The Children’s Homes Redevelopment Project was been split into two distinct phases; Phase 1 was successfully completed on 4 November 2014, providing accommodation for up to 60 boys. Phase 2, the majority of which was completed in November 2019, was centred around building the same standard accommodation for up to 40 girls. It also provides separate staff accommodation and much-needed social space for all the children. Construction is currently taking place (spring 2023) to provide a new kitchen, store and office plus accommodation for Pema Bhante; the monk in charge of the children’s homes.
Who is managing the project?
- Pema Bhante: Project Commissioner, Monk in charge of the children’s homes, and Secretary of the Kripasaran Buddhist Mission
- Raghavan Radhakriskhnan: Project Architect, RJA Design, Delhi
- Ranjeeta Jaiswal: Director, Sasheesh Prasad Design Studio, Darjeeling
- Ramesh Rasailly: Site Manager, Sasheesh Prasad Design Studio, Darjeeling
- Tejendra Brahmin: Structural engineer
Phase 1: The highs & lows of building in the Himalayas
Building in the foothills of the Himalayas comes with its fair share of problems. The site is stepped into the mountainside, which posed some pretty serious logistical issues and, as early excavation work revealed, it was pitted with massive boulders that had to be dug out by hand. Having to plan the building programme around monsoon season, as well as a series of strikes that took the entire workforce off site for several months, were just a couple of the obstacles that had to be overcome. But, after over two and a half years of phenomenally hard work by everyone involved, we proudly watched 60 boys file into their new home, and all that stress slipped away into nothingness. All that remained was a beautiful building, a true symbol of opportunity, and 60 fantastically wide smiles.
How much did Phase 1 cost?
The total project cost was £100,046. This figure includes project management, structural engineering and architect fees. The design team provided their services at cost.
£23,100 of the total cost went towards fitting out costs (£385 per boy).
DCT contributed £67,546 (67.5%), with Pema Bhante raising the balance of £32,500 (32.5%).
Phase 2: The girls’ previous home
Here are just a few photos illustrating the standard of accommodation that the girls previously lived in. The walls and floors suffered from damp ingress due to poor waterproofing, their only outside space faced an extremely congested and polluted road and was dominated by two large water tanks, and their bedroom was nothing more than a crawl space above the dining room. Having to sleep so close together, coupled with poor sanitary conditions in general, led to the perennial spread of scabies.
What works are included in Phase 2?
1. Girls’ accommodation:
- Beds for 40 girls arranged over two floors in a dormitory setup (bunk beds)
- Shared toilets and showers adjoining the dormitories
- Private sitting out areas on adjoining balconies
2. Staff accommodation:
- Sleeping accommodation for 4 female staff plus a shared bathroom, clothes drying area and sitting out area
- Sleeping accommodation for 4 male staff plus a shared bathroom, clothes drying area and sitting out area
3. Dining room / multi-purpose space for use by all children
4. Accommodation for Pema Bhante:
- Bedroom, dining / living room, bathroom and a small kitchen area
5. Other accommodation:
- Kitchen & store
- Prayer hall
- Office / meeting room
- Outside play space
How much will Phase 2 cost when completed?
We are working to a budget of £250,000 to complete the project, including furniture and fittings £112,000 of that cost is for the structural works.
Other site developments – working towards a sustainable water supply
It is probably a common misconception that, because the monsoon often brings torrential rains to the Himalayas, supplies of water must be plentiful all year round. Sadly, in Darjeeling this isn’t the case. Local infrastructure for collecting and distributing water has limited capacity and, in addition, for over half the year there is a prolonged dry season when little rain falls.
Buying water is very expensive. At the Children’s Home where funds are always stretched, priority has to be given to ensure enough water for drinking and cooking. A daily wash or shower for 100 children and young people is an unaffordable luxury. The redevelopment project has provided the opportunity to change this, allowing water to be harvested from the large roof area and stored in a new underground cistern.
These works were funded by individual donations as well as a special “10k for 10k” event which saw individuals, trustees and groups get together in sponsored walks, runs and cycle rides to cover 10km to help cover the £10,000 cost, all augmented by a grant from the United Nations Women’s Guild. The collection tank was completed in autumn 2022 and is awaiting the next rains!