Successful sales during the 2016 summer season motivated the village women to create new felt products and to knit a selection of socks and caps in the following winter. On account of the low temperatures, this year’s handicrafts workshop organised by me took place in the old school building and lasted seven days.
The women still need help when cutting out the leather for the hut slippers. They are unaccustomed to using scissors and a ruler. This is one of few jobs in which they still need instruction from me.
Working together with the women from the village requires a lot of perseverance. It was unaccustomed and exhausting for me to have to work on my knees. Maintaining an overview over sheep-wool and leather, felted and knitted products, tea cups and teapots was a challenge. The humour, enthusiasm and eagerness of the women quickly let me forget such chaotic conditions, however.
Last year the women used the school building as a place of work. Now, with the reopening of the school, the building is now occupied by the primary school. On account of this, the women have made an application to the state for a new handicrafts building.
Reopening the village school
Thanks to the initiative of the villagers in 2014, the primary school was reopened again this spring. Up to then, the children visited the elementary boarding school in Lingshed. Nine children of four to nine years of age can now attend their own school again in the village.
During my stay in Leh, I contacted the “Ladakh Ecological Development Group” LEDeg. The LEDeg engineer responsible, Thinley Dorje, showed Lobzang Rinchen, the local on-site project leader, and me the demonstration object and the supplied us with valuable information. The LEDeg building in Leh is one of the most tradition-rich buildings and features solar architecture.
Go-ahead for an insulated school building and a handicrafts room
Fully loaded with information and the certainty of having competent, on-site project partners on board and after consultation with the association’s executive board, I secured the financing of the thermal insulation.
The state has employed a ten-head Nepalese building team that has been working in Ladakh for many years now. Engineer Thinley Dorje is responsible for contact with the Nepalese building foreman.
For the insulation of the roof, the villagers collected straw in the nearby mountains. The traditional straw roof is not 100% waterproof and is therefore covered over with corrugated iron sheets.
Adult education — three new villages
The EAL project has generated interest in the neighbouring villages. The association has supported the neighbouring villages Skiumpata, Gomga and Nyaraks since June 2017. These villages are only accessible from Yulchung on foot in three hours.
On site, during meetings with the women, I clarified their needs and consequently attained financial approval for a teacher and the teaching materials necessary.
In the three villages, a total of 19 women attend schooling. Interest varies from village to village. In Nyaraks the women would like to learn English, as, in the winter, trekking groups pass by on the frozen river (Chadar-Trek). In Skiumpata and Gomga the women would, above all, like to learn to read and write the ladakh “Bothi” language.