Zanskar is one of the most remote places on the planet. Inaccessibility and isolation have protected it from cultural change and today it is one of the last places on Earth where original Tibetan Buddhist way of life still exists. His Holiness the Dalai Lama believes that Zanskar can become the cradle of the Tibetan Buddhist culture, and that the only way to preserve it is to educate the children and support the very few schools in the region.
Children of Zanskar is a photography project centred around the youngest inhabitants of the remote and idyllic valley of Lingshed.
The book will help raise funds for the local school and the 115 schoolchildren attending it. In this rapidly changing world, the survival of their endangered culture lies in their very hands and we wish to raise awareness about them and, through images of them, assist them in helping themselves and strengthen their chances for a good future.
The cultures of the Himalaya suffered a great loss during recent disasters in Nepal, and their true fragility in the modern world has been exposed. We believe it is essential to help preserve the intangible heritage of the Himalayas and assure its continuing transmission. Our book, its message and its ultimate goal are our little contribution in that direction.
The best part about this Kickstarter campaign is that you can get the photography book AND help the children, who belong to one of the last traditional Tibetan Buddhist societies in the Himalayas. In return for your support we promise you to deliver one of the most beautiful fine art books you have ever seen, printed on high-grade photography paper and bound in canvas.
Our minimum pledge is to produce 1000 copies of the book. We will use all the money raised via KICKSTARTER on production of the book and marketing (book launch, exhibition, book fairs). ALL the future proceeds generated from the book sales and print sales will go to help the children of Lingshed. Thus the more money we raise through KICKSTARTER the more books we can produce and the more help we will be able to give to our dear little friends in Zanskar.
Cusped within a ring of imposing mountains, the children of Lingshed roam, sharing their laughter with a handful of visitors from the distant, 'civilised' west; visitors who come a long way to marvel at the beauty and simplicity of life in this small Himalayan valley, so reminiscent of the mythical Shangri-La.
Children shout with joy "Juley" and "Good evening madame" whilst giggling to the world. Always clothed in woollen hats and baggy jumpers, they have uncomfortably adapted to the extreme climate of Lingshed that is only a few miles away from the second coldest place on earth - Dras.
The children of Lingshed posses a deep yearning for knowledge. Each morning they gather around on the assembly square, and after the morning prayer and exercises, they spend another few hours on reading classes, often sitting unprotected in the burning sun - but never complaining. The walls and floors of the centralised school, attended by children from many surrounding villages, lay bare for the most part, creating clouds of dust and posing a significant health hazard. But the classes continue and the children are joyfully engaged in learning despite these seemingly hard conditions. Theirs is that natural kind of joy which reminds one that happiness is not in things, it’s in us.
Back here, in the 'civilised' west, it is easy to forget this.
In the nearby Tibet, Sikkim and in large parts of Ladakh, Tibetan culture is dying. But in Lingshed, it's still very much alive - and the children are the key to its survival. The valley's geographical isolation contributed to the preservation of its native language, religion and traditional way of life, and it is all the more important that its youngest inhabitants have enough food and warm clothing to pursue their education and cultivate its rich traditions, while adapting to the rapidly changing world.
So while we were in the valley, we made a promise to return and help our little friends. After spending many days with them and speaking to local officials, teachers and the headmaster, we made a comprehensive list of all the most essential things which they need.
We need to raise money in order to:
- buy wood and concrete to build a floor in the main dining and meeting hall of the school; the walls and floors of the school lay bare for the most part, creating clouds of dust and posing a significant health hazard
- cover the high costs of transport of wood and other materials from Kashmir, Delhi and Leh, as well as the costs of labour
- build a permanent shade from the sun on the school assembly platform (every morning children sit there in the burning sun)
- build a greenhouse at the school and offer instruction to the teachers on how to grow some simple vegetable including how best to store them in the winter months; this may go some way to reducing the effect of all-too-familiar and significant food shortages that often leads to malnutrition in many of the children
- buy plenty of shoes, as children hike to school every day in damaged shoes which harm their feet (they often wear those shoes all year through, rain or shine)
- buy winter clothes - they don’t have any thermal wear, and arthritis is the chief health complaint throughout the valley, where temperatures in the winter drop down to -40 celsius
- buy educational materials for school, like body-models, maps for the walls, etc.
- bring seeds from Leh to help the villagers with winter food shortages
- source and transport stacks of firewood - important!; this is always lacking in the winter, and people need to carry it along the chadar trek (trekking on the top of ice-frozen Zanskar river and sleeping in caves. Many people die during the trek, but this is the only way to access snow-bound villages.)
These are the print rewards referenced in the rewards list.
Risks and challenges
Having produced international bestsellers in the past, we do know what it takes to deliver a beautiful photography book. It is not going to be an easy task but we love books and we will take special pride in the production of the Children of Zanskar. The content of the book is already completed, therefore the only problems we might face are delivery dates. As is always the case, we will have to rely on designers, printers and finally the Royal Mail delivering on time. We can only promise that we will do our best to foresee all possible problems, to make sure you will receive your rewards within the estimated time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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