Yangyel Lhaden

Wangsisina, Gawailing Happy Home, Thimphu, February 14: — It is a chaotic morning scene. Children are packing and preparing to go to school after spending the winter break at the happy home. In the midst of piles of clothes, older children assist younger ones with packing, while others don their school uniforms and load luggage onto vehicles. Packed lunches are prepared for the journey back to the hostel.

For 27 children—26 girls and one boy—Gawailing Happy Home is more than just a shelter; it’s a sanctuary. Established by Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW), the home provides a haven of physical and psychological safety for individuals and families.

“The only boy here is like the heart of our family,” shares one of the girls, affectionately referring to the 13-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a prime minister. “He’s already campaigning, and we’re all behind him,” she adds. To him, the other children are not just peers; they are family, both younger and older siblings.

Children preparing to go back to school

Some children arrived at Gawailing as young as nine years old. Over time, they have formed deep bonds of friendship and family with their peers.

When new children join the home, older ones ensure they feel welcomed and included.

A 17-year-old girl recalls her initial fears and struggles when she arrived at Gawailing in 2020. “But older children reached out to me, and I began to feel like this was my home,” she shares.

She loves to speak in front of crowds; whenever there is a show at home, she is always ready to become the master of ceremonies.

Today, she is excited to go back to school to achieve her dream of becoming a great speaker. “I dream of speaking in front of billions of people as a great psychologist, and I want to inspire people and help them,” she says. “I want my voice to be heard by everyone so that they can come out of their comfort zone and do something productive.”

She started to nurture the dream after coming to Gawailing because of the resources here. “There is skilling, a lot of books, and computer facilities I did not expect,” the 17-year-old says. “I got curious and excited seeing the facilities, and when curiosity and excitement match, a child starts to dream.”

Another 17-year-old aspires to be a doctor, inspired by the joy she felt seeing doctors while growing up. Despite facing obstacles, she remains determined to pursue her education and dreams.

“I may be a bit older than the typical student in seventh grade, but regardless of my age, I intend to keep studying until I am satisfied,” she says. “Life brings obstacles and complications, but what I’ve learned is that you have to make peace with your past and focus on the life ahead of you. That’s why I’m determined to study hard, as there are many things I still want to achieve.”

An 18-year-old girl had to drop out of school last year. This year, she is excited to have the opportunity to study again. “It has been about five months here, and I am grateful for the chance to study,” she says. “I dream of becoming a better human and pursuing a job that will benefit the nation in the future.”

A 14-year-old girl in eighth grade is a topper in school. She wants to become a teacher and her favourite subject is English. She loves reading books by Roald Dahl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is her favourite book.

“We are grateful to our Godmother, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the RENEW staff, and the Gawailing family for shaping us into who we are today and for providing us with opportunities and support,” she says.

As the children depart, some are leaving behind “thank you” letters for the centre’s manager, Sonam Dolma, expressing their gratitude for the care they received.

Sonam says: “One of the thank-you letters is from a child who can be challenging, yet in her letter, she expresses sincere apologies. It’s truly rewarding to work with children, especially when they recognise their mistakes and strive to improve.”

If you or someone you know is in difficult circumstances or wants to support children at Gawailing Happy Home, please contact the RENEW office at 17126353 or email renewbht@gmail.com.