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Martin Luther King

Khen Rinpoche and Rosario Dawson, actress, pose with girls at the Heroes & Hearts Show at the Lower East Side Girls Club in NYC. The show, which opened September 14th closes this week. More on news about Siddhartha School’s collaboration here. Photo by Jane Stein.

“To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim.” – Martin Luther King

Dear Friends,

As the last few autumn leaves fall to the ground in New York and the first snows fall in Ladakh, I’m thinking about the warmth of your friendships. Together we continue to move Siddhartha School forward, helping its students reach their full potential. Your boundless generosity is not the activity of a curious tourist, but rather a loyal pilgrim seeking to appreciate and learn more about Ladkakhi culture, its children, its challenges.

And perhaps the biggest challenge faced by Siddhartha School is also its unique purpose, to keep its doors open to all Ladakhi children, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. Khen Rinpoche knows that he could raise the tuition to reflect the true cost of running the school, but the reality is it would price out the majority of the families we serve.

Parents come to the school seeking what every parent looks for—a sense of community in line with their values, and great teachers with an unfailing commitment to prepare their children for success in life. For some it is a great comfort to know their children can stay within the peaceful community of Stok, without heading into the city. And for many others from remote villages with failing public schools, it is a beacon of hope and a way out of a cycle of poverty.

Students like Tsewang Chuskit (right). A Siddhartha School graduate, She is now in senior at a top private high school in New York. Her mother, who herself never went to high school, took Chuskit on a pilgrimage across the Chang Tang plain to ask for her nine year old daughter’s enrollment as a student and boarder at Siddhartha School on scholarship, even though it would mean putting a great distance between them.

Thanks to you, Siddhartha School’s doors stay open to girls like Chuskit and her classmate, Stanzin Angmo who is wrapping up her senior year at North Yarmouth Academy in Maine. Both of these young women are making Siddhartha School proud, applying to US colleges such as Smith, Bates and Sara Lawrence. And thanks to you we’ve brought amenities to these children that they may not even have in their own homes, such as running water and computer facilities, and real options for higher education and career preparation.

Our students are excited to share their accomplishments and experiences with you, from exhibiting their art at the NYC premier showing of the Hero Project to learning about entrepreneurship from Ladakh’s successful fashion design team Jigmat Couture. Our students are inspired by the message of Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, that with educational opportunity, a child becomes a pilgrim, setting out to explore new ideas and change the world.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Laura Kozaitis
Executive Director
Siddhartha School Project
laura.kozaitis@ourssp.org

Help us keep Siddhartha School affordable for local families. Give to our Annual Fund for Tuition Aid.

Our most financially challenged students are sponsored in full through your kind support, and still others depend on our gifts to keep tuition affordable and in line with their incomes.

If you’d like to make a gift to our Annual Fund to keep tuition affordable for local families, you can make a secure, online, tax deductible gift in any amount. Or, consider sponsoring a child’s tuition for less than a dollar a day. Please give what you can.

All gifts are tax deductible and make a significant impact on improving the lives and future opportunities for the children we serve.

Siddhartha School Students Show Their Art in New York City: Reception Attracts Educators, Young People and Designers

Siddhartha School’s new friends from the Lower East Side Girls Club (LESGC) came out to support the show and view their work alongside that of other talented kids from Colorado and India. Special thanks to Lyn Pentecost, Executive Director of LESGC, and her team for hosting such a lovely event. Photo by Jane Stein.

The premier exhibition opening was attended by Khen Rinpoche, Rosario Dawson, LESGC executive director Lyn Pentacost, SSP Executive Director Laura Kozaitis, SSP board director Suzy Davis, and many Siddhartha School supporters in the New York City area.

Jill Pangallo, a NYC SSP volunteer, made this sweet video letter for the Siddhartha School students to enjoy. It was a great help in showing them the excitement of the NY opening and sharing with them just how their art has inspired young people in New York and Colorado to participate in the project. Thanks, Jill!

Special thanks to our sponsors Dick Blick Art Materials, the Lower East Side Girls Club, Victor Reyes, Amy King, Lisa Fox and her team at Lf8 , and a generous anonymous donor for this wonderful exhibition. Plans are in the works to bring the Hero Project tour to Pueblo, Colorado in April before the show travels to the Ladakh Arts and Media Organization (LAMO) Gallery in Old Leh, Ladakh in August 2016.

Siddhartha School is proud to be a cosponsor and cofounding organization in the Heroes Elevate Empathy Project. This project continues to grow as an international conversation through art and essays, about who inspires them and why, and shared among young people worldwide.

To learn more about the project and how you might bring the Hero Project to your community, email Laura.

Malala Yousafzai, a Siddhartha School Hero: Siddhartha student performs Malala’s Nobel Prize Speech at Elocution Contest, Ladakhi girls attend prescreening of He Named Me Malala in NYC.

Eighth grade student Sonam Angmo performed Malala’s Nobel Prize Speech at Elocution Contest attended by Ladakhi leaders. Click on the photo to watch her performance.

Tsewang Chuskit and Stanzin Dawa (Smith ’14, and a SSP New York volunteer) were delighted to attend a prescreening in late September of He Named Me Malala, at the Lower East Side Girls Club. The screening, arranged by SSP Board President Gary Jones and Fox Searchlight Pictures, was a wonderful experience for the diverse group of girls in attendance. Everyone was transfixed with Malala’s story, sparking many conversations in the post screening discussion.

Malala Yousafzai looms large in the hearts of Siddhartha girls for her bravery, eloquence, and unapologetic determination to make the education of girls an international right. The rivalry between India and Pakistan is among the world’s most intractable border disputes, and Ladakhis have been deeply affected by the disputed line of control. The voice of Malala, as a Pakistani girl, offers a powerful counter to the political struggles for regional control that are legitimized through discourses of religious purity, patriotism, and development.

Siddhartha School’s Distinguished Graduates: Upward and Onward

“The options available to me simply would not have been possible without the generous support of the many kind friends to Siddhartha School Project. You made my school years so memorable, and the possibilities for my future truly great.” –Stanzin Angmo, current senior at NYA in Maine.

Last year Stanzin Norboo, graduated from Siddhartha School as the first recipient of the Khen Rinpoche Fellowship, (underwritten by a generous gift from John Sparling). Norboo is saving his fellowship money for medical school, which he plans to enroll in next year. he is currently completing 11th grade at the Khuswant Chand Public School in Punjab, and making excellent marks.

Diskit Chorol, another distinguished Siddhartha graduate who received the Stanzin Angmo and Tsweang Chuskit Award for Academic Excellence (underwritten by a generous gift from the family of Miriam Gruenwald) is studying accounting in Leh. her aim is to become the first charter accountant in Ladakh’s history.

Stanzin Angmo, a scholarship student at North Yarmouth Academy in Maine is preparing her college applications for Smith, Mount Holyoke, Wheaton, and Bates, among others. She is on the honor roll and interested in returning to Ladakh as a gynecologist and public health advocate.

Tsewang Chuskit, our graduate on scholarship at the Rockland Country Day School is also on the honor roll and deep into her college essays for Smith, Sara Lawrence, Juniata, and Muhlenberg. Her aim is to become a doctor set on serving the remote areas of Ladakh from such as the Chang Tang region she hails from.

Join us in applauding our graduates who have real options and exciting opportunities ahead to make help steer Ladakh’s future and improve their communities.

“I am excited and a little nervous about what lies ahead, because I have choices today. I came from a small village in the Chang Tang, where very few girls get past high school. I will be applying to great schools in the USA for college and an excellent medical school back in India as well.” – Tsewang Chuskit, Siddhartha School graduate and current senior at RCDS in New York.

We congratulate Stanzin Norbu, Diskit Chorol, Tsewang Chuskit, and Stanzin Angmo for their hard work and dedication to the Siddhartha School as young leaders and rising stars in their community.

Construction Improvements Continue: Computer Lab, Additional Hand Washing Stations Added to Campus

Click on the top photo to watch this early September footage of the construction of the computer lab. Note the interior is now complete with the exception of painting and electrical fixtures.

The new Siddhartha School Computer Lab is nearing completion, and the construction team expects to have it finished before school lets out for winter break the first week in December. Once completed, this important facility will have 10 laptop computers, 10 desktop computers, and wifi. A group of generous Indian donors are funding the furniture purchases and interior finishing expenses for the lab (valued at $6,500 USD), leaving $9,350 USD in remaining funds needed to complete the project. Contact Laura if you’d like to help the school finish this project by making a special gift.

Once finished the new computer room will not have the power issues of the past, because the school now has its own electricity transformer and utility wiring. Solar power also continues to be used at the school whenever possible. However, we have found that our current solar power set up is not strong enough to provide the power for a computer lab alongside other needs at the school. The addition of the transformer and dedicated power lines for electricity also insures that the submersible pump for the school’s water can be operated without dependency on a diesel generator. Solar power enhancements are also being explored for updating existing solar technology, which was installed at the school about 20 years ago. A pro bono assessment to revamp our solar technology is currently underway, thanks to Jai Gupta of Delhi.

Major electricity enhancements: a new 25 KV Transformer was installed and 15 utility poles with wires were run from the transformer site to the school and hostel. This vital utility upgrade cost the school $8,580 USD.

The new toilet blocks 1 and 2 are complete. Ecologically sustainable composting toilets, 4 flush toilets, and hand washing stations have been installed.

The Water Project is officially complete! Rinpoche, the teachers and the children are so happy to have water running at the school. Susheel Kumar, our construction manager, is pleased to report all is running efficiently, with the installation of the electrical transformer, completion of all plumbing, and additional enhancements identified to improve sanitation for the children on a daily basis.

TOTAL budgeted cost of Water Project for the 2014 campaign: $49,020 USD

TOTAL Actual Expenditures incurred: $48,101 USD

BALANCE Remaining $919 USD

This $919 will be applied toward additional water enhancements identified in August 2015 for to improve sanitation and to benefit the children including:

♦ Adding an additional hand washing station for convenience near facility Toilet Block-II: $565 USD

♦ Putting an indoor plumbing sink in the Youth Hostel Kitchen: $405 USD

♦ Putting an indoor plumbing sink in the Nursery Room Kitchen: $405 USD

TOTAL actual expenditures for these additional expenses: $1,010 USD

GRAND TOTAL $50,121 USD for Actual Expenditures for the Water Project, including the above enhancements.

Less Balance applied: USD $919. Note that the Local Siddhartha School board will cover the remaining balance of $91 USD.

Heartfelt thanks to the GO International, Bob Langan and Sara Weber, and the SSP board for giving so generously to bring this dramatic improvement to the school.

Indian Group led by Shivani Gupta Brings Books to the School Library: Inspire Students to Read More Than Ever Before

Student poses with Principal Norla to receive her award for reading over 40 books this year. She is grateful to Mrs. Shivani Gupta for leading her second annual book drive in Delhi for the Siddhartha School; in this year alone, the drive brought in over 100 English and Hindi titles.

The Siddhartha School Library is perhaps the most adored part of the campus and the center for student life. Everyone speaks about how beautiful it is. What is more, at an award ceremony earlier this week for the students, the teachers acknowledged 4 girls who have reached a significant milestone—each had read read over 40 library books this year!

This accomplishment by the young readers would not have been possible without the support of a dedicated group of visitors from Delhi led by Mrs. Shivani Gupta. They continue to stock the library shelves with new books in English and Hindi for the children. This September they brought over 100 titles to the school; the titles were chosen in coordination with our librarian who identified what was needed to develop the holdings. They also brought board games, art supplies, and teaching aids for the faculty.

Khen Rinpoche and the staff of the school feel quite fortunate to have Mrs. Gupta and her friends helping the school with these English and Hindi books and materials.

Siddhartha Middle Schoolers Visit Design House and High Fashion Boutique Jigmat Couture:

Award Winning, Entrepreneurial Couple Speaks to Students About What It Takes to Start a Business and Create a Brand that Celebrates Ladakhi Culture

Students pose with Mr.Jigmat of the husband-wife design duo Jigmat Couture. They visited the design house last month.

Recently the Siddhartha School 7th and 8th grade classes went to the most talked about boutique in Leh town, owned and operated by a dynamic design couple, Mr. Jigmat and Mrs. Jimmie of Jigmat Couture. The goal was to expose students to a business that is at the forefront of fashion design in the Jammu and Kashmir state, and has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar. Students learned from Mr. Jigmat their story of studying fashion design in Delhi, opening their business in Ladakh, and developing a line of clothing that finds inspiration from Ladakh’s rich, cosmopolitan heritage. The clothes range from gorgeous traditional dress that is popular with local families ordering garments for weddings and related special events, to handsome, modern pieces that seamlessly blend Ladakhi textiles, silks, and trimming into thoroughly modern manifestations.

“Mr. Jigmat was very dashing and obviously a good person. I was much inspired by his thinking and a feeling came from my heart that I also need to do my best to revive my culture and create jobs for Ladakh.” – From an essay by an 8th grade student.

The students were especially inspired by the couple’s commitment to Ladakhi business development and job creation, as well as their passion for creating a beautiful, uniquely Ladakhi brand of clothing. The couple is creating a textile museum in the main bazaar of Leh slated to open sometime next year. This valuable addition to Ladakh’s museum culture will play a vital role in educating local and international visitors on the varieties of fabrics and techniques that characterize the rich history of Ladakhi textiles and the trade, as a part of the ancient silk routes and today’s emerging markets.

Students admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail in Jigmat Couture designs.

Our Teachers: Committed, Loving, and Always Learning

Teachers explored new methods: activity based learning, equal participation techniques, and child centered approaches, including learning through play, discussion based learning, sensory based methods, and ‘peer to peer’ approaches.

We are fortunate to have committed teachers at Siddhartha School, who are always striving to improve their craft. They believe that like their students, they should always be learning and exploring new methods and techniques.

Thanks to a generous gift from Ms. Jeanne Cosby, a teacher who was at the first graduation in 2007 and wanted to support the Siddhartha School teachers, the school held a three-day program focused on such topics as capacity building, teaching methods, and exchanging best practices for promoting a rich learning environment for the children.

In the spirit of collaboration and community building, Siddhartha School leadership invited local schools to send members of their teaching staff to join in the workshops. The program was was presided over by Mrs. Rinchen Angmo, the Principal Director of the Department of Indian Education and Training, and Principal Ishay Tundup of the Lamdon School, Leh and conducted by subject matter experts on the latest teaching methods.

Our Volunteers: Kind, Talented, and Dedicated.

Khen Rinpoche with our new volunteer, Miss Stanzin Dawa at the Heroes & Hearts Opening Reception in NYC. Stanzin is a 2014 Smith graduate from Ladakh currently living in Queens. We feel so fortunate to have her help with SSP activities. Photo by Jane Stein.

Siddhartha School Project would not be possible without the devoted service of our volunteers. We’d like to thank Laura Lewis, our digital media specialist in Austin and Jane Stein, our photographer in New York. We would not be able to tell the Siddhartha School Project story without the help of this kind and talented women. Later this month we will debut a complete redesign of our website site, a feat which would not have been possible without Laura’s direction. Look for more of Jane’s photographs there in the days to come.

We’d also like to thank Karen Macrae, Cynthia Col, Hillary Levin, Mer Stafford, Linnea Westerkam, Angela Hardison, Allyson Salazaar, and Jovi Geraci for their willingness to help with everything from proofing letters to preparing kindles with for the school library.

#GivingTuesday: A Great Day and A Great Way to Give to SSP!

What is #GivingTuesday? A daylong national effort on Tuesday, December 1 to help charities raise money online during the holiday shopping season. It can really make a difference. Last year, our first #GivingTuesday campaign raised over $60,000 in the first 48 hours of the campaign for critical updates to the Siddhartha School campus, such as new washrooms, indoor plumbing for the campus kitchen, and more. This year, we are focusing our efforts on bolstering the Siddhartha School’s scholarship fund, which provides tuition and tuition subsidies to the school’s most vulnerable families.

How You Can Help Siddhartha School Project Prepare for the Big Day:

♦&Consider becoming a social media ambassador for Siddhartha School Project’s campaign. We are looking for volunteers who use Facebook and Twitter to help us get the word out about a very special campaign to support the Siddhartha School. Please email us for details.

♦&Find out if you employer offers a matching gift program. Too busy? Email us your company name and a contact name. We can make an inquiry on your behalf.

♦&Talk about Siddhartha School with your friends and family. Let them know about our #GivingTuesday appeal for the Siddhartha School scholarship fund. Send us email addresses of friends who’d like to join our mailing list.

♦&Share our newsletter on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ by clicking the share button at the bottom of this page.

About Siddhartha School: Founded in 1993 by the esteemed Buddhist abbot Khen Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan, the school is a vital agent in moving a simple, peaceful culture into the 21st century with care and consideration for the ancient traditions of its people. Siddhartha School Project is 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated solely to raising the funds necessary to keep the school operating, growing and improving.

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