September 2018

The Munsel-ling Laundry Project


TRAS is a long-time supporter of the Munsel-ling School in the Spiti Valley, in northern India, since it opened in 1996. This has included desks for classrooms and greenhouses for growing food during the long winters, as well as sponsorships to support the education of individual children, and more recently supporting post-secondary students through the TRAS Scholarship Fund.

Munsel-ling wrote to ask for TRAS’s support in building laundry facilities.

TRAS board member Dr. Videsh Kapoor visits Spiti regularly as part of her work with the UBC Global Health Initiative, and she was able to get a more detailed understanding of what the needs are. The key problem is water availability.

The population of the town of Spiti is only 200 people, while the school has up to 600 students. This leads to possible conflict over water usage.


Currently, the students have been using a gray-water pond to wash their clothes. This pond is also used by the villagers for irrigation. When the students use it to do laundry, the soap and grime often flow into the villagers’ fields, causing conflicts with the school.

Moreover, when the students are unable to clean their clothes, they can develop worrisome health issues including scabies.

The Munsel-ling school has four sources of water, including two surface springs and two wells. One of the wells supplies the hostels and the kitchen, the other is shared with the villagers.

Of the two surface sources, the “north source” is a government source, shared with the entire village, including farmers, and governed by traditional norms (more for old people, less for new people).

Irrigation channels

Finally, the “south source” is the target for the laundry project. It’s also a government source, but the villagers don’t use it. It connects to solar water heaters. Currently, there is no reservoir, so the water is wasted.

One question we had was where the water would come from in the winter. The two surface sources are not available in the winter, but the population of the school is also much smaller. (From mid-January to March, senior students continue studying in Dharamsala, and Munsel-ling has started sending teachers to villages to continue running mini-schools.)

TRAS agreed to fund the building of a large water storage tank to collect clean water from a surface spring which is not used by the villagers, two outdoor laundry stations and a soak pit to strain the soap and grime out of the water before it reaches the farmers fields. Construction in the Spiti Valley is limited to the few summer months, so Munsel-ling School forged ahead, and by the end of August the children were washing their clothes in the almost-completed facilities. They are simple but effective, and large enough to cope with the school population of over 400 children.

Funds needed for 2019: $17,695 of which $12,034 has been raised.

Fall 2018 Newsletter

Our fall newsletter is now available! TRAS is celebrating FIFTY-SIX – years of heartfelt, respectful support for the hardy, wonderful people living in the magnificent but harsh environment of the Himalayas! Click here to read the President’s Report, Scholarship Fund Update, Sponsorship Success Stories, and more.

CTA Nurses Vocational Training Project

Since 1995, TRAS has been supporting the training of nurses in Dharamsala, Northern India. In partnership with the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile), and with the full support of the Dalai Lama, TRAS’ longest ongoing project continues to improve the lives of many bright young women.

Each year, TRAS supports up to eight students who are studying for their general nursing (BSc Nursing) degrees. We remain in contact and monitor each of our students’ successes throughout the four-year study program and two-year internship. Training includes curative and preventative treatment, health education and traditional Tibetan medicine. We are proud to report that nearly every student that we have supported have graduated, with many then returning to their home towns to work.

Nearly all of our graduates have immediately found work in one of the seven hospitals, four health centres, or 43 clinics run by the Tibetan communities in India and Nepal. They have been able to enrich their lives through their new profession, and most importantly, give back to the community that is consistently in need of health care professionals. These young professionals have developed the skills and confidence required to make a real difference and positive impact in their communities.

Every year, students for all the Tibetan settlements can apply for the scholarship, and as each one graduates, she is replaced by a new bright young pupil. As an ongoing project, with no plans to end in the foreseeable future, TRAS has already helped well over 100 nurses, and we look forward to each new graduate!

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our eight scholarship students attended classes online.
They will return to in-person lectures in February and March 2021.

As frontline workers, many of them have already received their COVID-19 vaccines. Although some of their exams and graduation dates have been pushed back as a result of the pandemic, each of these young women is enjoying her studies and making new friends. In the words of one student, “[I am] humbled to receive this scholarship and would like to express my heartfelt thanks for your generosity … [it] will not go unappreciated.”

Funds needed for 2020/2021: $5,740 ($5,464 already raised. Thank you!)

2020-2021 Interim Report

UBC Himalaya Program


One of TRAS’s cherished local partners here in Vancouver, the UBC Himalaya Program, is about to begin a new academic year! Each year the program organizes a number of public events that focus on our shared interests in the Himalayan region.

Our connection to the UBC Himalaya Program is through Dr. Sara Shneiderman and Dr. Mark Turin, both members of the program’s steering committee. They have been key contacts for us – it’s through Sara and Mark that TRAS helped SFSS to rebuild 200 toilets in Dolakha following the 2015 earthquakes. They have also given public talks for TRAS, filled with valuable information and treasured insight from their many years of work in the Himalayas.


Dr. Sara Shneiderman’s research focuses on the relationships between political discourse, ritual action, and cross-border mobility in producing ethnic identities and shaping social transformation. She is currently involved in a number of projects that examine these aspects in the Himalayan region. Dr. Shneiderman began working in Nepal back in the late 1990s and has been continually involved since then.


Dr. Mark Turin is both an anthropologist and linguist and has studied language and cultural practices in the Himalayas since 1992. He has worked extensively in both preserving and documenting endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record. In eastern Nepal, and the Darjeeling district of India, Dr. Turin has worked hard at preserving and documenting the Thangmi language.


On September 24, the Himalaya Program will be holding an opening reception for a photo exhibit by Saori Ogura, a PhD student at UBC Forestry: “Life with the Forest in Sikkim.” The reception will be held from 5:00 – 7:00PM in Room 1221, in the Forest Sciences Centre, with the exhibit on show in the adjoining Atrium. You can find more information about the opening reception here.


For the UBC Himalaya’s complete “Welcome Back” email, see here. Please note that the courses described are primarily for UBC students. (It’s possible for non-UBC students to apply to take these courses – see Non-Degree Studies – but the deadlines were back in mid-June.)



Humla District

Rural Empowerment and Development Initiatives (READI) Nepal is a local NGO in the Humla district of Nepal. One of the poorest districts in the country, Humla struggles due to its remote location, lack of infrastructure, and the historical disregard for its population made up largely of the Dalit (untouchable) caste. There has been little government support throughout the years.


In 2011 TRAS and READI partnered  to create the READI hostel in Simikot. There, 20 underprivileged children from all castes have been brought together to be supported with the necessities required to be able to attend a well-regarded government school. The hostel also has its own teachers to support the children in their education, and READI’s workers help to meet the students’ healthcare needs. An additional ten children have returned home and attend local village schools now that their families can afford to do this. READI continues to monitor them.

In 2016, 10 children returned to live with their parents and are regularly monitored to ensure that they continue their education and are enjoying their successes. These children now attend a local public school and are still supported with the clothes and stationery that they need.


To show their gratitude, many families have begun donating firewood and cereals to help the hostel. Together, this creates a greater sense of community and reciprocity that empowers the families as well as their children. In addition to this, READI has also provided apple and apricot saplings to the families. These trees are now beginning to bear fruit, and the harvests are shared between the families and the hostel. This not only directly aids the hostel by reducing its reliance on food imports, but it has also empowered the families and created a new source of income. For instance, five families were able to start their own tea houses and apple processing businesses.

READI Nepal has extended its philosophy of cooperation to many other agencies, both government and private. This includes cooperation with the district health officer, to create the “Little Doctor” program, teaching basic first aid knowledge to the children. Similarly, the recent mayor of Simikot has expressed a great interest in the READI hostel, and plans to continue supporting their goals. READI has achieved more and more each year. We’ve included the major highlights of the 2017/18 annual report in our Spring 2018 Newsletter here.

We are proud to have witnessed READI Nepal’s flourishing that has brought education and agency to many of the most underprivileged in Humla. Furthermore, we look forward to their next promising steps with excitement, and wish them the best!

Read about their April 2020 to March 2021 challenges and achievements

Read their  half yearly progress report for Nov 2020

Donations needed for 2021 $18,700

The READI Hostel