The ChakChok Project – Ladakh
“All change starts with a distant rumble at the grassroots level” — Tom Coburn.
Dr.Nordan and Jigmet witnessed firsthand the consequences of inadequate health knowledge. Preventable diseases and health issues plagued their community, and they knew something had to be done. Driven by a shared passion to bring about change, they decided to embark on a mission to provide health education to the people of Ladakh.
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The influence of packaged food, the plastic wrappers and bottles adding to the waste management problems , the effect of this on the health, low awareness levels and rise in various diseases led them to start these awareness workshops by visiting schools and colleges. Local communities started inviting them. Change was seen at the grassroot level in their daily habits.
They first met during a two day festival on Barley in Ladakh last year ( September 2017-18). It was organized by an organization with which Jigmet have been working for the past many years. His role in the organization was to take volunteers to help villagers during harvesting season in Ladakh. During those visits, he witnessed that dietary habits of villagers were shifting toward consuming more of imported packaged foods. Their fields and villages were littered with plastic wrappers and bottles. He realized that villagers had hardly any knowledge about the impact of those plastics packaging materials on our environment. People were spending a substantial amount of their income on imported food materials which in turn was impacting their local economy as well.
At the same time, Dr.Nordan Otzer was witnessing substantial rise in prevalence of Non-Communicable diseases Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases, Obesity, Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver diseases and Obesity in Ladakh over the past one decade.
Most of these diseases were unheard of in Ladakh till a few years back.. There was a rise in gastrointestinal related cancer in Ladakh. All those diseases were strongly associated with dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles.
Dr.Norden did his schooling from Sainik School , Jammu Kashmir.Then studied Medicine and General Surgery at Christian medical College, Vellore. He was Micro Surgeon at Presidency General Hospital and also worked at Mahabodhi Karuna Charitable Trust. He then took over as Executive Director at Ladakh Ecological Development Group. He was deeply moved due to a loss he faced in his own family and was determined to create awareness. Now, Dr Norden today, focuses mainly on creating awareness and working towards bringing in some change in the lifestyles of his people.
Dr.Nordan was invited to speak on the importance of Local food during the Two day festival on Barley. After listening to the talk, Jigmet expressed his concern to him and they decided to embark on a mission together to educate people of Ladakh on the impact of junk food on one’s health, Environment and Local Economy. They named their mission as ChakChok ( Ladakhi term for futile) Project.
Armed with their first hand knowledge, they started conducting small health workshops in a village called Stakmo, inviting people of all ages to participate but hardly few villagers turned up. But that couldn’t dampen their spirit.
The response was mixed initially. Some community members were sceptical, while others were genuinely interested. Dr.Nordan and Jigmet were determined to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Ladakh.
As word spread about their workshops, more and more people began attending. Parents brought their children, elders came to seek advice, and even the local schools supported their initiative. The duo’s dedication and sincerity were evident in tier i tireless efforts to make health education accessible to everyone.
The impact of ChakChok Initiative soon became evident. People started adopting healthier habits, such as consuming local food, promoting local foods at schools, and avoiding carrying packaged foods to village level functions and monasteries.
Impressed by their determination and the positive results they had achieved, they were specially invited to schools and villages to share their views. Children listen to them with great interest and many have followed their advice and changed their food habits.
They started their initiative in 2022 and have completed over 100 awareness workshops till now. The 100th workshop celebration was held In Aryan Valley of Ladakh where a few hundred people including school students joined to listen to him. His team was accompanied by His Eminence Rigyal Rinpoche, a renowned Buddhist spiritual master and teacher.
They are playing a significant role in transforming the health scenario and protection of the environment of their beloved Ladakh.
Their story served as an inspiration to many, reminding everyone that no matter how small their actions may seem, they have the power to bring about remarkable change. Dr.Nordan and Jigmet’s journey so far is a testament to the incredible impact that two of them with shared vision and unwavering determination can have on an entire community.
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