MAIN STORY: Tshering Dorji gets up early even as it is winter break.
The 14-year-old rushes to the bathroom along with his older brother. They wash their faces, get dressed and eat breakfast. Both wear a navy jumpsuit with a logo that says Camp Raven.
Holding a sketchbook in his hands, Tshering Dorji rushes outside where his friends are waiting for him. They don’t seem to mind the cold at all. They reach the Royal Bhutan Army’s (RBA) officers’ mess at Lungtenphug where more than 200 students are waiting for the day’s programme to begin.
It’s the eighth day of Camp Raven. All the students are divided into several groups. Tshering Dorji is in the art group along with 36 other student.
With the help of artists from Voluntary Artists’ Studio in Thimphu, Tshering Dorji starts learning how to draw a face in five steps. A few struggles and repetitions, and he’s got it how to draw a proper face. It looks almost professional.
Tshering Dorji likes drawing and painting. Even at home, whenever he has free time, he is engaged in drawing cartoon characters and making tattoo designs.
“Although drawing and sketching is not easy, with practice it always turns out good at the end,” Tshering Dorji said.
His best friend, Choki Dorji, 11, who is sitting next to him, says his favourite time in the art class is colouring the drawings. “I am interested in drawing action figures and colouring them.” He grins.
When the boys are not practicing their art skills, they practice basketball and football with other students in the camp.
In Dechencholing, at the Royal Body Guard’s (RBG) officers’ mess, Dechen Namgyel, 15, is busy polishing his dance skills. A volunteer from Thailand is the dance tutor.
A loud hip-hop music blares through the sound system. The boys and girls move around in a synchronized order. They are practicing diligently with the hope that they won’t make any mistake at the final day of performance.
I have always loved dancing, especially the modern dance, which is popular these days, Dechen Namgyel said. “The camp helps us to spend our time wisely. We are able to engage ourselves in the activities that we love.”
This is the first time Dechen Namgyel is participating in the Camp Raven and he hopes to join next year as well.
Leading the art class at the Camp Raven in RBG campus is Nima, 18, who is participating in the camp for the fourth time along with his twin brother, Dawa. Having learnt a lot of soft and hard skills through the camp, Nima, said the camp prepares him to become a better person in the future.
Of all the programmes at the camp, the twin brothers look forward to the inspirational talks held by different personalities and renowned people. Nima still recalls the interesting art classes held by a French painter who visited last year.
“When we get to meet such inspiring people, they not only inspires us through their talks but they also give us a different perspectives on how to approach life and its challenges,” Nima said. “We also get to make new friends.”
Whenever the twin brother learns something new, they don’t keep it to themselves but they share with their family members. They share their experiences with their parents who encourage them to participate in the camp every year.
“It is a gift from His Majesty the Fifth Druk Gyalpo, and we must make sure that we learn as much as we can when we receive such opportunities,” Nima said.
At the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) ground, sitting with her friends while having a cup of tea and snacks, basking under the warm winter sun, is Ugyen Dema, 16, who is participating in the camp for the third time.
Ugyen Dema had participated in dance and sport classes in the previous years. This time she is trying her hands in the art classes and she’s enjoying every bit of it.
The skills that the students learn are not only limited from the programmes but its more than that, Ugyen Dema said. “We learn the importance of helping each other out during tough times, the value of being punctual and leadership.”
She added: “It’s really helpful, especially for girls to open themselves up and not be afraid to speak up. We become more confident and we also look forward to participating in different sport activities.”
This time, students from different camps will compete against each other for different grand prizes.
Coordinator of the RBG’s Camp Raven, Captain Chopen Dorji, said that unlike last year, this time they have prepared programmes that students prefer. The students are divided into four groups; dance, basketball, football, and art class.
“Each day has different activities and programmes so that the students are meaningfully engaged,” Captain Chopen Dorji said.
The students will also get a chance to learn firearms, weapon handling, driglam namzha and participate in cleaning campaign, debate and marathon, among others.
The classes start from 9am and go on until 4pm. A total of 590 students are participating in the camp.
His Majesty the King initiated Camp Raven in 2012 to give children of the armed force personnel in Thimphu an opportunity to spend their winter vacation productively.
The camps are held at RBA, RBP and RBG grounds, and are coordinated by officers of the respective location.
The Royal Secretariat organizes Camp Raven every year. The month-long camp began on December 18 and will continue till January 16.