and Volunteerism - an Introduction
landlocked between two of Asia’s biggest giants, China
(Tibet) to the north and India to the east, south and west is
one of the most mountainous countries in the world. Throughout
history Bhutan has remained isolated and relatively uninfluenced
by the changes that were taking place in other parts of the
world. In the early 1960s, Bhutan cautiously opened its doors
to the forces of change and modernization.
a country of rolling hills and towering crags, with only small
patches of cultivation and very little deforestation. Bhutan
is often compared to Switzerland, not only because their sizes
are similar but also because many parts of Bhutan looks like
the Swiss Alps, with green hills, houses that look like chalets
and snow peaks sticking out of nowhere.
not an ordinary place. It has one foot in the past and one in
the future. Our farsighted leaders recognize the necessity of
being part of the modern world, but they also realize that once
the forests and culture are destroyed, they can never be recovered.
Bhutan has maintained a very traditional culture, and yet adapted
to the needs from modern technology. Thus a visitor will find
monks transcribing ancient Buddhist texts into computers and
traditionally dressed archers using the most modern high-tech
bows and arrows.
is embedded in Bhutan's traditional belief systems and community
practices. In particular, the principals of self-reliance, participation
and community networks are revered as the key to community development
and social cohesion. These principles are also found in Bhutan’s
path to development as reflected in the vision of Gross National
Happiness. Alongside the traditional, the focus is also on emerging
contemporary forms of community organization towards addressing
a wide range of issues including urbanization, environmental
conservation, community services, disadvantaged groups and cultural
development. Several local volunteer groups exist in Bhutan
(visit the 'Volunteers in Bhutan' home-page for a list).
National Steering Committee in Bhutan
In line with the designation of IYV, the formation of a Bhutan
National Steering Committee took place in October of 2000 to
bring about promotion and facilitation of volunteerism at the
policy level. Alongside, a task force was mobilized to operationalize
the IYV activities. Membership across both committees was broad
and comprise of concerned individuals from government, non-government,
international organizations and the private sector with the
key objective being:
· To recognize the efforts of volunteers in Bhutan and
· To promote volunteerism in Bhutan and globally, and
· To facilitate the development of the voluntary sector
through sustained institution building.
of activities was broad - ranging from advocacy and awareness
raising, to community network formation and development initiatives,
to policy formulation and institutional strengthening.
of IYV Bhutan
The IYV Bhutan Task Force with the guidance of the Steering
Committee organized several activities to achieve the objectives.
The activities carried out included:
The first initiative of the IYV Bhutan Team was the launch, on
5th December 2000 the opening day of IYV in Bhutan, of 'Volunteerism
in Bhutan'; this publication was the first ever on the voluntary
sector in Bhutan, and its aim was not only to highlight the value
of active volunteerism, but also to stimulate discussion and debate
and so further promote and facilitate volunteerism. Also included
in the publication were the six best entries to the nation wide
essay contest. The essay competition had been held nationwide.
The topics for the essays were on volunteerism and three different
topics were chosen for the three different categories. Entries
to the competition came in from all over the country and over
200 youth and general public submitted their thoughts and experiences
The launch of IYV in Bhutan was celebrated on the 5th December
2000 simultaneously to the launch globally. The launch was witnessed
by officials from the government, non-government, International
Organization and the private sector. Also present were volunteers
from the Local and International organizations.
after, the IYV Team in cooperation with the Bhutan Post arranged
yet another contest for the school children in Bhutan and this
time it was the IYV stamp design contest. The contest was met
with the same enthusiasm and entries to the contest came in
from all over Bhutan. Bhutan’s stamps have become very
popular in the international philately market since the 1970’s.
The IYV commemorative stamp was launched in July 2001 at a small
ceremony organized jointly with the Bhutan Post.
Nation-wide School Debate Competition was the next initiative
of the IYV Bhutan Team. It was organized in August 2001 and
eight of the High Schools in Bhutan sent in their teams. All
the debates were on the theme of volunteerism, and the topics
were very aggressively argued and the speakers were exceptionally
good. The winning team, Yangchengphug High School from Thimphu,
won by arguing in favour of the motion that Volunteerism has
existed for centuries without any 'International Years of Volunteers'
(IYVs), so there is no need for an IYV now.
all these events, another team of IYV members was working alongside
with the National Television in Bhutan, the Bhutan Broadcasting
Service, to produce a series of television programs focusing
on the voluntary sector in Bhutan. This series of television
programs focuses on local and International volunteers active
On 5th December
2001, IYV Bhutan celebrations came to a close with a formal
closing ceremony presided over by Minister of Foreign Affairs,
His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Thinley. Certificates were awarded
to volunteer organisations working in Bhutan (both local and
international), and with the support of JOCV (the Japanese volunteer
organisation) guests enjoyed a choice of Japanese or local delicacies
after the ceremony.
later, Bhutan Broadcasting Service broadcast a radio overview
of IYV and volunteerism in Bhutan, incorporating interviews
from a range of volunteer organisations attending the closing
And by the
end of December, the final product of IYV - this web-site -
was published on the internet. Although this may be the 'final
product', it is planned that this site shall be regularly updated,
and can become a key tool of supporting and promoting the values
of volunteerism in Bhutan.
Future of Volunteerism in Bhutan
Volunteerism is alive and well in Bhutan, both in the traditional
sector, where it remains comparatively unaffected by modern
influences, and in the relatively new and upcoming more formal
volunteer sector. But much remains to be done. IYV in Bhutan
has raised the people’s awareness about the benefits of
volunteerism, but we don’t see 2001 as the ‘end’
- rather, it has been a launching pad for the future growth
of volunteerism in this small Himalayan Kingdom.