Sonam Pem Tshoki

After spending 10 days in one of the rural villages of Zhemgang, campers of Camp Rural Urban Friendship(RUF) decided to collect 2,000 pairs of shoes for underprivileged students across the country.

Initiated in 2017 as a post-camp project by the campers, this is the third year the Project Chodrup, is in action.

This year, the mission was to collect 2,000 pair of shoes for underprivileged students across the country under the name “Soles4souls.”

The project has 40 volunteers. Campers in Zhemgang, Gelephu and Phuentsholing started donation drives in their respective dzongkhags to raise fund.

Volunteers for the project changed every year but the goal remained same – to take on social responsibility and contribute positively to the society.

Karma Tashi Dendup, 16, said the goodwill of the project and its reach has touched many lives. It is his third time volunteering with the project. He said that in the past, they did not have a target, but now the project is more organised and goal-oriented.

During the first project, volunteers collected warm clothes for senior citizens and built a house for an old couple in Haa in collaboration with Tarayana Foundation.

For their second project, volunteers raised money and provided 10 underprivileged kids each in all the 20 dzongkhags with school supplies.

The facilitator for the Camp and one of the coordinators of the project, Dorji Phuntsho, 23, said that when he found out the camp had a tradition of doing social service, he jumped in to contribute as well.

“During homestay at camp, campers from urban areas found out that kids in rural areas go to school in slippers even in winter due to financial constraints. So the inspiration this year was to provide shoes for their friends in rural areas,” he said.

Namgyel Wangchuk, 28, Coordinator of Camp RUF and an advisor for the project said one of the values they taught at the Camp was empathy and compassion. “Kids from urban areas doing something like this for their friends in rural communities stands for the camp’s idea of sowing seeds of friendship and reaping happiness” he said.

Another volunteer, Sonam Norzom Nima, 12, said that she usually spent her winter vacation going on holidays, but this year she spent her break with the project.

“I wanted to help raise money and collect shoes for my friends back in Zhemgang and other places who needed help,” she said.

Even though the goal was to collect 2,000 pair of shoes, the project could collect only 1,650 pairs due to the students having to go back to school and lack of support from some authorities.

The project members gathered on February 4 for a closing ceremony and officially ended the project on February 5 as a tribute to the birth anniversary of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.