17000 ft, founded by die-hard trekkers, is a not-for-profit organization that aims to improve lives of people living in very remote villages, in areas that lie isolated and forgotten due to difficulties posed by tough terrain. Their Voluntourist programme connects committed travellers to remote villages where they can contribute, even while on vacation.
17000 ft developed a map-based software called MapMyShool, which places each remote school on a travel map of Ladakh, along with details such as the number of students (including the boy-girl ratio), the requirements of these schools (libraries, playgrounds, books, furniture etc), among a host of other things, encouraging trekkers and travelers to extend their stay and contribute to the needs of these rural schools.
A crowd-sourced software platform that captures critical resource requirements of 963 schools, MapMySchool is also meant to help plan interventions by 17000 ft and the local administration in remote schools.
17000 ft’s flagship programme, inspired by Akshara Foundation’s Karnataka Learning Partnership’s school mapping, has information on each and every school of Leh and Kargil Districts of Ladakh along with their interventions and needs. This platform also allows travelers and visitors to share their experiences for the world to see.
Sujata Sahu, a founder, said that there are few villages in the area that are known as these are areas that trekkers pass by.
“There are so many villages with schools that nobody knows about–not the trekkers, not even the locals. MapMySchool, which was launched just a few months ago, aims to not just make these schools visible to gain tourist volunteers, but also local aid,” she said. “The platform has a volunteer dashboard where those who have helped at these schools share their experiences–we have had about 200 volunteers now.”
MapMySchool has already begun to show impact.
“Just six months after setting up, we have been able to set up two playgrounds and libraries each with help from MapMySchool,” Sahu said.
“There are basically three objectives of MapMySchool: It s a window for potential donors to make an informed decision, a platform for trekkers and locals to contribute to the schools and share their stories online, and taking the basic programme of the platform and use it to form similar databases for other requirements,” she said.
Sahu explains the third objective: “For example, we’re set to start off a livelihood project soon. We can take the basic programme of MapMySchool and map areas, giving information about what crop grows best, or what products can be manufactured best in a particular area, what the requirements of that area are to grow that crop or manufacture that product successfully and provide market access to thee areas by displaying the products available. It will basically be the bridge that connects the outside world to the remote villages. And this is just one way. The possibilities of using this programme are endless.”
All images courtesy 17000 ft.