For two weeks this past June, several members of the SEI family together with volunteers from San Juan College participated in a solar project in the Himalayas. In a continuation of the late SEI instructor Mike Sullivan’s humanitarian work on the Tibetan Plateau and throughout the world, SEI instructor Chris Brooks and San Juan College professor and longtime friend of Mike, Chris Strouthopoulos led the group. The volunteers raised $8,270 dollars to install a new PV system for the Student Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) school. A huge thanks is owed to all those in solar community and friends who made this all possible!
Situated in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir, India, SECMOL marries traditional Ladakhi culture with STEM education, experiential learning, animal husbandry, permaculture, natural building and renewable energy. Across the region and even India, its message has carried bringing tourists from Delhi and as far away as the states to spend time, learn, create and visit.
Each morning after the morning chai, volunteers were joined by several students from the school as the group worked on the system. Former SEI instructor Professor Carl Bickford led a group to install a new Outback Inverter with MPPT charge controller, complete with a new battery bank. SEI Spanish Instructor Pablo Hernández led AC wiring complete with the installation of a transfer switch for an existing generator. SEI contractor Gerald Espinosa helped led the wiring of the three arrays. And despite the other two chai breaks throughout the days, “high” tea at noon and chai before dinner, the project was completed with time to site see!
Following the system’s commissioning, Chris Strouthopoulos led a dedication in honor of Mike’s memory. There were stories told of his humility, his humor and his service to others the world over. And at a picturesque spot between the pole-mounted arrays with the Indus River below offering up a nice breeze, Pablo strung out Tibetan prayer flags.
The students who worked alongside the group to build the system presented what they learned and how the system functions before the rest of the school. The students then presented the group with the ceremonial “khata” scarf, a Tibetan symbol to represent the spirit of the giver, draped over parting guests.
In addition to the immersion into the SECMOL community, the group’s highlights included traversing the highest road in the world at 18,380 feet. The Khardung La pass as its known, took them to the Nubra Valley with views along the way into the Pakistani mountain range and Tibet-China. Following the palaces and monastaries of greater Leh, Ladakh, the group flew back to New Delhi for a brief trip to the Taj Mahal before there time in India came to an end.
As San Juan College’s Chris Strouthopoulos aptly put it while speaking to the school upon the group’s departure, “Thank you for making me happy.” Recounting psychologist’s findings on happiness, Chris paraphrased how an enduring and whole sense of happiness is found when we serve others, something the Ladakhi people have long known and practiced. In allowing the group to come and be guests of service, all were happy.