Youth groups struggle to survive

… members worried about proliferation of the groups

Yangchen C Rinzin 

A group of 15 youth, who call themselves ‘Bloom Network’, are spending their winter vacation making handmade products and selling as many as possible.

Students from different colleges came together to form the group, intending to serve the communities instead of wasting their holidays staying home watching movies or fiddling mobile phones.

The group is working to introduce a community library, ‘Little Free Library’ that is dedicated to connect the communities and promote reading. The members meet during the vacations to make products like wall arts, painting, flower vase, frames and home decors. The products are sold through social media (bloom-network) at prices ranging from Nu 100 to Nu 1,500.

The members say they are doing this after failing to receive any support from the community.

Co-founder of the group, Sonam Rinchen, who is a 2nd-year student, said the group was formed in May 2019 and they wanted to bring ‘Little Free Library’ to Bhutan. He said ‘Little Free Library’ is spread in more than 80 countries and the group aims to include Bhutan in the list.

Little Free Library is a non-profit organisation based in USA that promotes neighbourhood book exchanges. 

“But we faced financial challenges to bring the library, as we have to register by purchasing a charter sign for the library,” he said. “The charter costs almost USD 38 each and the group aims to have such library in community areas like parks, hospital and town square.”

Sonam Rinchen said they went to banks, organisations and non-government organisations looking for financial support but in vain. “But nobody wanted to invest because of the fear of the group’s sustainability. This is why we decided to make products and sell.”

Another co-founder of the group, Karma Yangchen Tsho, who is a first-year student at the College of Science and Technology, said they are saving every penny from the sale of handmade products to buy charter one day and also save the money to do other community services.

“We get only about Nu 2,500 in a month and we’re doing everything for the group’s survival.”

She said most of the groups dissolve even when the youth starts with good intention because of lack of support and lots of paper works. “All we get to hear is how can you all sustain, they should at least trust the youth first.”

Other youth groups also shared similar experiences.

There are more than 12 groups affiliated with a group association called ‘Young Bhutan Network’, a platform for youth groups to network and collaborate.

Many members questioned the youth policy, stating it doesn’t mention about forming a youth group, objectives of forming the group, its sustainability including the guidance and support.

Some of the members said that they expect to see a component on the youth group in the policy to address the issue on the increasing number of youth group, which is currently being revised.

A member, Amrid Bahadhur Limbu, from Bhutan Sharing and Loving Youth, said that increase in the groups has led to duplication of services.

He also said sustainability of the group depends on the hard work of the group. “It is time to reflect and have one group instead of having many independent groups.”

Some youth expressed the need to have an association.

A member of Nazhoen Chiphen said youth policy should also look into auditing of the independent groups. “They should look into which groups are genuinely working for social service and what kind of youth are forming the group for transparency.”

He said it is not only organisations that do not trust youth but also parents.

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