I am Geshe Ngagwang Jangchup. I was born in 1949 in a small village in Lingshed area. Lingshed is one of the most remote areas of the Ladakh region of Northern India. The Lingshed area consists of six villages and approximately 1300 villagers. The area is quiet, solitary, and surrounded by beautiful Himalayan snow mountains.
Unfortunately, the Lingshed area is also one of the poorest and most isolated areas in India. Almost all the people are poor, and their standard of living is very low. There is no electricity or communications or modern health and sanitation services.
The situation is made worse by the fact that there are no roads for motor vehicles leading to the Lingshed area. Nearly all essential foods and construction supplies must be brought in by mule-train or back-pack. Moreover, the trip to Lingshed from the closest village of Walna takes four or five days under the best conditions, and the winter snows close the roads and passes entirely for six months of every year.
In addition the soil is weak and the growing season is very short, the local farmers work hard for limited crop yeilds and the people suffer greatly from starvation and malnutrition. As a result of their poverty and isolation, the people of Lingshed desperately need nutritious food, agriculture to improve crop production, forestry science to supply fuel for cooking and heating, not to mention the most basic necessities of modern life, such as electricity, medical supplies, and so forth.
In the entire Lingshed area there is no hospital, clinic, or resident doctor or nurse versed in western medicine. There are doctors of Tibetan medicine in the area, and the people depend heavily on their traditional diagnoses and herbal medicines. But due to the prevailing poverty, the people for the most part cannot afford the services of these doctors, and there is a future danger that even this type of medical service will decline. Many people, young and old, die in Lingshed due to these deplorable conditions. It is especially painful for me that many young mothers in the Lingshed area die giving birth to their children without proper medical attention.
This sad situation has lasted for ten centuries. But it need not continue this way forever. In today's world, full of technological marvels and global communications, tremendous advances can be made to reduce suffering and misery in even the most remote areas.
We, the villagers of Lingshed, strongly believe that the Lingshed area's dual afflictions of isolation and poverty can be substantially reduced through even modest advances in education, both modern and spiritual.
For the last forty years, limited primary education has been available for certain Lingshed students. However, since educational opportunities were mainly limited to the summer months, the women and men who had to work the fields could not attend classes. Since the Lingshed area has always had a monastery for men. Approximately 70 monks from poor families reside in the monastery. Many males - both monks and laity - have learned to read and write our Ladakh language. But for over one thousand years, the women of our Lingshed area have been entirely deprived of educational opportunities.
Beginning in 1992, this situation improved somewhat, thanks to the combined efforts of our committee of concerned Lingshed area citizens. Although our work has just begun, our committee has already raised over $16,000. Every dollar raised has gone into one of the following projects:
Nevertheless, even today, less than five percent of the Lingshed area women can read at all. This unfortunate fact has prevented the local women from controlling their own destinies. Over the centuries, instead of pursuing careers or raising families, it has been necessary for most local women to remain with their families and spend their entire lives working in the fields.
For this reason, and also because our local women lack opportunities for spiritual development the importance of the nunnery for our area's women cannot be overstated. Not only will the nunnery function to provide a spiritual home for those women who wish to become oradained as nuns, but also all women in the Lingshed area feel the need for the nunnery in order that they may have a focus for their desire to learn more about their world and their religion. The nunnery will provide spiritual education for all the women in the Lingshed area, not just the nuns, and also will function as a central place where women can come to discuss and begin to solve their own special problems.
Forty-five women of all ages from Lingshed and surrounding areas have expressed their desire to be ordained and to live in the new nunnery. They are eager to begin residing in the nunnery in the summer of 1996. Unfortunately, the nunnery project is currently just a dream for these women. Nothing now exists on the spot where it will eventually be built. Our hope is that we can begin to lay the foundation for the nunnery in July of 1996.
In 1994, initial support of $3000 was provided for the building project. In 1995, an additional $600 was received for the building. In addition, valuable support in the form of committments to sponsor six nuns has also been secured. This support has been very encouraging, but the projected budget for the entire Nunnery Project calls for a total of $54,900 to be raised. The cost includes the transporting of all building materials from Leh to Lingshed by mule-train and back-pack.
The Nunnery Project committee hopes that it will be able to find individuals to sponsor more nuns at a total cost to the sponsor of $12 per month per nun. This minimal cost will partially allay the cost of feeding and housing the nun each month. In addition, nuns will work in the fields to meet their remaining food expenses. All sponsors will receive annual reports on the progress of the Nun's Project.
As you can see, the Lingshed Project has just begun, and yet it has already had a profound impact on the life and hopes of the local villagers. If you are a person who is interested in helping others, and especially if you have compassion and love in your heart for children and women, I would be very happy to hear from you. Even if you cannot help us to support the various Lingshed area projects now, please do not forget us. For many years we will be continuously trying to improve our situation, and so we will always be here needing you when you feel you can give us a little help. I feel especially strongly about our Nunnery Project. I believe a nunnery will have a tremendous imact on the women of our area, and that the women, in turn, will significantly effect the future of the Lingshed area.
Interested persons should send enquiries and/or checks to:
Geshe Ngawang Jangchup
c/o Lingshed Nuns Project
Lama Camp No. 2
P.O. Tibetan Colony
Mundgod 581 411
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