The Ladakh Venture 2019 – A report

15 July 2019

The Scindia School successfully organized 'The Ladakh Venture 2019' this summer, from 24th June - 9th July. Twenty nine students along with four teachers from seven prominent schools of India and one from Shropshire, United Kingdom participated in this venture.
The participating schools were: The Scindia School, Gwalior; Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior; Mayo College, Ajmer; Vidya Devi Jindal School, Hisar; Vivek High School, Chandigarh; Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai and Ellesmere College, Shropshire, United Kingdom. The venture was led by the Project Leader- Mr Vishesh Sahai. The venture was assisted by Ms Kimmy Dhanoa, Vice Principal of Vivek High School, Chandigarh; Mr Parraysh Chheda from DAIS, Mumbai and Mr Jagdish Joshi from The Scindia School.
As a part of this service project, students along with the accompanying adults, constructed three (3) classrooms for the younger children of the Lamdon Model School situated in Thiksay village in a period of just 6 days working in scorching sun for 6 hours a day. To complete this task, they passed heavy bricks to the masons / workers; fetched bamboo (Taalu) from a nearby farm, mixed mud with water (Ladakhi cement) and occasionally (whenever it was safe) assisted the laborers in construction too. The fact that the students could see the difference they were making in the lives of the school children motivated them to carry out this work enthusiastically.
During this phase, students displayed leadership qualities and fantastic coordination. They helped each other and learnt about the Ladakhi architecture. Strong bonds were built within the group as well as with students and teachers of the Lamdon Model School.
In between, we took a break to visit the famous Tso-moriri Lake. It was a long and arduous drive but the landscape made the effort worth it; we were surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains, large expanses of sand and the cool, clear blue waters of the lake.
Delegates trekked from the 4th of July to the 8th of July. The trek on the 4th of July was a short one, from Zinchen to Rumbak. This trek was a good warm-up. On the 5th of July we trekked up to the Stok Pass, but it was not compulsory for everyone to complete the trek. Anyone could trek to any distance they wanted to and then return to the base camp as it was also a trek for better acclimatisation and adventure. Then on the 6th of July we left Rumbak for the Ganda-la Pass and camped at the Ganda-la Pass base camp at approximately 4500 meters. Next day i.e. on the 7th of July, we trekked up to the Ganda la Pass, which was about 4 km uphill and then from there, we had to trek downhill all the way to Skiu village, which was approximately 20 km. Everyone completed the trek at their own pace. Some delegates completed the trek in 8 hours while some of them completed it in 12 hours. We camped at Skiu village for the night. Next day, which was also the last day of our trekking expedition, we only trekked for about 3 hours to Chilling village, only to be picked up by the hotel cars. On way, we stopped at a Gurudwara which was run by the Indian army. Most were apprehensive about the strenuous trekking expedition. However, all the students constantly motivated and encouraged each other, allowing everyone to leave with a sense of accomplishment.
The mountains were mostly bare but the shades of green, brown, orange and purple exhibited starkness unparalleled. During the trek we came across snow-fed water streams, wild bushes with beautiful pink flowers, old wooden bridges, mountain goats, rabbits and enthusiastic trekkers who greeted us with a 'Julley’.
Mountaineering is not merely a hobby, a sport, a type of holidaying but a refined version of exercise. The great conservationist John Muir wrote: "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." This held true for most students as they were fascinated and humbled by the landscape around them.
Every evening, reflective writing was taught and discussed so that the students could dwell on the nuances of their experience and ponder on the day spent. Evenings were full of laughter, dance, fun and frolic. All said and done, strong bonds were built along with building of the classrooms. There was music and dance, rehearsals for the cultural show and debates along with the volley-ball with the students of Lamdon Model School.
The project positively proved to be a voyage of immersing into the Ladakhi culture. It also proved to be a journey of knowing oneself and others, of being independent, of making new friends, of leaving the luxuries behind and being one with nature, even to the extent of perhaps finding a new purpose of life. Participants saw themselves as global citizens, looking beyond gender, race and nationality. The students practically learnt about the delicate interdependence between humans and the planet. They also learnt the role of their environment in shaping their behaviour and values and thus learnt from each other as well. It was an intense, challenging activity that enabled them to gain confidence and problem- solving skills. Students did learn that leadership is about serving others and requires kindness, wisdom and justice. By practically helping others who were less fortunate, students learnt how they could make a positive difference.
Finally, just before we concluded the project, we crowd-sourced the takeaways from this project. Following are the learning outcomes from this venture:
1. Delegates had a huge sense of satisfaction, for they worked extremely hard for no return whatsoever - thus imbibing the concept of altruistic service.
2. Delegates developed a sense of appreciation for nature’s beauty in its raw form, something which our urban lives do not offer us at all.
3. Delegates understood that happiness has nothing to do with material pleasures and technology. It is a state of mind which comes through a feeling of selfless service and gratitude.
4. Through their interactions with the local children, they understood the value of gratitude and sharing even when you have little with yourself. Looking closely at the lives of local children was an eye-opener for them.
5. Delegates returned with immense confidence which they developed through evening debrief sessions where they learnt the art of public speaking, dancing, singing and sharing experiences freely and positively in an encouraging environment.
6. Delegates evolved their socio-emotional skills which is an essential life skill. The structure and routine of the project and the community living helped delegates forge life-long friendships with each other.