But getting support remains a challenge for the student volunteers 

On December 31 night, a group of 14 youth were enjoying their bathup (porridge) in a restaurant to beat the cold in Thimphu. In the middle of the conversation, an idea sparked in them to do something this winter vacation instead of sitting idle.

This group of youth studying in classes VIII to XII in different schools decided to call themselves ‘Project Cho-drup: Nga Lu Yoe! Let’s do it. Their first mission was to start a donation drive to help and support senior citizens by providing warm clothes.

These students are now busy going around town collecting donation in cash or kind.

The group, which now has 17 active members, met during Camp rural urban friendship (RUF). Camp RUF brings together students from rural and urban places to educate them in instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership in whatever they do.

One of the members, Sonam Pem Tshoki, 17, said that after spending 10 days in the Camp RUF, they realised that the youth could be a change they want to see and experience real happiness through sharing.

She said His Majesty in his 110th National Day speech said that it is important for the youth to become the best and to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and values.

“We realised that we do have potential to preserve such values and it was time that we youth start doing something instead of only listening to His Majesty’s speech and not acting on it,” Sonam Pem said. “We decided to be the change to encourage other youth.”

Sonam Pem said they have managed to collect about Nu 30,000 and warm clothes from donors, which they would later distribute to the senior citizens around the memorial choeten and Begana.

The group has also started knitting for happiness campaign where few volunteers who know the craft are knitting socks, mufflers, and hats for the elderly citizens as a gift.

Students said they are happy to forgo their winter break and be engaged in an activity to help the elderly. They plan to continue such activities.

It has however not been easy for the youth with many donors reluctant to help them and often being criticised for their work while asking for donation.

A member Karma Tashi Dhendup, 14, said they started with the knitting for happiness so that if they are not able to collect enough donations they could provide warm clothes knitted by them to show love and affection.

“The biggest challenge is getting support and donation because of the stereotype that we are students and they don’t believe us,” he said. “We’re often told that when government is doing everything why we are doing this instead of enjoying our vacation. They don’t understand that we’re doing this to engage ourselves and not to criticize the government.”

Karma said they also wanted to do a charity show where they could use the money to help buy clothes and provide snacks and tea to all police personnel who are on night duty. But the idea failed because of lack of support.

“Although some were willing to help us but we could not get a hall because the government organisation we approached said we should pay the fee and it was expensive for us. We didn’t have money and they said we’re not credible.”

But this has not discouraged the group from going around and helping senior citizens. They are busy surveying hospital patients to see who all are without attendees. “I never had a fulfilled winter break like I am having this year.”

The group can be reached through Camp RUF Facebook page www.facebook.com/campruf/

Yangchen C Rinzin