In the fall of 2011 the children and staff at Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community undertook two significant projects to improve the campus: stonework in front of the school and family buildings, and installing a solar electric fence to keep roaming cattle out of the vegetable gardens.
ELECTRIC FENCE: There is a fair amount of room on the site to grow vegetables that can supplement the community’s diet and reduce the food that must be bought in Assam and transported to the school at considerable cost. A problem, however, was that wandering cows could decimate a garden in one night. The solution was to try to keep them out with an encircling solar-electric fence. As Jerry Zadow began working on this project, several of the children and staff came and took the tools from him and insisted on being part of the work crew. The energy and curiosity of the children was infectious, and more gathered to help. This became a teaching moment and Jerry and the all-capable Ngawang (campus manager, clinic director) took the opportunity to discuss solar electricity, battery backup, basic wiring, insulation and grounding.
STONEWORK: The second project was to install pavers to direct rainwater runoff away from the buildings, preventing the foundations from being undercut, and to dress up the front of the school buildings. Gatsal is surrounded by great slabs of thick, uncut stone. The ama las, Lobsang, the Ngawang and Dorjee Lama (samurai driver) all proved themselves artisans in stone, first splitting the great slabs into a proper thickness, using hammers and wedges, and then carefully and laboriously cutting the split slabs into pavers using a small diamond-bladed cutoff saw. Thousands of pavers were cut, an exhausting and time-consuming business. The work was underway for a long time, but the project had a deadline: the fifth anniversary celebration of the Children’s Community, to which a number of important guests were invited.
As the stonecutting progressed, the work of digging, grading and preparing the area to be terraced in front of the school buildings began. Everybody went to work – children, teachers, staff, visitors, guests—to make the deadline. They finished the night before the fifth anniversary celebrations. The stone pavers, beautiful with lots of mica and grain, are a testament to the devotion of the community at the Garden of Love and Compassion.