Main story: It was a beautiful day in Gasa. Uma Devi and her friends – three of them – were about to leave for Thimphu, a place they had only heard of but had never been to.
Four of them, students of Bjishong Central School, began their journey. They were heading to the capital to attend the Golden Award Youth Camp where best students from all over the country will meet.
On July 2, the group reached Thimphu. The next day was the beginning of the week-long camp.
About 80 students are participating in the camp. They are carefully selected with the help of the teachers and dzongkhags officials. They are among the best students in their schools and they will compete for the prestigious Golden Youth title.
Every year, Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF) organises the Golden Youth Award camp in Thimphu. The winner of the Golden Youth Award receives scholarship under the YDF. So far, five students have availed of scholarships to study at the United World Colleges across the Netherlands and Canada.
At the first day of the camp, students gather at YDF’s multipurpose hall. They are briefed about the programmes and schedules they would be following while they are at the camp. Their routine daily starts from 6am to 10pm.
Programme coordinator of the camp, Roma Pradhan, said that every year one student from class X is awarded the title the ‘Golden Youth of the Year’ after a series of local and national competitions. “Through the camp, we hope to motivate the students to be hard working and responsible and also to excel in both academic and co-curricular activities. We reward the most outstanding youth at the camp.”
The students will undergo leadership training activities and programmes, exchange ideas and perspectives on issues affecting their community, among others.
They will also be judged in terms of their academic excellence, literary and general knowledge, IQ, essay writing and extempore, talents, games and sports, and social service, among others.
Students will also get a chance to attend forums and sessions on child rights and protection that will be held by the National Commission for Women and Children, and a talk session on Tuberculosis by officials from health ministry.
Students will also get their leisure time where they can attend cultural programmes, watch movies, perform the camp’s theme song and catch up with their reading, Roma Pradhan said. “At the end of each day, students will be given half an hour reflection time and they will write journal, which the YDF team will compile at the end of the camp. Students are also given the opportunity to write letters, poems and art to His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.”
YDF is celebrating ten years of the Golden Award Youth camp, which is dedicated to the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.
Uma Devi is sitting with her schoolmates. She tries not to be overwhelmed by the hectic schedules and programmes at the camp. Slowly, she begins to interact with the rest of the participants.
“I’m looking forward to the days ahead at the camp. The sessions look interesting and I can’t wait to meet new friends,” the 14-year-old said. This is Uma Devi’s first time in Thimphu. She finds the city overly crowded. “The streets are filled with buildings and people. I got a headache with all the noise on the first day. Thankfully, the camp is located in a much quieter place. I’m going to give my best to win the award. I’m happy to be able to participate.”
Uma Devi hopes to gain new knowledge from the other participants and get exposed to new things at the camp.
Another participant, 16-year-old Tshering Wangchuk from Pemagatshel Middle Secondary School, is highly active and very talkative. It is not very difficult for him to make new friends. He doesn’t get stage fright.
“I’ve always wanted to attend the camp because there are so many activities taking place that keeps us engaged during the holidays. Everyone here is talented. So I’m going to try harder,” Tshering Wangchuk said. “It’s fine even if I don’t win the title as long as the judges conducts a fair selection.”
Jamyang Choden, 15, from Yebilaptsa Middle Secondary School in Zhemgang is focused on excelling in various activities at the camp. “I consider the camp as a window to the world beyond. Although I’m nervous, I intend to have a good time here,” she said. Jamyang Choden will teach her younger siblings and friends about the camp and how they can also participate in the future.
The winner of last year’s Golden Youth Award, Karma Choki, who will be studying in UWC South East Asia in Singapore, is at the camp to inspire the participants. The camp changed her life.
Karma Choki tells the students to have a good time and to give their best to win the title.
The idea of Golden Youth camp was initiated in 2005 to commemorate the 50th birth anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The first camp was organised in 2008.