Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Spiti Valley: Why We Do This

Last night (Monday) all the new beds at Munsel-Ling School in Spiti Valley were in place.

Murray Dryden used to take photos of the children asleep in bed when he had finished a distribution so we thought it fitting to do the same on this distribution in memory of his trip to the Himalayas in 1981.

In the evening, around ten, we went in to see the results of our distribution. The sounds of quiet breathing were all we heard and we've included a photo of what we saw.

Children sleeping peacefully, just the way Murray would have wanted it.

Signing off, we are
The Spiti Valley Three

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p.s.: We posted a few more photos in a slideshow. You must have Flash installed on your computer to view it.

Spiti Valley: Sleeping Children Photo Album

Monday, 13 July 2009

Spiti Valley: Almost Done

We're not done yet. Yesterday we did 79 bedkit photos, and this morning we did 181 more. There are 120 to go.

Luckily we have help from other volunteers who also work at Munsel-Ling School as shown by the photo. You can also see one of the beds we are supplying to the school. Several students from University of British Columbia, some of the school staff, and some teachers from Sweden helped us out. This morning there was a school assembly and then we took photos. Now we are waiting for the last students to arrive. Because the Dalai Lama is doing teachings in various areas near here, many parents are taking their children to the teachings and they are not in school. Because we are hoping to start heading for home tomorrow (Tuesday) we hope all works out and we can complete the distribution this evening when the last of the students return. Meanwhile, all the beds are being made in the dorms so when the children arrive after school they will have new beds to sleep peacefully.

As on all Sleeping Children distributions we have to learn to be flexible and change our plans to suit the situations. Murray also had to do that during his last day of distributions in the Himalayas in 1981. Here's what Murray wrote:
On this particular morning, January 24th, I pulled myself out of the sleeping bag at 05:15 and, on exiting, I tripped over one of the tent stakes, causing me to pitch head-first over a ten-foot parapet stone wall in the total dark! My glasses flew off, also my watch, and I picked myself up out of a field of rape in flower, a field that was also littered with large stones. One shoe and the flashlight had left me as I plunged, but my spectacles and watch were OK and I could not believe that I had only a barked knee and arm.

The group had slept through it all. As there was no way I could find my way to the upper level, I had to call the guides. They too could not believe that I was not injured. And to think it happened seventeen trekking hours from any kind of road where help might be found.
The following morning Murray and his team distributed 100 bedkits before it began to rain. They had to deliver the remaining 150 inside to complete their 1000 bedkit distribution.

We will check back with you tomorrow and let you know how we did.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Spiti Valley: More bed moving

Today we went to the Dalai Lama's teachings in the morning. Then on to the Internet cafe to send this report.

There are long lineups for the six computers since many people have swelled the town's population. Roads are closed and security is tight.

Yesterday one more truck arrived with mattresses and pillows and pillow cases. Four more truckloads are expected to complete delivery of all the sheets and pillows. I have some video but can't upload it here.

In the dorms, all the old beds, mattresses, and blankets have been removed and many of the new beds have now replaced them. We will put the bed, mattress, and comforter into the rooms and then at the distributions on Sunday and Monday will give the children the pillows, pillow cases, and comforter cover. We hope to be able to send some photos if we can, but may be working too late in the day to make it to the Internet cafe on Sunday.

Today's picture shows the old beds being piled up outside the dorms this week. Lama Tashi is planning to reuse the iron to make tables and bookshelves for the school. Nothing is wasted.

We enjoy reading your comments.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Spiti Valley: Old beds out

Yesterday, after watching the Dalai Lama arrive in Kaza we went back to the school and met with Tashi Lama and Chering Dorje to discuss next steps.

Then they took us to look at the beds the children are now using. It was evident that they needed new ones and after we took some pictures the old ones were collected and moved out. It is a long job and will probably take the next two days. Then the rooms will be cleaned and the children's new beds and mattresses will be installed.

As we said in an earlier report, we hope to start the distributions and photo taking on Sunday.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Spiti Valley: We have arrived

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at Munsel-Ling School in Spiti Valley. We had a meeting with the school principal, Chering Dorje, to finalize plans for our visit and the distribution.
lean the dormitory rooms, and move in new beds and bedding. We hope to complete th
There was a lot of excitement at the school today. The whole school is going to Kaza to welcome the Dalai Lama to the area. He will be giving teachings at the Sakya Monastery there. Many of the children will be going with their parents so they will not be at school for the next few days.

During the time the children are gone, we will be helping to remove the old beds and bedding, cis by Sunday when the children return.

That is when we plan to start the distribution and taking of bedkit photos.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Spiti Valley: The Distribution

When our friends heard from us that we were going on this distribution, many asked how they could contribute a bedkit for Spiti Valley. We had to tell them it wasn't possible. First of all, this is not a regular distribution -- it is a one-time special distribution to help us celebrate 2009, the Year of the Millionth Bedkit. Secondly, the unit cost of supplying a complete bed and bedding for a child at Munsel Ling School is more than the cost of a regular $35 bedkit. And third, in order to fund this special distribution, Sleeping Children is using money from a bequest given to us by the estate of Mary Verna Simmons which, along with money given by TRAS donors, will pay for the entire cost of the beds and bedding.

The same as all travelling volunteers, the Spiti Valley Three are travelling at our own expense and without benefit of a tax receipt. We will supervise the distribution of bedkits, photograph the children with their bedkits, and write articles for the donor newsletter to be published on the SCAW website.

Yesterday, we met Lama Tashi again, who has been organizing the delivery of the beds from Delhi and of India to the Spiti Valley. He will accompany us and has arranged this part of our trip.

Our travel to Spiti Valley was done in three stages. The first stage was the fourteen-hour flight from Toronto to Delhi. The second stage was a fourteen-hour drive from Delhi to Manali. The final stage is today: an estimated eight- to ten-hour drive to the Kaza area of the Spiti Valley and the Munsel Ling School in Rangrik.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Spiti Valley: On to Spiti Valley

We are still in Manali and have been joined by Lama Tashi Namgyal who is telling us more about the school and the children we are going to provide with beds. The Rinchen Zangpo Buddhist Society decided twelve years ago that improving education was paramount. Munsel Ling School was named and opened by the Dalai Lama in 1996 and has a dedicated staff of twenty four teachers.

In the summer of 2008 when the UBC students wrote about the school they said, "The children are hard-working and determined. They take responsibiltiy for succeeding, unlike many children in Canada." Indeed, the students from the first year have now graduated. One of them, Youdon, is studying science and wants to become a doctor and return to work in Spiti.

The UBC team also noted that the sleeping quarters for the children boarding at the school were borderline. They wrote: "The beds that are not in good condition, and bedbugs and lice are rampant." The Trans Himalayan Aid Society [TRAS] decided that it was necessary to provide clean bedding for all the children in 2009 and they applied to Sleeping Children for help. TRAS has been helping in Nepal, Tibet, and India. One of their members had met Murray when he had helped Tibetan refugee children in another part of the Himalayas.

Lama Tashi has been busy arranging the materials for the beds and getting them to Spiti Valley so they will be there when we arrive.

Tomorrow we leave for Kaza in the Spiti Valley. (Click on map to enlarge it.

The Spiti Valley Three

Monday, 6 July 2009

Spiti Valley: Manali Rest Stop

We have not yet reached the Spiti Valley but are staying in Manali to acclimatize our bodies to the higher altitudes in the Himalayas. From our bedroom windows we can see one more range of mountains we have to pass over. We are staying in a guest house run by a wonderful family. When Murray Dryden went on his Himalaya trip he had less luxurious quarters.

From his writings:
A fine red nylon tent was set up; it was to be my home for nine nights. The cook promised me a feast and, indeed, I was ready for it. After that last leg up "Heartbreak Mountain" my 07:30 continental breakfast had long gone. When my feast arrived, the rice was cold but I ate it. However, the bits and pieces purported to be chicken were laced with spices so I had to pass them on to one of the porters. I did enjoy the bowl of soup with chopped onion tops though, and canned pineapple slices, the juice of which I had sipped from the punctured tin at the last rest stop. As to the food the rest of the way, it was grim.
We should probably feel guilty (since we are doing this trip in memory of Murray's visit to the Himalayas) but our supper tonight is to be fresh trout, baked potatoes, and vegetables followed by plum or peach pie (in season).

The Spiti Valley Three

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Spiti Valley: About the school

We are going to Rangrik in the Spiti Valley and providing beds for children that go to the Munsel Ling School there.

Since 1962 when a large number of Tibetan refugees entered the Himalyan area of India, the Trans Himalayan Aid Society [TRAS] has been raising funds to help nurture children in need. Their mission is to support the health and education of children in this area. Children at the school were mostly born in India in Tibetan refugee families. Some children are still coming to the Spiti Valley from Tibet, but it can compromise the safety of their families left behind so not many come to India any more.

Sleeping Children is only one of several groups that are helping the children at the school. Since 2007 teams of students from the University of British Columbia [UBC] Global Heath Initiative have been working to evaluate the children's health and educate them on living healthy.

We are presently on the way to Manali with our driver Jeetu.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Friday, 3 July 2009

Spiti Valley: A Memorable Trip

In 1981, Murray Dryden, founder of Sleeping Children Around the World, made a ten-day trip into the Himalayas to deliver 1,000 beds (approximately 10 tons) to four remote villages never before serviced by SCAW.

He said, "It was an adventure I will not soon forget."

This year, our team will deliver 380 beds to one remote village in the Himalayas. Murray's trip required twenty-six porters who carried the beds up into the mountains two weeks before Murray and his group arrived. The beds for the Spiti Valley distribution were delivered by truck early in June -- just after the roads re-opened for the summer -- to the remote village of Rangrik where the Munsel-Ling school is situated.

We will not be arriving there until the middle of next week since the village is at an altitude of more than three thousand metres and we stop for two days in the village of Manali (at eighteen hundred metres) in order to acclimatize our bodies to the altitude.

From Murray's report of his trip:
We had three porters, a guide, and a cook and we stopped for five minutes every thirty minutes. The cook was anxious to ply me with tea.

After sailing along for four hours, word came to halt for light refreshments. I was to know later that this was the notice of a formidable "enemy" lying ahead. At 16:30 we were given the order to "attack." It was up, up, up on narrow and slippery trails, and it was getting darker. Earlier, our trip routing had been changed from a 3-hour to a 6-hour objective. I sensed that the game was to kill me off early. My confidence was indeed gradually being shot down -- I was even thinking of the possibility of an air lift! The thought of nine more days of this torture almost made me sick.
At least we don't have to walk.

The Spiti Valley Three

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Spiti Valley: A Special Distribution

Going to the Munsel-Ling School in Rangrik in the Spiti Valley of the Himalaya Mountains, in Northern India.

The Spiti Valley Three: (Left to right) Milton van der Veen, Laura Harper, Clarence Deyoung (Team Leader)

A special distribution to celebrate the Year of the Millionth Bedkit and commemorate SCAW founder Murray Dryden’s trip to the Himalayas in the 1980s is about to take place. The SCAW travelling team met at SCAW headquarters on Thursday and leaves Toronto on Friday evening, July 3rd.

Team members Laura Harper, Milton van der Veen, and Clarence Deyoung are honoured to have been chosen to represent Sleeping Children on this memorable occasion. This special distribution is being made possible by an estate donation to be used for bedkits. Keep an eye on these live reports as we try to keep you abreast of the details of this special distribution.

The Spiti Valley Three

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