More than 40 Dutch and Bhutanese nationals attended the Bhutan Day celebrations in Amsterdam on November 25. The Friends of Bhutan Association in the Netherlands organised the event at the De Ijkantine.

Ambassador Pema Choden expressed her appreciation to the Association for its role in strengthening the friendship and cooperation between the two countries. At the event, Dr Ing. Vincent Kalkman spoke about the research by the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre on insects in the changing rich biodiversity in Bhutan.

Bhutan Film Trust (BFT) has been  supporting several Bhutanese film producers . Henk de Jong from the BFT shared examples of increasing number of tourists visiting Bhutan after watching some of the films screened abroad.  The film “Monk in the forest” produced by Karma Wangchuk was screened  during the occasion.

Loni Verkerk from the Innocis Foundation spoke on implementing a new model treatment of mental health care in Bhutan with the Bhutan Youth Development Fund. The Bhutan Music Foundation has supported several underprivileged children to take up music lessons. Its founder Frances–Marie Uitti, an accomplished cellist  spoke  on how the foundation has been supporting more than 20 children to date through scholarships.

The Kilu Music school in Thimphu  is also a part of the music project in Bhutan.

The beginning

After being actively involved for 27 years as the treasurer for The Friends of Bhutan Association, Harry Zonder has now decided to hand over his role to a younger generation.

In the spring of 1989, Harry Zonder and Gerarld Velthuis visited their friend, the late Henk Scholten who was working in Bhutan. Impressed by the country’s nature and its unique culture, the three friends decided to repay the hospitality they received in Bhutan.

They agreed to make calenders of photographs taken by Gerald Velthuis in Bhutan and proceeds from its sale would be used to support and finance projects in Bhutan.

On September 28, 1990,  they launched the Friends of Bhutan Association to make it easier to carry out development projects in Bhutan.

They raised 35,000 guilders, which was used to renovate three irrigation projects in Zhemgang and to build three classrooms in Tang Primary School.

The three friends also financed the purchase of 15 wheelchairs in Bangladesh and transported them to Bhutan with the help of the Lion Club in Tubberegen.

Besides supporting projects in Bhutan, they decided to organise activities for Bhutanese students studying in The Netherlands and interested Dutch, thus starting the annual Bhutan Day.

After the death of Henk Scholten, Harry Zonder decided to carry on with The Friends of Bhutan Association as Gerald Velthuis didn’t want to be involved any more. With the help of the late Ambassador Rob van Schaik, more board members were included and diverse activities have been carried out.

The Friends of Bhutan Association today has six board members including the Honorary Consul of Bhutan to The Netherlands, Cornelis Klein.

Contributed by Karma Pem Wangdi


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