Nestled on the outskirts of Nepal’s capital sits Snowland Ranag Light of Education School, a non-profit educational organisation committed to providing education to children of remote Himalayan villages. Founded by Guru Ranag Tulkhu Rinchin Rinpoche in 2001, Snowland has been supporting Nepal’s children from early childhood into their teens. Marcus Stephenson and Zara Balfour’s documentary Children of the Snow Land follows three students as they journey back home to see and speak to their families for the first time in twelve years.
Jeewan, Nima and Tsering Deki must endure several days of trekking through the mountains to get to their respective villages. The students, all inexperienced hikers, struggle with altitude sickness and general exhaustion as they split up and make the journey from Kathmandu to some of the country’s most remote villages. The excitement and anxiety of being reunited with their families is prevalent in all of them. There’s a longing but with it, feelings of confusion and apprehension of being accepted into a culture they were sent away from. The students have to come to grips with hard, daily physical labour and a lack of technology at their home villages, while also trying to fit back into a family that they have been completely separated from for twelve years.
As Nima still endures his 15-day trek and Jeewan and Tsering Deki tackle village life, a catastrophic earthquake hits, it’s epicentre; the North-West of Kathmandu. The students pray for their Snowland family, unable to find out the fate of their school. In a documentary that is so much more about following three students through the Himalayas, Children of the Snow Land highlights the tremendous lengths that families will go to to give their children a brighter future, to risk the possibility of never seeing each other again. The stark contrast between the awe-inspiring Himalayan landscape and the hardships of the villages that reside within, is both inspiring and poignant.
There’s something so humbling at being present on this journey with the students, fearful of what might be awaiting them, how their family will receive them and the dangers of the journey in front of them. But the hope of seeing their families again – who they describe as the most important people in their lives, even after a period of estrangement – is powerfully uplifting.
One can only hope Children of the Snow Land helps promote the vital work places like Snowland Ranag is doing to educate and offer a better life to those living in isolated Himalayan areas. This feature-length documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in accessible education, broadening their horizons or simply witnessing a different way of life and a family’s willingness to give up so much for the chance of a better one.
Director: Marcus Stephenson, Zara Balfour
Stars: Nima Gurung, Sangpo Lama, Tsering Deki Lama, Jeewan Mahatara