The Tanpo Winter School
The Tanpo Solar School Building Project is borne out of a collaboration between Sight to Sky and Csoma’s Room Foundation.
The partnership is a special one because it goes back to our roots, when our founder, Elizabeth volunteered as a teacher in Zangla village in Ladakh and realised the dire need for basic eye care. During that same trip, she met Balazs Irmias, an architect and conservationist, who also saw the need for solar schools in the village due to the harsh winters in the area.
In 2016, the teachers of the local school in the neighbouring village of Tanpo requested for a small solar school building warm enough for the students to study in during winter. Located in the rural Zanskar valley of Ladakh, Tanpo is a small hamlet of 30 homes dependent on farming. In winter, the village is only accessible via the Chadar frozen ice trek, and children have to walk along the frozen river to reach the main city of Leh. There is no other access to another school for the children.
Sight to Sky agreed to fund 100% of the project with the help of our donors. Building a school is aligned to our vision to invest in the local communities where we provide eye care. We also saw the potential to use the winter school as a future base for our eye clinic operations in the high need area of Zanskar, where 98% of the villagers are exposed to harsh UV rays due to their farming work.
With the expertise of the Csoma Room Foundation, we designed and built a passive heated school for winter use. The building has a modular structure with capacity for expansion with an open source design. The concept of zero energy construction is made possible with the use of a special trombe wall inside the school’s building that collects and stores the energy of the sun during the day, and radiates heat during the night, keeping costs low. The school only uses locally sourced materials and labourers, to keep in line with the sustainability and ethics of both our organisations. For it’s sustainability and design, Tanpo School was nominated for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Rural Architecture.