Siddhartha School Project

News Flash — Tune in to SSP Live on the Air!
November 3, 2010, 2:40 pm
Filed under: SSP News

Siddhartha School Project’s Executive Director, Scott Cronenweth, will be speaking about the organization and its mission on an hour-long radio program airing tomorrow, November 4, from 5-6PM Eastern time.

The station is WBOR (Bowdoin College radio in Brunswick, ME), and the show is “What’s Up,” a live cultural interview show with host Barbara Duff.

You can listen in online at

Thank you for your support of Siddhartha School!


Recent News from Leh-Ladakh
September 16, 2010, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Ladakh News | Tags: , , ,

Recently we received an e-mail and photos from Khen Rinpoche’s niece, Tashi. She expressed gratitude on behalf of everyone who has benefited from our donations. Thanks to Vivek and the International Fellowship of Buddhist Youth Ladakh (IFBYL), our efforts have helped hundreds of people of all ages, from remote villages to Choglamsar and Leh.

According to Tashi, the Indian government has announced the creation of a fund for the victims, and has promised to rebuild houses before the winter. But, she goes on to say: “This is India, where this kind of thing never gets done in time, and half the money disappears before it gets to the victims. These promises seem impossible because it’s already September…”

Tashi’s photos document very well the magnitude of the rebuilding process that Ladakhis are facing, and how much work remains to be done. I’ve added captions but the images need no explanation. Click on an image to see it full-size.

Thank you again, everyone, for your ongoing support.

Mud filling storefronts

Mud filling storefronts

Army crews clearing a main road

Army crews clearing a main road

Salvaging belongings

Salvaging belongings

Even major buildings were destroyed

Even major buildings were destroyed

This was part of someone's home

This was part of someone's home

Situation improving in Ladakh
September 5, 2010, 8:52 pm
Filed under: School News

Tsewang Norbu Vivek, International Secretary to Siddhartha School, sent the note that follows on September 3 to Joli Greene, President of the Siddhartha School Project board of directors. So far, friends of Siddhartha School in the US have donated over $6,000 in humanitarian aid to Ladakh. Vivek is channeling this money directly to the people who need it most, as his note describes:

Dear Joli,

Thank you so much for your kind donation. Well things are getting better now with a lot of reliefs coming in. We have so far covered 5 villages with a complete set of winter beddings with Rupees 2000/- cash [about US$60] to those who lost literally everything. On sunday we are providing fodder for two village animals as they lost all their fields both the fodder and wheat and barley fields. We are providing atleast 10 truck loads of fodder and also complete bed sets to all the flood victims.

At the school everything is going on fine. We have collected Rs. 40,250 from 5 days salaries of all the staff for the staff who were affected by the flood and about Rs. 15,000 from all the students to be distributed amongst all the students who were affected by the flood.

We are still planning to provide winter jackets to all those were affected by the flood. Hopefully by October we can do that.. Thanks once again for your kind generosity.

TN Vivek

Quick Update from Ladakh
August 19, 2010, 2:35 pm
Filed under: School News

Lisa Blake, a Siddhartha School Project board member who is in Ladakh, was finally able to get a phone call out this morning (August 19) US time. She is well and staying in Stok. School has reopened and, along with the children, Lisa is busy taking part in the digging-out. Those who know him will not be surprised to hear that Khen Rinpoche has been right in there with a shovel himself. One place where they helped out was the hospital in Leh, where mud fills many rooms to a depth of 4 feet. Lisa said the people are just digging the buildings out, by hand, bit by bit, all over the area.

Lisa described the devastation as “unimaginable and horrific” but said things were improving now that the Manali Road is mostly open and food, fuel, etc. can once again be trucked in. The Indian Army has been hard at work on the roads and bridges. Yet many areas are still cut-off from services. Communications are also slowly improving so we hope to have more news to share soon. From across the valley in Stok, Lisa watched the nighttime storm that caused the flood. She said it was “like a demon eating the mountains” — a supernatural force.

Rinpoche’s nephew Vivek is right on the front lines of aid coordination and distribution. Local groups are cooperating to make sure that all needs are covered. Vivek has received about 200,000 rupees (approximately $6,500) from the US, Switzerland and elsewhere. Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and support. We’ll do our best to keep you informed.

How to Send Humanitarian Aid to Ladakh
August 12, 2010, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Hi again, everyone — Joli Greene, President of Siddhartha School Project, has come up with a great way to make it easy to send money to Ladakh — and save the $35 fee per transaction.

Joli will act as the contact person for wiring money. She’ll record and acknowledge each donation and send them to Vivek weekly. To don…ate, send checks made out to “Joli Greene” or “cash.” Please note on your check that it’s for “Ladakh Aid.” Mail to: Joli Greene, 9 Frost Brook Lane, Freeport, ME 04032-6601. E-mail questions to

Every donation counts and no donation is too small. Thank you so much for your support!

These donations are not tax-deductible in the US no matter how you send them, so you’re not losing anything by going through Joli, and you’re saving considerable money and time.

For information from Vivek, including a description of his efforts and funds raised to date, copy this link into your browser:

Dust Storm Tears Roof Off Nursery Class Building
June 4, 2010, 2:13 pm
Filed under: School News

On Thursday, May 27 — Buddha Purnima Day — a powerful dust storm tore the roof completely off Siddhartha School’s nursery class building. Thankfully, because of the holiday school was not in session and no one was hurt. The damage is extensive as you can see in the photo.

Damage to the nursery class building is extensive.

Extensive damage to Siddhartha School's nursery class building

The walls of the building are damaged and the roof is a total loss. We should know soon what the cost of repairs will be, and will post more info here as it comes to us from Ladakh.

At Khen Rinpoche’s request, Siddhartha School Project is alerting as many of our friends as possible about the situation. We will be most grateful for any donations to help with these emergency repairs. A special Donate button on the Siddhartha School Project home page ( allows you to conveniently make a secure PayPal donation that will be earmarked automatically for the repair effort.


Notes on Government School Education in Ladakh
May 21, 2010, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Education in Ladakh | Tags: , ,

Due to its geographic isolation, sparse population and other factors, education in Ladakh has long been problematic. Traditionally, formal education was available only in the monasteries. Monks learned Tibetan in order to read the sacred texts.

Right up through the 1990s literacy was very low across the region, for both men and women. (Today it’s about 60% overall.) Indian government schools at that time had enormous shortcomings. Teachers had little training, and taught mainly through rote memorization. Teachers were rotated to new assignments every two years, which often left them feeling demoralized and far from home in remote Ladakhi villages. Often they would simply not show up to teach.

A further problem was the absence of community participation in education. Local people weren’t familiar with how schools operated, and could offer little support to teachers or students.

Perhaps worst of all, students were taught in Urdu up to 8th grade, and then suddenly switched to English for grades 9 and 10 (the end of compulsory education in India). The result was semi-literacy in two “foreign” languages and complete illiteracy in Ladakhi.

The all-important Jammu & Kashmir state matriculation exam is given in English, and most students couldn’t express what they knew well enough to pass. Failure rates for Ladakhi students from government schools averaged over 90%. All those who failed were denied higher education, and with it access to government jobs and other gainful employment.

Today, thanks to educational reforms such as SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, begun in 1988), children in government schools begin studying English in the primary grades, using Ladakhi/English storybooks and all-English textbooks, along with games and posters, all with culturally appropriate images and references. Teachers are much better trained and community involvement is greater. Subject texts in Ladakhi are still lacking, in part because there is no standard, written form of colloquial Ladakhi (often called Bodhic).

Indian government schools are distributed throughout Ladakh, but two-thirds of them provide only a primary school education (through grade 6). Only about 65% of Ladakhi children attend school regularly, and absenteeism among both teachers and students is still high. Children of nomad families face particular challenges attending government schools.

Among those comparatively few children who stay in government schools all the way through grade 10, the pass rate on the state exam has risen as high as 50% in Leh District (it is lower in Kargil District). More recently, however, the pass rate has once again dropped below 30%. Even among those who pass and go on to intermediate college (grades 11 and 12) only about half manage to qualify for college. On the bright side, there is now a government degree college in Leh, so Ladakhi students need not leave Ladakh to pursue higher education.

In a future post I’ll relate this topic to private school education in Ladakh, and to the curriculum at Siddhartha School.

For more information: