Sonam Wangchuk spoke on October 29th at the St. Johnsbury Masonic Temple as part of the Museum’s William Eddy Lecture Series. His story and his innovative approaches to improving the livelihoods and education of communities in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh inspired his captive Vermont audience to think about creating simple solutions to complex problems.
The William Eddy Lecture Series of the Fairbanks Museum invites innovators and creators to challenge our ways of viewing the world. This speaker has proven that a fresh approach to issues that appear intractable can lead to revolutionary outcomes.
Sonam Wangchuk wants to move mountains. Engineer and educational reform advocate, his invention of the Ice Stupa artificial glacier was a breakthrough in mountain regions facing crisis because of fast-melting glaciers. He inspires, innovates, and sees opportunity where others see obstacles. Sonam Wangchuk will speak about “Innovation amidst Adversities: Social and technical innovation to improve life through education in trans-Himalayan deserts”
Sonam Wangchuk has been honored with The Rolex Award for Enterprise 2016, Terra Award 2016 for World’s Best Earth Buildings, UNESCO Chair for Earth Architecture for India, and CNN “Real Heroes” Award.
About Sonam Wangchuk
Sonam Wangchuk was born in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir India. In 1988, just after he finished his engineering studies, he founded Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). In 1994, he was instrumental in the launch of Operation New Hope, a collaboration of government, village communities and civil society to bring reforms in the government schools system. The program involved formation of Village Education Committees to take ownership of state schools, training of teachers in child friendly ways and rewriting and publishing localized text books for Ladakh. As a result matriculation rose from 5% to 55% in seven years, and it stands at and 75% today.
For students who still failed in their state exams, he founded the SECMOL Alternative School Campus where the admission criteria is failure in exams. With the supportive and creative environment at the school, the so-called failures have excelled in their chosen fields and risen to international acclaim as entrepreneurs, film makers, politicians, teachers and more.
As an engineer Sonam Wangchuk has been teaching innovation at the SECMOL Alternative School, where together with the students he designed and built solar heated buildings that are low cost, made of earth/mud and maintain comfortable even temperatures through long and frigid Himalayan winters.
In order to solve the water crisis facing mountain regions due to climate change and fast melting glaciers he invented the Ice Stupa artificial glacier, which stores the wasting stream waters in winter in the form of giant ice cones or stupas and releases the water in late spring as they melt… just when farmers need water.
The William Eddy Lecture Series was established in 2010 by Bill and Pam Eddy to challenge the ways we think about our place in the world by bringing nationally-known speakers to Vermont. Themes for this series have focused on creativity, communication, society and natural history. Each presentation has sparked discussion, reflection and a chance to re-imagine our habits of thinking.
Learn more about the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives here
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