Rumtek Monastery, Rumtek, Sikkim
23 September, 2016

As environmental destruction escalates around the world, the Himalayas have become increasingly vulnerable to natural disaster. Recognizing these conditions, in November of 2015, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa made the aspiration that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries reduce their risk for disaster while developing the skills to serve themselves and their communities in the case of catastrophe. In response to this vision, Khoryug organized a three day Regional Workshop on Disaster Management and Preparedness in Rumtek Monastery from the 21st to the 23rd of September. Thirty representatives from thirteen monasteries and nunneries in Sikkim and north West Bengal gathered at Rumtek to receive both theoretical and practical training on disaster management, including preparedness, response and recovery.

Khoryug has partnered with the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) to organize trainings for monasteries and nunneries so they may provide crucial education and relief to both their monastics as well as lay communities. Over the course of the three day workshop, trainers from NIDM provided the theoretical framework for designing a disaster management plan and guided participants as they developed a plan for their monastery or nunnery to reduce risk of disaster, respond effectively to disaster and recover swiftly.

 

During the first day of the workshop, NIDM Joint Direct Rajesh Kumar Singh presented on the significance of disaster risk management for monasteries and nunneries. He emphasized the importance of managing disaster risk so as to protect people as well as cultural heritage. Chrandrani Bandyopadhyay, NIDM Head of Training, then introduced workshop participants to the key concepts of disaster management that they would utilize as they developed plans for their monastery or nunnery.  G. C. Khanal, Joint Director of the the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA), joined the workshop to explain the environmental conditions of Sikkim and common natural disasters that afflict the region. Participants spent the afternoon learning again from Ms. Bandyopadhyay about assessing disaster risk and then began to assess the risk and conditions in their own monastery or nunnery. Participants, group by monastery or nunnery, then chose the most common disaster in their area and began developing a plan for preparedness, response and recovery.

The next two days of the workshop were largely dedicated to disaster management skills training. The Second Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force trained participants as well as local community members and schoolchildren in practical disaster response skills, including first aid, CPR and basic search and rescue. These skills are essential for a community such as Rumtek, which may be cut off from outside assistance during a disaster.

The workshop concluded with participants sharing their disaster management plans with other monasteries and nunneries and receiving feedback for improvement. During the closing ceremony Ms. Bandyopadhyay encouraged monastics to pursue implementation of their disaster management plans, explaining that “You are now beacons of light to show the way towards disaster management and relief.” Karma Chungyalpa, managing trustee of Kun Kyong Charitable Trust, further endorsed the workshop by noting that “Before when disaster struck we were not prepared to meet it. Now with this training we can best prepare our monasteries, nunneries and communities for any future disasters.”

 

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