Sunday 8 October saw an early start to set off for Buriakhop in West Sikkim, which is the home of Sikkim Himalayan Academy (SHA). This was set up in 2002 by Dutch, English and Sikkimese volunteers, as a primary school with a substantial proportion of boarders. It caters for children disadvantaged by poverty and often difficult family circumstances, who would otherwise get little or no education. The school was paid for by the sponsors recruited by a Dutch trust and The Children of Sikkim (TCoS) in the UK. Unpaid volunteers came from many parts of the world to supplement the teaching staff. The day we arrived the school was preparing for its 20 year anniversary the following week.
Our support for SHA ended in 2013, when the Indian government enforced regulations preventing volunteering without a business visa, and transfers of money became impossible. Nevertheless, the school survived and then thrived on contributions from within India. TCoS and the Dutch trust concentrated on secondary education for the more able, going on to graduate and postgraduate studies.
Magi had not visited the school since 2012, so we were very much looking forward to seeing the Principal, GS Gurung, the staff and the children. On arrival we climbed the steps from the road to the school past a row of children and staff, each presenting the traditional Buddhist scarf or khata. Click on the video to get an idea of the welcome waiting for us. This was taken just before we arrived.
This was followed by welcoming ceremonies including speeches, lighting a candle of peace and cutting a cake. Some of the younger children performed a traditional dance.
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