Sonam Wangchuk was born in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh in J&K, India.
Though a Mechanical Engineer by education, he has been mostly working in the field of education reform for more than 30 years. In 1988, just after he finished his engineering studies he founded SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) www.secmol.org, with the aim of supporting Ladakhi children and youth in educationally challenging and culturally confusing times. In 1994 he was instrumental in the launch of Operation New Hope, a triangular collaboration of the government, village communities and the civil society to bring reforms in the government schools system. The programme involved formation of Village Education Committees to take ownership of state schools, training of teachers in child friendly ways and re-writing and publishing localised text books for Ladakh. As a result the pass percentage at 10th grade (matriculation) rose from the dismal 5% to 55% in seven years and 75% these days.
For students who still failed in their state exams he founded the SECMOL Alternative School Campus near Leh, a special school where the admission criteria is failure in exams and not high grades. However with the supportive and creative environment at the school, the so called failures have excelled in their chosen fields and risen to international acclaim as entrepreneurs, film makers, politicians, teachers and so on.
As an engineer Sonam Wangchuk has been teaching innovation at the SECMOL Alternative School, where together with the students he designed and built solar heated buildings that are low cost, made of earth/mud but maintain +15 C even when the outside temperature is – 15 C in Ladakhi winters.
In order to solve the water crisis facing mountain regions due to climate change and fast melting glaciers he invented the Ice Stupa artificial glacier which stores the unused stream waters in winter in the form of giant ice cones or stupas and releases the water in late spring as they melt... just when farmers need water.
Sonam Wangchuk was granted several awards and titles, to name a few:-
Magsaysay Award from Philipines (Asian version of the Nobel Prize), 2018
The GQ Men Of The Year Award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 in India,
Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, Paris 2017,
The Rolex Award for Enterprise 2016 in Hollywood USA.