YK Poudel

Clock Tower Square, Thimphu, March 16:—Eleven stalls were set up by volunteers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Dressed in white shirts, the volunteers were busy organising things. Many students from Thimphu Thromde schools were visiting the stalls, moving from one to another, actively taking part in the day-long programme.

The event celebrated the 35th anniversary of JICA volunteers in Bhutan.

Visitors could see a variety of things on display, including bridges, handicraft products, health and physical education items, among others.

Tatsunori Saya, aged 39, is the Volunteers Coordinator (VC) at the JICA Bhutan Office.

He arrived in Bhutan on November 13, 2022, and his term will end in October 2025. He was busy ensuring everything was in place and running smoothly.

“This is the first time in the last 35 years that we have celebrated Volunteer’s Day,” said Tatsunori Saya.

As the VC, he makes sure that JICA volunteers’ activities run smoothly. He provides both public and private support, including counselling, advice, workplace visits, and meetings with volunteers and colleagues.

According to him, there are currently 32 active JICA volunteers in Bhutan, each serving a two-year term—the JICA Volunteers Programme sends volunteers to various areas such as education, business, healthcare, sports, agriculture, manufacturing sectors, handicrafts, and infrastructure development programmes.

JICA’s volunteer programme is part of Japan’s technical cooperation initiatives, operating as a component of its Official Development Assistance (ODA).

This programme aims to contribute to key areas of socioeconomic development, mutual understanding, and coexistence in cross-cultural societies.

So far, a total of 647 JICA volunteers have worked in Bhutan. The first group arrived in 1988, led by Dasho Keiji Nishioka, a well-known Japanese agricultural expert in Bhutan.

“More volunteers will come soon,” Tatsunori Saya said.

This year, according to Tatsunori Saya, the main focus is on sending volunteers to work in the education, health, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most deployments have been concentrated in Thimphu,” he said, “but there are plans to expand deployment areas in the future.”

“The celebration underscores our dedication to strengthening the bond between Japan and Bhutan through volunteerism,” affirmed Saya. He expressed optimism about the possibility of more volunteers joining the programme soon, which would further enhance bilateral cooperation and socio-economic development.