Twelve years ago, when a cohort of 120 young men and women completed their training from the Military Training Centre in Wangdue, nobody could fathom that the de-suung programme would be the most successful programme in the country. 

The cohort was trained to assist response to disasters.

De-suung or the Guardians of Peace, born from the wisdom of His Majesty The King, has grown both in size and the services it provides to people and the country. From 120 de-suups in 2011 when the programme began, the number has reached 34,939 and it is counting. It is roughly about five percent of the population.

Numbers matter in the de-suung programme. The men and women, young and old, in orange, are everywhere volunteering when the nation calls, from catching and sterilising dogs, building irrigation canals and roads,  controlling crowds, guarding schools and hospitals, ferrying goods on their back, fighting forest fire — anything we name it — the de-suups are there, ready to serve.

A stark difference, many noticed, is that there are tangible results that are directly transforming lives and delivering what similar programmes in the past failed to do. Farmers seeing clean and  reliable water at their doorstep — Shab-gi chhu (King’s water), in the words of a Temakha villager in Punakha are seeing their lives transformed. Water is life, especially for farmers. Water projects in the past have failed to deliver or failed to sustain. De-suung’s project is not one time. They will ensure that the taps and channels will remain wet all the time.

Organised around the principles of selflessness, kindness and compassion, the de-suups had no inhibition whether in dirtying their hands picking rubbish, digging drains or building roads contrary to what many skeptics thought that was a waste of resources in building the de-suung programme.

The ultimate realisation dawned on us when Covid-19 pandemic hit us. But for the de-suups there were not many guarding our borders in extreme heat or cold, delivering essentials, trans-shipping Covid-free essentials or ensuring that we are safe in the comforts of our house. Many now agree that de-suung and its programmes was a vision His Majesty foresaw to tackle the problems that were not in our hands, like the Covid-19 pandemic.

As de-suung marks its 12th Raising Day, it is an opportune time to thank the selfless service of those as young as 18 years and as old as 60 and those coordinating the programmes.

Many liken the men and women to bees because of the orange uniform. They are indeed, the bees in Isaac Watts’ poem that is busy gathering honey all day from every shining flower to build her cell and labours hard to  store it well … except that the flower for the de-suups is not as lovely as in the poem.

Let us all take some time to thank the de-suups who have volunteered to make a difference in our lives. The least we can do is appreciate their service if we cannot repay.