Tzombuk Lop-tha — We are building a school
9000 mud bricks
3000 rocks
24 large wooden crossbeams
300 small wooden crossbeams
4 doors
8 windows
1 gate
12 bamboo mats
20 sacks of cement



Tzombuk is located at 4,750 m above sea level in the Rongbuk Valley on the southern Tibetan plateau. In this small village at the foot of Mt. Everest — or Chomolungma, “Mother Goddess of the world”, as the Tibetans call their highest mountain — are 44 houses and one small Gompa (monastery). The people of Tzombuk raise herds of yak, sheep and goat for their livelihood. Most of the men are Yak-pas (Yakherders) who cross the Nangpa-La (the high pass) with their yak caravans to trade their wares with the Sherpas in the Khumbu Valley (Nepal).

„Mang-bo, mang-bo” — viele Kinder

About 120 children live in Tzombuk but they had no school and therefore no access to education because the nearest school in Chön Zom is a 4-hour walk away. Since children are needed to share in the workload of families, they could not attend the boarding school in Pasum. In the summer months, for two months at a time, the older kids drive the herds of sheep, goat and yak to the lower pastures in the neighbouring valleys. The younger children are helping in the household, carrying fresh water from the small river and collecting yak dung and dried shrubs for fire wood. The parents are able to pay the teachers’ salary but could not afford the cost for construction and furnishings of a village school. A local elementary school will ensure a better future for the children and preserve the knowledge of the Tibetan language.

Kassang — Yak-pa

As one of the village elders Kassang is in charge of the school project. The 42-year-old Yak-pa lives with his family in the centre of the village. Through his work as a “Sherpa” on expeditions (with Himalayan Experience Expeditions) to Mount Everest and Cho Oyu (8201m) Kassang enjoys a high standing in the village and the extra income allows him to care for his extended family. Kassang worked as a Yak-pa on our expedition in 1999 and stayed two months with us on the mountain. He is the only Yak-pa who stood on the summit of Chomolungma (in 2001).


In the spring of 2001 I travelled with Tom Wool, a photographer, through the Rongbuk Valley and was invited by Kassang and his family to Tzombuk. At night we sat together over yak-curry, tsampa and lots of butter tea and decided to build a school in Tzombuk. Tzang-bu and Tashi-Tzeba, Kassang’s two sons, were so excited about the idea that they went around the village the next day to count all the kids and ask in every house for help to build the school. Tom set the seal on our project by taking a picture of the “school-children-without-a-school”. Tzombuk School was built in the traditional style with three classrooms for 50—60 pupils and accommodation for two teachers. The families contributed their labour. All building material, furniture, text books and pencils were sponsored in collaboration with EcoHimal from the proceeds of my book and slide show presentations. The village community pays for the salary of the teachers.

Tzombuk Elementary School

Spring 2001 — Idea and planning

Autumn 2001 — Wood is ordered in Kharta

Spring 2002 — Pha-bung (mud bricks) are made and stones for the foundation walls collected

Spring 2002 — Building the school

Autumn 2002 — Opening of the school

Autumn 2007 — Installation of solar panels and lighting at the school

2009 — Plans are being made for a fourth class room

Thanks to Russell Brice who visits the school every spring (on his way to Mount Everest) and delivers the funds for repairs, more desks and chairs and supplies - and the donation and installation of solar panels and lighting.
Special thanks to all great sponsors of the Tzombuk school, the Realschule Puchheim, the ladies from the “Ladies Circle” Munich, the Volksbank Berlin, the Lions Club Passau and the team of the Camlog Sales Force for donating so generously towards the school project. And thanks to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits and Kari Kobler who visited Tzombuk on their drive to Everest BC and delivered new funds from donations and our book sales to the school.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to all donors!


© 2017 Helga Hengge. All rights reserved.