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Volunteer spirits meet in Tsirang
31 January 2010

Thimphu, Bhutan: They came from different parts of the world, and from different nooks of Bhutan. Their age, cultural background and academic qualifications were varied. But they all had one thing in common: the spirit of volunteerism.

On 4-5 December, over one hundred international and local volunteers gathered at the Damphu public ground in Tsirang to celebrate International Volunteer Day 2009. This year’s theme was 'Volunteering for Our Planet'. Through skits, dances, workshops and exhibit programs on waste management and climate change, the event reminded everyone of the realities of global warming and the need to act now.

“There is nothing more useful than volunteering for our planet and environment. This event inspires people to act now. After this, I want to go back to my college and encourage more students to become volunteers," said Tenzin Dorji, 20, a member of Volunteers in Bhutan and a Samtse College of Education student.

The Damphu ground, packed with people, saw different volunteer organizations with stalls where they provided information about volunteer work and they fundraised and arranged workshops on waste management. Saturday morning, volunteers collected garbage and participated in the 'Clean Tsirang' activity.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Claire Van der Vaeren and Tsirang Dzongda Pemba Wangchuk also took part in this activity. “I am impressed by the spirit of the volunteers,” Ms. Van der Haeren said after the event. In her speech on the opening ceremony she said that the UN would continue to support volunteerism as a force for sustainable development. The chief guest Dasho Paljor J Dorji paid tribute to the volunteers and said they are tomorrow’s leaders. “You are the new generation and you can always lead.”

But what does it actually mean to be a volunteer? And what are the volunteers getting in return for the time they spend doing something for others? Tshelthrim Dorjee has been a volunteer for many years, and is a member of Volunteers in Bhutan. He stressed the point that volunteerism must come from within and that the feeling of making a difference makes it all worth it.

“Volunteerism must come from the heart. We don’t do this to impress others; it is an act in order to help our society. It’s a duty as well as a pleasure”, he said.

This was the first time International Volunteers Day was arranged outside Thimphu, next year the volunteer spirit will meet in Eastern Bhutan. Meanwhile, the volunteers will continue to make a difference – in Bhutan as well as in the world.

See the Volunteer Bhutan newsletter below