Since the arrival of late Toni Hagen in 1950s, thousands of Swiss citizens visited Nepal as trekker, mountaineer, UN employer or backpacker. However, few Swiss visitors were attached so much with their heart in Nepal that they became a part of the Nepalese society and part of Nepal’s economic and social transformation.
Sonngard Trindler is one of them. Even if many Nepalese do not know how Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo look like, Swiss citizen Trindler visited these remote parts of Nepal several times in the last two decades. Her mission was to educate the children of two remote areas of Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo.
By establishing an NGO, Schulverein Lo-Manthang in Switzerland, she united all the like minded Swiss who wanted to contribute funds to educate children of upper Mustang and Dolpo region. She travelled over a dozen times in Nepal, visiting the remote Lo Manthang and Upper Dolpo for the project supported by her charity.
“After walking almost a week to reach upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo, I feel physically tired. However, my happiest moment comes when I see the poor girls and boys going to school carrying books. Education is the future of children,” said Sonngard Trindler president of the Schulverein Lo-Manthang, a small, non-profit-association with the purpose to offer a basic education to children and teenagers in the remote mountain areas of Nepal.
Upper Mustang attracted her when she visited the place in 1993. While traveling to the region, she found the children roaming here and there without schools. After she returned to Switzerland, she decided to take some initiatives to help the children of Upper Mustang. Later on she moved to Upper Dolpo.
“When I paid a visit to Lo Manthang a decade ago, I saw a lot of children deprived of education and health. The hardship faced by the children of both the regions inspired me to take certain steps to improve their livelihood,” said Sonngard Trindler.
The association links the sponsors and donors over here with the projects in Mustang and Dolpo. In addition, the association informs about the progress of the projects, looks after an efficient and transparent use of the funds, enables a continuous support by a broad membership and addresses new potential members.
The donations are employed directly to the beneficiaries in a nearly full extent as the committee of the association works gratuitously. The association is accredited as a non-profit organization.
As the illiteracy rate in Mustang is very high, particularly among women, which is up to 70%, education is desperately needed. “A solution is made difficult by the fact that the majority of the population is Buddhist and therefore speaks Tibetan while the official teachers are Nepali-speaking Hindus. As a consequence, many parents don’t send their children to schools. The concerns about losing their own language and cultural identity is not without reason,” said Sonngard Trindler
“The situation is even more difficult in Dolpo. The region belongs to the most remote areas of the world and is only accessible by crossing passes of 5,000 m of altitude. Official state schools are virtually nonexistent. There are only a few private schools. For that reason, the association supports official schools that were founded based on the initiative of the local population, which enables the children to receive an education according to their own culture.”
They also support the Monastic schools. “We have supported the monastic school for boys: Tsechhen Shedrub Ling Mon Gon Lobdra in Lo-Manthang, the monastic school for girls: Tsunmai Lobdra in Tsarang, and the co-educational primary school in Namdo Upper Dolpo,” said Sonngard Trindler,who came to Nepal In March with a group of other Swiss citizens who have been supporting the project.
In a school in Nomado Upper Dolpo, there are over 65 boys and girls in the coeducational school in Namdo. The school works on semi-private model as two of the teachers for Nepalese language studies are paid by the government. The children learn three languages Nepali, English and Tibetan. The students are also taught mathematics, social science and culture. Similarly, there are two different convent schools for boys and girls in Lo-Manthang, Mustang.
Although Nepal’s state policies and laws are not friendly to this kind of charity work and the officials discourage these people by applying various restrictions, the mission of Sonngard Trindler to support Nepalese people living in the remote parts of Nepal continues. No matter where she comes from, her dedication to the cause of education in the Himalayan region deserves appreciation.