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Solar-Powered Internet Access to Support Thangka Painting Project

Region: Nepal, South and Southeast Asia
Author: Himalayan Light Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal
Consortium Member: The Himalayan Light Foundation (HLF)
Status: Needs Funding Budget: $29972 Collected: $0 Needs: $29972
Goal: to establish sustainable income generating capacity, through production and sales of traditional Buddhist artwork;and
through the installation and use of solar power, to provide long-term benefits for human health and the environment
Comment: This is a creative international partnership between the Nepalese village community, Himalayan Light Foundation which provides solar power, the Virtual Foundation - Japan, and the Virtual Foundation - USA.


Project Goals

This project's long term goal is to develop sustainable and culturally appropriate economic activity in this remote region of Nepal. The elements include:

Funding of this project will enable the Thangka Painting School and Buddha Darshan Club to take full advantage of the offer of Virtual Foundation-Japan to provide internet access to potential buyers of the artwork. This will connect the artisans with potential customers through posting their work on their website, and thus help them to earn good prices for their paintings, selling to national and international buyers.

Long-term benefits include:

Background Information

The Thangka Painting School in Kavre, Nepal trains villagers living in this remote area in the painting of these unique artforms. Thus it is preserving the indigenous tradition of Thangka painting in its correct form, whilst simultaneously creating a vital source of income for the village dwellers. The School re-opened in December 2000 with funding and management from Himalayan Light Foundation and the Virtual Foundation - Japan. The painting instructor is from the Tsering Arts School of Boudha, Kathmandu. There is a great demand for this training; as soon as the school re-opened its doors, it was immediately over enrolled.

Health and Environmental Impacts

The project not only aims to establish a sustainable income generating capacity in the area but also to use some of this income to introduce solar power, a sustainable and renewable source of lighting. In Kavre as elsewhere in rural Nepal, lighting is generally provided by burning kerosene lamps. This method of lighting is not only an expensive means of providing a very poor light source – it is also extremely damaging to health. As kerosene burns it releases a mix of sooty particulates and carcinogenic gases into the room. (The World Health Organisation estimates that a day’s exposure to a kerosene lamp is equivalent to smoking two packets of cigarettes.)

Interim Funding of Thangka Painting Classes

When the school reopened demand for places was extremely high. Twice the number of students that were originally budgeted for became enrolled putting a great strain on already limited resources – particularly the teacher’s workload and the availability of art materials. Current funding will allow the school to stay open for a further 10 months. An additional 18 months funding are now sought to continue the program. This interim fund will work as follows: The students have started sketching Buddha faces in their last six months of intensive training. They further need to go for another year. This period will enable some portion of promising students to learn and practice the art until they are able to produce a student level saleable Thangka. In this way, the project will move ahead towards becoming self-supporting.

Satellite Uplink - Direct Access to Buyers

The Virtual Foundation - Japan has offered the addition of a satellite uplink for the school so that the Nepalese artists' works will have direct and speedy access to the Japanese market. VF - Japan has also offered a translation facility that will give Japanese people the ability to write a letter to the Nepali artists in Japanese, and have the letter translated on the spot by the field representative. The answer follows the same route, in reverse.

By enabling contact and communication between potential buyers and the villagers, art works can be sold and funds realized even in remote areas. The Japan VF has also agreed to establish an escrow account held by Himalayan Light Foundation, which will enable funds to be released to village artists as soon as proof of shipping the goods to Japan has been evidenced by Himalayan Light Foundation staff.

The Virtual Foundation - Japan is an independent partner of the Virtual Foundation. Both organizations work hand-in-hand to further their missions of epowering communities globally, through creative international projects. For more information on the VF-Japan and its many achievements to date, see its webpage.

Increasing Opportunities for Rural Women

As in most rural areas in Nepal, there is a particular need to empower women. The school directly addresses this need as 15 of the 35 students currently enrolled are women. After three years training, these women will be able to competently paint a student level Thangka for sale to tourist markets. This enables them to contribute to their household finances and to create for themselves an economically viable and culturally significant role, outside the subsistence drudgery of hard work in the fields and maintenance of the home.

Summary

To fulfil its objectives the project requires funds for the following elements:

Budget
Solar Photovoltaic System
100 Watt Solar Home System $905.46
Installation $135
Art Materials ($106.52/ month x 18) $1,917.36
Internet Access to Buyers
Phone line for local Nepal use (additional to satellite uplink) $665.78
Computer (laptop) $2,063.91
Digital camera and software (to place images onto the computer to send to Japan and other international buyers) $998.67
Staff:
Thangka painting teacher ($266.31/ month x 18) $4,793.58
Secretary ($93.21 / month x 18) $1,677.78
Project coordinator ($266.31/ month x 18) $4,793.58
Accountant ($133.15/ month x 18) $2,396.70
Field representative ($106.52/ month x 18) $1,917.36
Office and accomodations
Beds, bedding ($79.89/set x 8) $639.12
Toilet facilities (two room) $665.78
Other Costs
Market research and Web site development $1,997.34
Porter for transport of art materials and Thangkas to and from road head ($26.63/ month x 18) $479.89
Visitors and other expenses (4 times) $1,200
Sub-total $27,247
Virtual Foundation administrative costs$2,725
Total Requested for Project$29,972
Other Contributions
Himalayan Light Foundation - Nepal: inputs via Solar sisters $3,000
Value of offer from Virtual Foundation - Japan (approx.) $14,000
Total project cost after leveraging $44,248