July 2017 (The Beginning):
In the summer of 2017, two students (Alex Chak and Drake Wong) travelled to the country for the first time. The purpose of the trip was to determine which monastery to carry out the project in Year 1, to hold meetings with the responsible parties concerning logistics and finally, to familiarise themselves with the culture and traditions of Bhutan.
Semtokha Dzong, along with the Institute of Science of Mind, were determined as the locations for the pilot year.
Some images taken from the July 2017 expedition can be found on the right:
The aim of the project is to respond to the request of the monastic body to provide much needed English learning resources to the monks, along with some teaching instruction, in order to facilitate the learning of English. English is the second spoken language in Bhutan and the language of instruction within the schools, however the monk community has historically lacked the funds to teach English. This situation is now being addressed, however funding is still limited.
Bhutan is 'sandwiched' between China and India, two of the world's fastest growing economies and powerhouses - with English being the common language. Furthermore, living within an increasingly globalised world, English is much needed for the future prosperity of the people of Bhutan, for the monks (often from very poor communities) it also provides potential future mobility and opportunity, as well as the ability to communicate with the visiting tourists and to impart their knowledge and wisdom to the rest of the world.
With the advent of TV in the 1990's, Bhutan is accustomed to western culture, however English is seen as a useful, necessary tool not a replacement for their culture.
This project's act of charity is in keeping with Bhutan's philosophy of GNH (Gross National Happiness), which prioritises the preservation of culture and environment and promotes the importance of compassion, charity and education. In addition, such a project allows for cross cultural learning, appreciation and communication for both the boys leading the project and the recipients of the project. It fosters trust, empathy and tolerance and demonstrates the importance of teamwork. It provides a sense of accomplishment and altruism - much needed attributes in today's society.