it makes sense for them to go to secondary schools and Buddhist universities,” says Susanne. Many of the children also stay in the monastery and continue their life there. Because it is no use to the country if the majority of their children have a high academic education, but they no longer know how to work the soil of their homeland.
Survival in the valley is only possible with tree planting
The nomadic peoples only have a chance to continue living in this valley if they have water. The “GoGreen GoOrganic” project is already showing initial success due to tree plantations in the high mountain desert. For some, it is perhaps astonishing that willow, sandorn and apricot trees grow very well at altitudes of 4800 metres. “In a neighbouring valley they have cultivated 8 different varieties of apricots,” says Susanne. In addition to the high vitamin content of
the sand corn trees, which benefits people’s health, the trees also provide them with an economic basis. The sustainability of the planting of the trees also flows into the lessons of the pupils. “The “GoGreen GoOrganic” project itself comes very close to me because I know that people are very committed to it,” says Susanne. She had T-shirts printed in her hometown to make the project better known with activities in her area.
Immersing oneself in the diversity of nature means heart formation for the children
The lamas at the school give the lessons a lot of variety. The children learn to calculate and write and are taught in Tibetan, Hindi and English. Free play, as you can see on the photos, is as much a part of this as disciplined learning. “While playing outside, I could see how much the children are at home in nature,” says Susanne, who during her stay in summer as a trained forest kindergarten teacher, incorporated nature pedagogical impulses into her lessons. She observed the children’s natural curiosity and
Video - Children play with natural curiosity
enthusiasm for working and sawing. The sentence often said by children in their working environment in Germany is: “Oh, we already know that and we don’t want that”, she didn’t hear it at all with the pupils in Ladakh. Quite the opposite! Nature is quite central for her. Fascinated, she observed during the free play a boy who was completely absorbed in the original game. He sang along the way and had built stones with sand with a lot of patience. If something collapsed, he rebuilt it with a lot of patience. Susanne had started with the stone sand game as an impulse. The boys had accepted it and continued. In addition there were board games and a picnic on the meadow. Susanne also observed how each of them immersed himself in his creative fantasy game and continued. Touched by so many impressions, Susanne continues to tell how the pupils treat each other very socially and learn from each other. The older ones take care of the younger ones. A part of the Buddhist education is the training of compassion among each other and for the environment, which Susanne could experience intensively in being together with the people.
Guests and visitors are very welcome at the school
“The Schachukul Gonpa School is open to young people who want to stay with them as volunteers,” says Susanne. She knows this from her conversations and regular exchanges with Lama Konchok Gyaltson. He is a teacher at the school. Also welcome are people who would like to get to know their school and plant trees together with the students or develop learning content with them at school. They are looking forward to visitors who can make music or speak English
with the students. There are various projects at the school that can be supervised. During her last visit Susanne had warm blankets, caps and gloves as presents in her luggage. They are also happy about tools such as saws and other tools. The headmaster of the school, Lama Sonam Dawa, is happy to receive enquiries and gives information about the duration of the stays that are possible with them.
Editorial management: Christoph Lang, Nadja Hillgruber
Editorial design and implementation: Nadja Hillgruber, www.infothek-waldkinder.org
Picture credits: Photography © Susanne Mic
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