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Volunteerism must be made more relevant
06 December 2007
by Tshering Palden

Thimphu, Bhutan: It was the 24th of February and I was trying to get used to my new surroundings in Drugyel High School when I noticed an old man in a parking lot of the girls’ hostel.

He could barely walk and he seemed to be looking for something. He had come to meet his daughter but couldn’t find her.

I asked him her name and class and set out to find her. It took some time but I eventually tracked her down and took her to her father. The old man smiled and thanked me for my help.

It made me very happy and proud to have made another person happy. I think everyone in this world should help one another.

This was one of the four presentations made by students about their personal experience of volunteering during this year’s International Volunteer Day celebrations at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu on December 2.

Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest, Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, said that volunteers make positive impacts in all spheres of service delivery, adding compassionate dynamism to developmental initiatives.

“We sincerely hope that the positive energies developed will result in meaningful programmes that help improve the dignity of life of the poor,” said Her Royal Highness. “We must take the opportunity of helping others through targetted interventions, using both professional as well as youth volunteers, so that the gap between the rich and the poor is minimised.”

Her Royal Highness said that Bhutan has always had a rich tradition of volunteerism, especially in the construction and preservation of community lhakhangs and chortens - as people believe in merit earned from such activities. “While volunteerism is not a new concept for Bhutan, the context, in which it can be made more relevant to developmental initiatives, needs to be looked into.”

As part of the celebrations, a booklet compiling the volunteering experiences of students of 13 schools, institutes and volunteer organisations was distributed to the public participating in the celebrations.

JOCV and REWA members staged a cultural programme and other volunteers with the public library told stories to children and talked about meditation practice.

Seven international and national organizations put up exhibitions for the general public. The volunteers also presented some cultural programmes in the day-long event. Her royal highness visited the stalls and talked with the volunteers.

B B Misra, a Bhutanese volunteer, said, “What United Nations volunteers are doing to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, Bhutanese volunteers do to achieve Gross National Happiness.”

In his message on the occasion, the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon said that voluntary action was also essential in the global effort to address climate change. For the same purpose, the world’s governments are meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

The UN General Assembly will meet in 2008 to consider the degree of improvement in the support and encouragement that volunteerism receives around the world, and the significant contribution that volunteerism continues to make to human development.

The UN General Assembly established IVD in 1985 and it is celebrated on December 5 every year.

As of 2006, there were seven United Nations volunteers four VSA, 30 JOCV and 21 senior Japanese volunteers; 24 Bhutanese volunteers are serving in foreign countries.

Volunteers in Bhutan (VIB) organized the occasion.