International Volunteer Day Events in Bhutan
01 January 1999
by Heather Prendergast
IVD 99 was celebrated on Sunday, 5 December in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The major focus of the day was an exhibition reflecting the activities of four international and four national volunteer organizations.
At a formal level, the formulation and recognition of local volunteer organizations is new in Bhutan, although, like all communities, there has always been informal volunteering. The emphasis was geared towards giving profile to the national volunteer organizations, and they contributed a significant amount of work to the planning and actual work to make the day a huge success.
The event was held in the square in the centre of Thimphu, which was also upgraded through the efforts of a small national and international group of volunteers called Friends of the Square. The Thrompon of Thimphu (Mayor) was most impressed with the use of the square for IVD and has subsequently worked with the Friends of the Square to substantially extend the square for public use.
IVD was officially opened by the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Shun-ichi Murata, and the Chief Guest, Her Majesty Tshering Yangden Wangchuk.
The volunteer groups produced a pamphlet outlining each organization and its activities, which was given to the public.
The UNV exhibition consisted of various photos and posters displaying the work of the UNVs in Bhutan, with a substantial display on the Jigme Dorji National Park project and information provided by the UNVs and their counterparts. They also ran a video of the park.
The UNV medical specialists and their counterparts working in the health sector offered a free outdoor medical checkup clinic at the Square, with a range of specialists on duty, including a pharmacist and pharmaceutical supplies. The team of 10 volunteers from the hospital were overwhelmed with the public response to their clinic and identified some serious medical conditions, some of which required the patients to be hospitalized and others were booked for ongoing treatment at the hospital.
The Volunteer Arist Society of Thimphu exhibited around 130 paintings by local artists and they sold in excess of 30 paintings and received commissions for more. The local community was surprised and impressed at the range and quality of art that is now produced in Bhutan through the Volunteer Artist Society of Thimphu.
The Royal Society for Protection and Compassion for Animals had both a free veterinary clinic and animal pharmaceuticals, a display of their work and a food and drink stall to assist their fund-raising.
The SMILE group also had a display of their work being done by volunteers to assist the integration of the disabled into mainstream society in Bhutan. They also had a stall, selling locally-made cards and other items, and a food and drink stall for fund-raising.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature had a display of their wide range of activities in Bhutan, with the goal of inspiring personal responsibility for the conservation of Bhutan's unique environment. One of their major activities is the creation of and support for nature clubs through local schools, and the work being done by these club was displayed. The day finished with a concert given by a Japanese volunteer playing the flute.
Overall the exhibition was very successful in giving a profile to national volunteer organizations and it was very well attended by the public. There was a considerable amount of positive feedback from the public, Government representatives and donor agencies that the exhibition was a very positive reflection of national and international volunteerism and cooperation.