While traveling in Bhutan, studying in the monasteries with my clients from Adventurous Spirit Travel, we asked our guide, Ugyen if we could visit his village. It is located way up in a valley, so far away from a town with a hotel that we had to camp out on what was a very rocky school soccer field. In the morning, curled up in our tents, we heard beautiful, happy singing. This urged us out of our warm sleeping bags over to the fire, where hot tea was being served. Ugyen explained that the music was coming from the children, who after walking through the forests from their villages for a couple of hours in the early dawn, were just arriving at their school.
After breakfast, when we walked over to visit the school, we saw the children weeding the gardens and cleaning the bathrooms. Their teachers and the principal, who rarely see any visitors, proudly showed us around the little classrooms with cold cement, or dirt floors. Then, offering us hot tea, they nearly begged us to please help them with the lunch program, which is what motivates the children to come to school each day.
What we heard is that a couple years prior, the children had stopped coming to school because they either had no lunch, or had spilled it, or it was rotten by lunch time, after they had walked the 2 or 3 hours to get to school. So the principal, together with a few parents had started the lunch program, in order to feed the children a very basic lunch from the gardens that they were growing right there on the school grounds. However the gardens are immature and it is a struggle to get enough food for all the children. Despite that, enrollment has soared to over 100 eager learners.
So, they were desperate for some financial help to be able to keep the lunch program going. When people ask for help, we have learned to do what we can to help them. The story about the school is captured in the short video (below) and was produced by one of the clients of Adventurous Spirit Travel, who traveled with us to Bhutan: Sammie (and son, Brodie) and her company called “I am luVd.”
Here is the continuing story of how our intention to help, evolved into a cultural exchange between Wolathang Elementary School in Bhutan and Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette, Colorado. Upon returning to Colorado, we contacted Narayan Shrestha, who runs the non-profit, Helping Hands Health Education from Boulder, Colorado and has built numerous schools and health clinics throughout the developing world. Currently he is building houses in Nepal for the earthquake victims. We asked him about the best way to go about getting the funds needed to feed the children in Bhutan their lunches so that they could continue to go to school. He suggested a sister school project.
We then contacted Toby Bassoff, who is the Principal of the award winning Ryan Elementary in Lafayette, Colorado. In the front entrance of the school is a Peace Pole! She talked with her parent support group and they were eager to help! Through a variety of programs, they were able to raise enough funds to provide over 37,000 lunches for the school children in Bhutan over the course of several months. The two schools have sent letters back and forth and a few Coloradans are planning a trip over to Bhutan to visit the little school located way up high in the Punahka Valley.
Now, the cultural exchange has continued so that plans are underway to create a sister city program between the capital of Bhutan, which is Thimphu and the city of Lafayette, where Ryan Elementary School is located. Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg is actively supporting the proposal. Adventurous Spirit Travel is happy to have been the instigator of these beautiful cultural exchange programs.
If you are interested in making a donation to the school in Bhutan (every tiny bit helps a lot, it costs $.13 to feed one child a good lunch) this is the easiest way to do it: The website of the nonprofit that we are running our funds through: http://www.helpinghandsusa.org. Click on where it says Donate (right hand side) and then where it says PURPOSE, put: Bhutan School. It is a 100% tax deductible donation!!
Students from Wolathang Primary School in Bhutan (where English is the second language) have sent letters to their sister school, Ryan Elementary in Lafayette, Colorado. Below is one of those letters.
Dear Friends of Ryan Elementary School,
How are you all? I hope you are fine and studying hard for your exam. I am also studying hard. My name is Kinley Choden. I am 10 years old. I am in Class 5. I come from far village. Your school and our school is sister. In our school we have class pp to class 6. Today I am very happy because we are making sister. When is your exam. Our school exam is in November 29. Thank you for supporting our school. Thank you for all. I want to listen about your school. Best of luck in your exam to you all.
Toewang Geog, Punakha Dzongkhag
Thank you for your interest!