Taktse International School
MI's Executive Director, Desa Van Laarhoven, travelling with friends including Sally Hunsdorfer of the Himalayan Project and Dickon Verey of Cambodian Living Arts! The group is currently in Nepal visiting the Himalayan Project and will soon be travelling to India to visit Taktse International School!
by Taktse Board member Sonam Wangdi Bhutia a.k.a. Lok Babu
I was educated at a village school. I fear that my English may not be adequate to express the heartfelt gratitude of the founders of Taktse International School to those who have given us so much support. Hopefully, the next generation of Taktse graduates will not suffer from this language handicap.
To begin with, I would like to give a background of the circumstances that led to the formation of Taktse. Sikkim is also known as Bayul Demojong, or Blessed Place. In olden times, people from other parts of the Himalayan region would walk for seven days to be blessed by visiting this sacred land. Others who couldn't afford this pilgrimage would take seven symbolic steps and pray for this land. It is believed that even if a person could not accumulate good merits in a lifetime, he or she would not go to the three lower realms after setting foot in this holy land.
In 1994, an initiation and empowerment ceremony called Zhachen Phue Druk Ong/Lung was organized by the monks of Pemayangtse Monastery in West Sikkim, and presided over by H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche of Chorten Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim. Some of us, who years later would found Taktse, attended this Ong/Lung. On the first night, in keeping with tradition, we went to pay our respects to the elderly Head Monk, Dorjee Lopen. In the course of our meeting, Dorjee Lopen expressed his grief and sadness with his inability to halt the Rathong Chu hydroelectric dam project. He told us that this project would cause mass destruction of flora, fauna and the environment. Moreover, as predicted in the Nyesol, if this land’s sanctity were desecrated, then the whole universe would be affected. There would be natural calamities such as landslides, earthquakes, floods, forest fires and epidemics. Dorjee Lopen told us that since we had received modern education, and also had a bit of traditional upbringing, it was up to us to protect this land.
The next day Dorjee Lopen breathed his last. We felt obligated to carry on his work, so we organized ourselves under the name of Concerned Citizens of Sikkim to stop the dam.
Our protest began with Mr. Sonam Paljor Denjongpa undertaking a 28-day hunger strike, followed by a mass protest against the dam by both monks and lay people. We argued our case in both the high court of Sikkim and all the way to the Supreme Court in Delhi. In the end, the Government of Sikkim closed down the project.
In 1999, under the guidance of H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche, our group took up the task of organizing and performing Lama Gongdue Drupchen, an important Shapten (prayer for peace, healing and protection) for Sikkim and the universe, which is ongoing to this day.
In 2000, the Government of Sikkim granted permission to an Austrian group to scale Mount Khangchendzonga, our guardian deity. In order to stop the desecration of our sacred mountain, we approached the Government and the Austrian climbers, but failed to convince them to call off their climb. We resorted to performing Kongso (invoking deities and offering). As a result, avalanches and continuous bad weather forced the climbers to give up their quest.
In 2001, we managed to record two cassettes of Denzong Sunglo (traditional songs) to prevent these songs from vanishing. We are still gathering more songs to record.
From 2002-2004, our group, with funds from the Sikkim Government and guidance from our teacher H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche, undertook construction of the 135-foot Guru Rinpoche statue at Samdruptse, South Sikkim.
Seeing how many government modernization projects have affected the people here, by way of massive damage to the environment, increase in drug abuse, and loss of irreplaceable traditional values, we again got to thinking, and thus decided that a school might help solve many of these problems. We felt that in this way we could teach the next generation to respect and uphold traditional values, which are gradually being lost, as well as to cope effectively with the modern world. This aspiration led to the founding of the Taktse International School.
In the beginning, the school focused on taking care of basic needs like helping the children with their homework, washing their faces, and making their tiffin (lunch), thereby avoiding junk food which is detrimental to their health. We provided these services at an affordable price, so that parents could send their children to our school. The school is located in a pollution-free environment, which will go a long way toward bettering their health.
Our intention is not making money. Whatever money comes in is used for improving the school, providing more facilities to the teachers and staff, and creating a joyful educational experience for the students. We also want to provide scholarships for destitute children, regardless of tribe, caste or creed, so each student is valued equally.
At Taktse, all races and religions coexist together, respecting and learning from each other in harmony.
Another focus is the environment. The children learn to live simply, use resources wisely and nurture the environment by planting trees, recycling, etc.
By concentrating on these values, our school is different from other schools in the region, and offers something unique and beneficial.
It has been seven years since the school was founded. We now have 169 students from kindergarten to grade XI, 27 teachers, 3 assistant teachers, 8 administrative staff, 4 hostel staff, 8 kitchen staff, 2 security guards, 5 drivers, 5 estate staff, 3 janitors, a librarian, and an electrician. Our principal, Mr. Pintso Lauenstein-Denjongpa, is a Harvard graduate.
Taktse’s farm has 11 cows and a calf, and vegetable gardens that provide the school with fresh produce.
The school has a soccer ﬁeld, a basketball court, a volleyball court, and a children's playground. An exciting and sorely needed new Annex Building is under construction.
As H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche keeps insisting, we meet here on earth not by accident, but by our past Karmic connection. We are very grateful for your help. Our school would not be possible without all the selfless contributors, and volunteers who have spent their precious time with us here at Taktse. We benefit from your wisdom and blessing as we educate our children with the hope of making Taktse a model of education for the whole world to share. You are planting good seeds for the future of this universe.
On behalf of the Board and myself, I wish god’s choicest blessings on each one of you and your families.
Check out the "Thank You" Edition of the Taktse UPDATE e-newsletter:
Here are some highlights of the newsletter:
• Read the history of the school by Lok Babu, one of Taktse's founding Board members.
• View a three-page photo collage of the school's wonderful volunteers.
• Check out a spectacular time-lapse video of sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga.
• Learn the stories of two teachers and three students visit in America.
• The generous 2012 donor list can be found on the last page.
Taktse International School is pleased to announce the public launch of its $1.2 million Capital Campaign. We will use these funds to construct a new building that will double the school’s physical capacity. More important than bricks and mortar, however, is the opportunity to achieve the vision of Taktseʼs founders – to create a model school and community capable of producing the compassionate and ethical leaders that Sikkim, as a developing society in transition, so desperately needs.
Taktse embraces an education based on critical thinking, rather than rote learning as is typical in many Indian schools. We pride ourselves on training teachers from the local population, both on-site and through 6-week visits to observe progressive U.S. schools and teaching methods. Our goal is to develop an educational program than can be replicated throughout Sikkim and other Indian states.