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Latest news and project updates from Lotus Flower Trust - July 2014

Latest Lotus News From Ladakh

John has just returned from a very successful trip to India to visit the Lotus Flower Trust's projects in Ladakh, with a brief detour to Rajasthan. "I am so delighted by the response of Indian people to our work," he said. "I am also proud of what the Trust achieves. I believe we stand out from most other charities as we work at grass roots level, among the people, who really are our friends." Read on to see how you have helped us change lives forever...

News from Ladakh

The capital Leh was being prepared for the Buddhist Kala Chakra which takes place over the next few weeks. During this festival, the Dalai Lama travels through Ladakh holding Buddhist seminars to which almost everyone flocks. It is a huge event so the town was a little chaotic whilst most of the central key roads were closed for repairs. 

The temperatures ranged between very hot and very cold with Zojila Pass from Srinagar/Kashmir and the Manali Highway still closed following the winter months. Fresh fruit and vegetables have been in short supply, dependent as they are on access by road to this remote area.

 

There were almost no western visitors in Ladakh but an ever growing population of Indian tourists as it was their holiday period at the time of our visit.

Nalanda Opening Planned

Nalanda Primary School, Saboo Ayu, funded by TFWA Care, Gebr. Heinemann and Estée Lauder Group: Work continues on the construction which His Holiness Togdan Rinpoche, a senior monk in Ladakh, assures us will be ready for our visit in August when there will be a formal opening ceremony. He told us this will be a big event attended by the All Gonpa Association, Rigzin Spalbar, Chairman of the Ladakh Hill Council, other dignitaries and lots of children.

Pupils have been registered for the school. The boundary wall is almost complete and the kitchens are under construction. New beds have been designed with a box headboard for storing belongings. It is altogether a much larger construction than portrayed in earlier photographs. The site also has the most amazing view of the Kangri range of mountains.

All Systems Go at Domka

Domka Gongma, funded by many contributors to the Trust's Ladakh Disaster Fund: The school is complete and fully operational. There are 30 children attending and a similar number set to begin schooling at the Anganwadi being built beside it.

We also met the new head teacher who came from Dha-Hanu, two very remote adjacent villages down towards the Pakistani border. He said he has a further project for us there where villagers are thought to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great.

At the time of our visit a gold painted Buddha was being brought by lorry to Domka Gongma for the new temple. We were asked to go and meet with the villagers who were waiting for the statue to arrive. They made a huge fuss of us. 

Update from Shushakul 

Garden of Wisdom, Shushakul, funded by Rod Pashley and team: We visited the school and found it to be in reasonably good order in view of the harsh climate. Some repairs are required which will cost £3,000 to complete - through Rod and his contacts, including People Positive, we have already received £1,500 towards this. Altogether there are now 50 little monks attending, including one girl, plus 12 staff, nine of which are teachers.

Two years ago the Dalai Lama visited here and said what a wonderful school it was. Chetsen Rinpoche, head of one of the four branches of Buddhism, and one of the most senior Buddhist Monks, spends his holidays at the school teaching the children. Our friend Norboo who is based here has been promoted to Khenpo, a high ranking Buddhist Monk.

Anganwadi News! There are 20 children, including one little girl, who will be accommodated in a new Anganwadi funded by the Government which will hopefully be built soon. 

Skills Centre Update

Shivam Sundram Women and Girls Organisation, Rajasthan, funded by CBD Charitable Trust: More than 60 ladies, local male officials and children attended the Bhoomi Puja, the 'laying of the foundation stone' ceremony, for this project. Despite being 40+ degrees, the event went well with much appreciation being shown by everyone for the Trust’s support. The plans have now been finalised and work should begin very soon. 

A local builder, who understood the charitable nature of our work, has volunteered to carry out the build at cost price, buying local materials, which will make great savings and benefit the local community.

Outdoor Pursuits School

The Trust has been approached by a number of people asking if we would consider funding an Outdoor Pursuits Centre training school for young people in Ladakh. There is currently no such facility in the area for young people who wish to make careers in the trekking, climbing and adventure business. It would be a great way to help unemployed young people find work and introduce them to an adventurous life on their own doorstep. We await a formal proposal for this project. 

Amazing Treks and Tours

As all those who have travelled with us to India know, Ashok Tripathi and Tswang Tantar are an integral part of the Lotus Flower Trust team. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them and all the staff at Amazing Treks and Tours for the hard work they undertake for the benefit of our work in India. Without them overseeing projects and looking after all our travel arrangements, we would find it extremely challenging to carry out the work we do.

Under Construction

Brahma Putra Home for Railway and Slum No 2 Children, Assam
Staff Accommodation at Ashram Shala Savada, Guwahati, Assam
8 Anganwadis in Ladakh
Nalanda Primary School, Ladakh
Basgo Nunnery (phase 2), Ladakh
Domka Gongma Primary School, Ladakh
Satyam Shivam Sundram Skills Centre, Rajasthan
Okhalkanda Girls' Home, Uttrakhand
Ram Tirth Vidyalaya School, Uttrakhand
Ambedkar Ardarsh School, Uttrakhand
 
Recently Approved  

Skills Centre at the Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School, Uttrakhand
New school project in Tamil Nadu (a new area for us) for which funds are being raised by a group of employees from SKY in the UK, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Dalai Lama Vists Basgo!

Gephel Shadrupling Nunnery, Basgo, Ladakh, funded by Winchester College: We have just heard news that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has unexpectedly visited our nunnery at Basgo in Ladakh. This will have been the happiest day of the nuns' lives and is wonderful news for the Trust and of course the students of Winchester College who funded and worked on the construction of the nunnery.

We continue to be amazed by what the nuns, both large and small, are achieving. The buildings are very nearly complete with the exception of the Temple which needs a further £16,000-£20,000 for building to begin.

The inauguration ceremony will be held on the 4th August. Only after this event will the nuns be able to take up residence (at the moment they are living at Saboo Ayu 30 miles away). There is an enormous guest list - it will be a very big event! 

ISELL's Success Overflows

International School for English Language Learning (ISELL), funded by TFWA Care: We visited the school twice and were delighted to meet some of the students. In total 98 students, half boys and half girls, have already been through the teaching programme which many told us has been a huge success. At one time 65 students were in residence with very congested sleeping arrangements and the accommodation overflowing. The building already needs extending.

The feedback we received from the students was extremely positive. Learning is great fun especially since no-one is allowed to speak any language other than English. Students ages range from 16 up to mid 30’s. Some told us that their job opportunities had dramatically increased due to the course. A number of the current girls want to go into social work and some of the boys were applying to join the army, for careers as officers, the Ladakh Scouts and the Engineers. 

After discussing the students' needs, it appeared English newspapers, books, computers and Kindles (which the students had never seen before and were fascinated by) would be of great value to assist them in their studies.

News from Chhulung Kha

Chhulung Kha Residential School for Girls aged 12+, Nubra Valley, funded by the duty free industry: The Trust has been asked to support this project by the Chairman of the Ladakh Hill Council as no girl over the age of 12 has ever been educated in this area, known as the 'Muslim Belt'. Plans for the construction of the school are afoot with the work being taken on by local people. The building will be made of rammed earth and mud bricks reducing costs dramatically.

Chhulung Kha Anganwadi, funded by the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Settlement: The building was built entirely by the villagers and is almost complete. Instead of mud bricks they have used cut stone and we have been told it is a wonderful building. It should be finished very soon and everyone is hoping we will be able to visit in August... security permitting.

More Anganwadi News

Due to the number of Anganwadis (Kindergartens) we are funding, John met with various members of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) who are responsible for the programme in each area. He also met with Child Welfare officers, the local builders and members of the Village Education Committees, as well as teachers and the children.

Lotus Flower Trust plans to build eight Anganwadis - three in the Leh town area, two in Nubra Valley across Kardung La, one across Chang La and two in the Indus Valley, all of which are very remote. Five have been funded by the following generous sponsors: 

Shushakul Village Anganwadi, funded by Dubai Duty Free, Trustees Sarah Branquinho (Chair) and Eric Juul-Mortensen's team mainly from the duty free industry: The team will be visiting Ladakh in August and plan to paint the new building.

Panamik Anganwadi, Nubra Valley, funded by The Funding Network: Soon to begin, this project is in a very remote area - almost the last stop before climbing to the Sachin Glacier, the highest battle field in the world at over 18,000ft on the Pakistan border. Only 60 percent of boys go to school here. The remainder work with their fathers on the glacier, carrying loads for the Army. There will be 30 children attending the Anganwadi. In this valley girls are married and have children at the age of 11 and we hope that education will provide them with other alternatives.

Chumatang Anganwadi, Indus Valley, funded by a private sponsor: A hundred miles stunning drive from Leh, beside the Indus River Chumatang, is a very remote village. It is both socially and financially challenged. The school is run by a Muslim headmaster but the population are Buddhist. Work on this Anganwadi will soon commence, with 26 children due to attend. 

Shara Sharnos Village Anganwadi, Indus Valley, funded by a private sponsor: Three villages make up this beautiful area about 50 miles from Leh. Work will soon start on the Anganwadi and 29 children will attend. Our generous private sponsor has donated £10,000 for this project in memory of her husband, an Army Officer, who recently died of cancer. What a lovely way to be remembered.

Leh Colony, Leh, funded by the Evan Cornish Foundation: The building is almost complete. It needs a roof and the walls to be plastered. 

Originally, the Ladakh Hill Council Education Department asked us to fund the construction of 30 Anganwadis. By the end of this year, we hope eight will have been built and we have funds for a further three, including a generous donation from Creative Spirit based in Cannes and Paris. As each Anganwadi costs £10,000, we still have to raise £190,000 for 19 more to complete our challenge. Please help by Donating here.

Pupils Pedal to Paris

Himalayan International Primary and Middle School, Missoorie, Uttrakhand, funded by Winchester College: In August, Winchester College will travel with the Trust to Uttrakhand to begin work on the Himalayan International Junior High School in Missoorie. Here, 60 children have recently been served notice to quit their current premises (pictured above).

It is remarkable that this year's team have, through their own efforts, already raised £30,000 towards the costs of the new school. For example, two of the boys recently cycled from London to Paris, a 480km journey over 5 days, and they hope to have raised more than £10,000. Well done boys!

We have been working with Winchester College successfully for five years, delivering life-changing experiences to students and creating life-changing opportunities for the young people they have helped in India. Lotus Flower Trust has the capacity to work with one more school. Please Contact Us if you would like more information on how we could work with your school.

A Very Big Thank you!

We are ever grateful to everyone who funds the work of the Trust. Without your support we could not achieve projects such as those outlined above.

There are a few people who very kindly make worthy donations to us using Charity Checkout or bank transfers. We don't know who you all are! Please could you Contact Us with your email address so that we can thank you and keep in touch. Very many thanks again.  

Don't forget to look at our website to find lots of new photographs and up-to-date project information.

 

Lotus Flower Trust Team

Chair of Trustees - Sarah Branquinho; Trustees - Dr Ann Hunt, Erik Juul-Mortensen, Dr Jamie Hill, John Wilbourn, Richard Wollaston; CEO - John Hunt; Photography - Philip Dean; Public Relations - Laura Cowdery; Finance - Becky Hamilton-Ross. Many thanks also to Jenny Lewys – who has recently handed over to Becky.

To see more images, find out about projects, how to help or even join us on a life-changing trip to India, visit www.lotusflowertrust.org or email johnhuntnfo@lotusflowertrust.org.

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