eight days in shigar

On a gamble and a whim, and a deep-seated desire, I visited Shigar for a little over a week this July on my way back from Nagar Valley, where I had trekked to Rakaposhi base camp. To my utter amazement and delight, I found the teaching garden at Abruzzi Higher Secondary School blossoming to life. Sunflowers nodded in the sun, turnips were growing, kale had been grown from seed and was ready to be plucked and dressed into salad, peppers were growing, planters of marjoram and rosemary were in the courtyard. The grape arbor was being constructed and classes had been taking place in the garden, and a challenging design of a geodesic dome was underway. Volunteers from Karachi (Indus Valley School architecture students) and Islamabad were working on different aspects of the garden and the computer lab. Tahereh, had of course been working on the garden, with the students in a gardening class, for the past several months. And it showed. When I had left last year, after facilitating summer camp, I had not imagined returning so soon, much less to these wonders. The school now included grade 10, and had swelled to the size of roughly 140 students. The students were as sassy as ever, and decidedly less shy than last year.

On a visit to Skardu, someone asked me if I was still involved with the school. I nodded and said yes, and proudly spilled out the new developments, while mentioning that the school still lacked a boundary wall. The person turned to me and said, but then the school is far from complete, if there is no boundary wall, then you are nowhere near the final stage.

The boundary wall without which the garden and school property remained vulnerable was still not close to being constructed. Due to limited finances and meagre resources, the administration and body of governors running the school kept postponed the construction over and over.

Around this time we thought, why not do it ourselves? IF the school needs a wall, then the school must get its wall. IF the school community is committed to safeguarding the garden (fyi: during fall when the goats are left to graze, they can easily scale the low stone wall and enter the garden, eating up the burgeoning plants, saplings and vegetables), then they will find a way to raise the money. Each class pledged a specific amount and class monitors were assigned the task of collecting the money that the students were saving from their pocket money or Eid money. Following the class fund, we decided to request the parents to contribute to the fund, after which the board members would be asked for matching donations. As of now, we are in the middle of fundraising for extending the boundary wall of the school, to safeguard the teaching garden. I will soon be uploading videos of the pledges here.

I am now back in Lahore, growing mint in my garden, waiting for my nephew to come home so we can plant mango trees, and dreaming of Shigar.

(this post comes from Hira Nabi)

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