Award: British Honorary Consul to Bhutan, Michael Rutland, on behalf of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), Theresa May, presented the 2017 Points of Light Award to Emma Slade at the Draktsho Vocational Training Centre in Thimphu yesterday.

Emma Slade, also known as Anim Pema Deki, is the founder of a recognised UK charity, Opening Your Heart to Bhutan, dedicated to supporting children in Bhutan.

Michael Rutland said that the award is made to Emma Slade for her distinguished work as a volunteer.

“Volunteerism is something that fits so well into the Bhutanese tradition and culture,” Michael Rutland said. “Volunteerism is something, which is constantly promoted by His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen and by the Royal Government of Bhutan.”

He said that volunteerism is very much the core of the Bhutanese customs. Unemployed young people in Bhutan are so much more  well off than in other countries because they will always find a volunteer being a friend or family who will take them in.

“We do not find people sleeping on the streets as one does in other countries,” he said. “It may not be called by the name of volunteerism but the concept and the spirit of helping others is fundamental to the society of Bhutan and it is also a fundamental part of the religion of Buddhists.”

Therefore, he said that it is especially good that the UK prime minister has chosen to recognise an English woman who works voluntarily in Bhutan. “It is particularly good because the charity is helping Bhutanese organisations set up by Bhutanese for Bhutanese.”

The Prime Minister makes the award annually in the UK. Emma Slade’s volunteerism is recognised through her being selected for the “Points of Light” award, one of just nine volunteers honoured for the year 2017.

The points of light award was originally started in the USA in 1990 and it was created by the administration of the then president George HW Bush to recognise volunteers. It was later adopted by the UK in April 2014.

Michael Rutland said that points of life refer to the volunteers. “They are points of light in a sometimes-dark world.”

Emma Slade spent seven years working in finance in London and in Hong Kong and was ordained as a Buddhist nun in Bhutan.

Michael Rutland said that Anim Pema Deki combines her business background and her in-depth knowledge of Bhutan to serve as the founder and chief executive of the charity in an entirely voluntary capacity.

The charity dedicates itself to improve the quality of life of children living in the rural areas of Bhutan with simple interventions such as providing bedding or clothing, or by more complex works like building toilets, constructing sewerage systems, making safe cooking areas or providing sufficient sleeping areas (hostels) and funding utility vehicles, among others.

Till date, the charity has worked with rural primary schools in the country and with Draktsho, which provides vocational training to children with disabilities across its two schools in Thimphu and Kanglung.

Anim Pema Deki said that the award means a great deal to her and everyone who helps with her charity. “This award will fill them with even more determination to do their very best.”

She said that the sacred sounds of the great mantra of compassion that she heard many years ago touched her and the sounds made her to wish to become a kinder person and a person who has the strength to help many other beings. “I believe this mantra is helping me everyday.”

“The decision to found the charity, ‘Open Your Hearts to Bhutan,’ really is the expression of those wishes to be a kind person and also one with the strength to help others,” she said. “Today I am thinking of the many people in the UK who help me.”

Dechen Tshomo