What does solidarity look like during lockdown?

Chhimi Dema and Phurpa Lhamo

Organisations, individuals and associations across the country are providing free services to help combat Covid-19.

From the total of 4,737 volunteers with Bhutan Red Cross Society (BRCS)—a voluntary aid society, auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field—1,739 were deployed for Covid-19 response and 74 during the lockdown.

Programme officer of BRCS, Lham Dorji, said that in the current situation, BRCS as a lead stakeholder for body management had deployed five volunteers to transport bodies from hospital to crematorium in different dzongkhags.

Lham Dorji said that under the programme Red Cross Ride for Health, 25 taxi volunteers with BRCS provided free transportation services to health officials from the Royal Centre for Disease Control to collect swab samples to test for Covid-19.

Bhutan Taxi Association’s chairperson, Rinzin Wangchuk, also a volunteer with BRCS, said: “The visionary leaders in the country inspired me to serve the nation. Volunteering to provide services at this time is a form of giving.”

Ten BRCS volunteers were deployed to control crowd, provide health screening, advocating and maintaining social distance in the crematorium.

“BRCS under the blessings of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, the President of Bhutan Red Cross Society saw significant changes in the commitment and zeal of volunteers providing response services,” he said.

BRCS volunteers are based in a transit camp to reduce risks of local transmission.

Twenty-three hoteliers under the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) are providing free accommodation to health workers, De-Suups and officials combating the pandemic.

HRAB’s chairman, Sonam Wangchuk, said that the association’s member hoteliers were proactive and ready to provide their services without requests.

He said that hotels would be able to provide comfort to the frontline workers who were spending their nights in makeshift rooms arranged in schools. “Despite the financial constraints of the hotels, I am very proud and happy to see hoteliers’ solidarity in serving the nation. With this unity, I see that we stand united and take equal responsibility during this pandemic situation.”

A 52-year-old teacher, volunteering at one of the stock centres in Thimphu, said that nothing was more rewarding than serving the nation in an unprecedented time like this. “This is the little I can do for the country. It is our responsibility to give our best in small ways to help combat the pandemic.”

Cafe Luna in Thimphu, to show their appreciation and gratefulness, served cakes to the frontline workers to provide them ‘a sugar boost’ and show solidarity.

Cafe’s Facebook posts stated: “We hope that our small gesture provides you the hope and energy that you require during this difficult time.”

The road from Thrimshing to Kangpara gewog in Trashigang dzongkhag has been blocked for almost a month. Volunteers and De-Suups from the dungkhag administration are, now, delivering the essential goods carrying it on their backs.

Thrimshing drungpa, Wangchen Norbu, said that several attempts were made to clear the road but the steep slope and constant rain halted the road clearance.

In Wangdue, around 35 individuals in Bajo donated more than Nu 130,000 and essential items for De-Suups working in the frontline.

The dzongkhag received 11 bags of rice. Beverages, oil, and snacks were also donated.

According to dzongkhag thrizin, Tenzin Wangchuk, the items were divided among the De-Suups across the dzongkhag on August 20.

He added that Nu 130,000 would be used to buy essential items for the De-Suups.

In Bajo, there are around 45 De-Suups identified to deliver essential items. Others are located in gewogs.

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