Main story: On September 21, the International Peace Day was celebrated worldwide. Bhutan observed the day on September 17 with more than 1,500 students and teachers (both scouts and non-scouts) from 12 different schools in Thimphu.
The day celebrated the role of scouts and non-scouts as messengers of peace who are dedicated towards promoting peace within themselves and their society through small to big service projects.
The messengers of peace was started in 2011 worldwide and from this year in Bhutan to promote dialogue, peace and social entrepreneurship. The World Organisation of the Scouting Movement leads the initiative. Through this initiative, scouts become global active citizens that are involved in their local communities.
Not only scouts but also non-scouts are encouraged to join this initiative.
The messengers of peace have a profile on a website (www.scout.org) where they upload their stories and the number of service hours they have contributed towards bringing peace to the world. Through the website, one can showcase their work and share it with millions of people around the world.
Once an individual joins the website and starts sharing, one automatically becomes a part of a global network known as Scouts Global Network of Service, joining efforts with million other scouts doing community service, promoting dialogue and understanding.
Today, there are 1,493 Bhutanese members that have created profiles and have contributed a total of 908,936 hours through 123 service projects undertaken since April this year and the figures are only increasing. Bhutan is ranked among the top 10 in the Asia Pacific region for this effort.
The messengers of peace initiative has become an inspiration especially among the young Bhutanese members.
A student of Kelki Higher Secondary School in Thimphu, Pelden, 19, said she has now become a member of the initiative after knowing what it was all about.
“It is nice to help others and to make a difference, even if it’s only a small one. Whenever we are kind to others, we send a message of love and peace, making a difference to them and also to ourselves. It’s a great initiative and I encourage others to join as well,” Pelden said.
Pelden had recently created a profile in the website and she is contributing, in her own little ways, towards making a difference in her school and the society.
Programme officer of the Scouts Association with the Department of Youth and Sports, Ngawang Gyaltshen, said the International Peace Day was organised with an objective to promote the role of scouts in creating a better world.
“We make a positive change in the world by becoming active citizens in our community. We have been doing it for over 17 years as Bhutan Scouts Association and now we want others, scouts and non-scouts to join this effort,” Ngawang Gyaltshen said.
When a person helps someone, we are sending a message of positive change, making the current situation better and transforming the way people feel and think, Ngawang Gyaltshen said. “When people feel and think positively, they also act positively. Imagine the difference it will contribute to the society if everyone makes a difference in at least a person’s life.”
As scouts, we are messengers of peace through our good actions. It is a part of our scout promise and law. We are now inviting other people to do good and become messengers of peace as well, to inspire other people and to create a global impact, Ngawang Gyaltshen said, adding that the objective for messengers of peace initiative in Bhutan is to recognise the tremendous works done over the years by the scout members.
Anybody can register in the website and not only the messengers of peace or scout members.
Once a person becomes a messenger of peace, one is awarded with a peace badge, an official recognition and an acknowledgement of the first many steps towards becoming an active citizen. This is included in the messengers of peace guidelines drafted by Bhutan Scouts Association last year.
The members reviewed the scout’s curriculum, syllabus, handbooks and brochures along with the new set of guidelines for messengers of peace, and we introduced several award systems as well, Ngawang Gyaltshen said.
For example, for a messenger of peace to receive a peace certificate, one have to share 10 updates and news on the website, donate at least 600 service hours and should help in setting their own project. To receive a peace scarf (green), one has to help in creating a minimum of 20 profiles online, contribute or donate 100 service hours for service projects related to the environment and post 20 incredible service projects.
Vying for the peace scarf is Arpan Pradhan, 15, who is challenging and pushing himself to work towards receiving this scarf.
“It’s a wonderful platform for students like me who are interested in contributing something in their society. It’s truly said that peace starts with an individual, only then we will be able to help others,” Arpan Pradhan said.
Today, there are about 34,000 registered members with the Bhutan Scouts Association.
Ngawang Gyaltshen hopes to rope all of them in as the messengers of peace by 2018.
“The journey for peace in Bhutan continues with so much zeal and enthusiasm. We are so thrilled with the kind of response we have been receiving from the scouts and non-scouts members who are now the messengers of peace. We hope that the numbers will only increase,” Ngawang Gyaltshen said.
On the International Peace Day, Daga Higher Secondary School in Dagana organised a peace walk while students in Thimphu participated in a blood donation campaign. Education minister Norbu Wangchuk attended the event and planted a tree to mark the day.