By Lauren Galvin, Zangskar Project Officer
Between the time of the tragic August floods in Ladakh until late October when I arrived in Leh, Gaden Relief raised nearly 5,500 Canadian dollars for the flood relief effort. I arrived in Leh to assess a number of possible NGOs after lengthy discussions between Josh Schrei, Conrad Richter, and Kim Gutschow who assessed which NGOs were doing flood relief work along the lines most suitable for future collaboration with Gaden Relief. These discussions identified four NGOs as potential recipients of Gaden Relief’s flood relief funds: the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL), the Ladakh Nuns’ Association (LNA), and Health Inc. While each of these NGOs were approached, it was essential to identify which NGOs would commit to writing a report outlining how funds would be used and whom would be a beneficiary of the funds, and submit a final project report for Gaden Relief accounting purposes that is essential for Gaden to continue its mission as a legal NGO in Canada.
Within two days of arriving in Leh, I met with representatives from three of the four NGOs. I first met Mr. Lobzang Rinchen, the president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) to explain that Gaden Relief had raised money for the flood relief effort and that LBA is a potential recipient of these funds if they provide Gaden with 1) a proposal detailing how they will spend the funds, for whom, and in what amounts and 2) a summary report to be submitted next year that would include the details of the actual way in which Gaden Relief’s funds were spent. Mr. Lobzang Rinchen then explained to me that the LBA will use those funds over an extended period of time for educational purposes, and not directly for the flood relief effort. The members of the LBA decided that foreign relief funds should first be collected and saved in their SBI bank account and disbursed only after the wave of immediate relief effort has subsided. According to the members of the LBA, using flood relief funds for education is a more effective and beneficial use of their funds. Additionally, Mr. Lobzang Rinchen informed me that the LBA cannot commit to providing Gaden Relief with a summary report next year because it would be impossible to determine to whom and in what amounts Gaden Relief’s funds were disbursed. He did assure me that Gaden Relief’s funds would be given to underprivileged children over a period of many years and used for no other purpose than education. It seemed that LBA would not be able to comply with Gaden Relief requirements.
I next met the president, vice president and secretary of the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL): Mrs. Tsering Kunzes, Mrs. Kunzes Drolma, and Ms. Wangmo, respectively. I posed similar questions as I had with the LBA: if WAL were to receive a portion of Gaden Relief’s flood relief donations, how would they use this money, to whom would the funds be distributed, and can WAL commit to writing up a summary report to be submitted next year? The members of the WAL expressed their excitement and enthusiasm towards receiving Gaden Relief funds in order to help their community, especially women in villages that have lost houses and fields. The WAL had already been engaged in the relief work in cooperation with a French NGO who had helped them purchase pressure cookers, blankets etc. for the victims of the floods. I explained to the WAL representatives that if they want to be the recipients of Gaden Relief flood relief funds, in this case they would have to personally disperse the funds to the victims and first think carefully about and determine who in their opinion would benefit the greatest from receiving these funds.
The WAL decided that they would like to distribute the money to villages in the Dha-Hanu and Domkhar areas of Ladakh, located approximately 163 km southwest of Leh proper and most severely affected by the floods. The WAL decided that up to 6 members of the WAL would take a 2-day trip out to these villages. The first day of their trip the members will assess who is in most need of the funding by inquiring into which individuals in these villages have or have not already received funding from the government or private associations, and by meeting the individuals that have lost loved ones, houses, and/or fields. The second day the WAL will actually distribute the funding. Rather than proportioning funds according to damage (that would be difficult to ascertain accurately in such a short visit), it was decided to distribute equal amounts of 5,000 IRs per household. The WAL felt that 5000 IRs was the most appropriate sum because the amount offers some relief also ensures that more than a few households receive some funds. Furthermore, the WAL will place the money into the hands of the women of the households and attain proper documentation with signatures and names of the households of those individuals who received funding. The women of the LWA will also take photos of the families and the damages occurred from those villagers receiving funding. Furthermore, the WAL agreed to provide Gaden Relief with a summary report in 2011 that will detail the names of the individuals who received funding, their village and household names, the amount distributed, as well as a more general assessment of the WAL’s experience.
Thirdly, I met was the president of the Ladakh Nuns’ association, Dr. Tsering Palmo, a renowned Tibetan medicine practitioner and the first nun to graduate from the prestigious Tibetan Medical Institute in Dharamsala. The LNA had compiled a detailed proposal on their website that explained in detail the LNA’s post-flood needs and costs of these projects. I met with Dr. Tsering Palmo personally in order to confirm which projects in particular the LNA and Gaden could commit to jointly and how LNA would need to submit next year a full summary report detailing the utilization of funds.
One of the most pressing need was for the LNA was their need to transport villagers from the devastated areas for treatment and a 3-day respite care program at the LNA compound. The LNA will need funding to purchase a greater supply (nearly tripled) of medicines to treat the victims of the floods. Dr. Palmo felt that the nuns ritual and amchi services could best help victims of the flood recover from the emotional and psychological impact of the traumas they had witnessed. The nuns were hoping to have their truck repaired so they could transport villagers to the compound and continue visiting the sick and old individuals in their community and treating them with traditional Tibetan medicines that are made by the nuns’ own hands. Dr. Palmo also assured me that the LNA will create for Gaden Relief a full summary report of the details of their medical project: who was treated (name and village name); where they were treated (whether at LNA or in the patient’s own home); for how many days they were treated; and the cost of each individual’s medical treatment.
The fourth representative who was to be contacted was the head of Health Inc, Cynthia Hunt. I was unable to reach Cynthia because she was out in the villages without cell phone service. By the time Cynthia returned to Leh, Gaden Relief had already decided to disburse funds to LNA and WAL and it was determined that Health Inc was likely to receive funding from its international donors. Cynthia offered to help mediate the donations in the Dha-Hanu and Domkhar areas of Ladakh where health Inc has worked in the past. Cynthia explained to me that there was much much relief work to be done in these remote areas far from the Leh valley where much of the relief work was concentrated. She agreed with the WAL’s decision to help victims in the Hanu and Domkhar; however Cynthia was unable to accompany the WAL members on their journey because she was due back in Canada a few days later.
I relayed all of the information I had gather from the representatives of these three NGOs—the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, The Ladakh Nun’s association, and The Ladakh Buddhist Association—to Conrad Richter, Kim Gutschow, and Josh Schrei. Gaden Relief held a board meeting in order to finalize the decisions concerning who receives flood relief funds, for what purpose, and in what amounts. Gaden Relief reported that two NGOs that were granted funding—the WAL and the LNA.
The WAL was granted 104, 210.88 Rs (2,485.42 CAD) to be used as follows: 6,770 Rs for transportation of 3-7 women to travel to villages and disburse funds; 1,500 IRs for food costs for women during that time; and the rest of the money to be disbursed directly in 5,000 Rs increments to households most affected by flood. The LNA was offered 125,509.4 K (2,986.75 CAD) to be used as follows: 20,000 IRs for fuel and food costs for flood victim treatment at nunnery; 60,000 IRs to purchase a supply of Tibetan medicines to treat the victims of the flood; and 45,500 IRs for down payment on their Maxi truck in which victims will be transported. On October 25, 2010, Gaden Relief wired funds to Ladakh and the total amount received after extracting the transfer fees was: 103,658 IRs for the WAL and 124,957 IRs for the LNA.
I met once again with President Tsering Kunzes of WAL and Dr. Tsering Palmo of the LNA to reinforce certain points namely the importance of a summary report in 2011 and a personal meeting with Gaden representatives (Lauren or Kim) next year to discuss how funds were disbursed. Secondly, I explained that the agreements signed by the representatives of each NGO commits and holds these representatives responsible for using the funds in ways outlined above. I left Ladakh for Delhi before the WAL went to Hanu and Domkhar villages, so I could not accompany the women as I would have liked. Before I left, LNA was just beginning to finalize their plans for their medical clinic but they had not yet started running the clinic. In the spring of 2011, I will visit with both LNA and WAL to record their experiences assisting victims of the floods. On a personal note, I want to thank all of the Gaden Relief donors for their incredible financial support, as well as Conrad Richter, Kim Gutschow and Josh Schrei for help in organizing the distribution of flood relief funds.