First ever camp Rural- Urban Friendship (RUF) program to start this winter

Just as ties are forged between countries, families, neighbors, so can similar bonds be struck between people in rural and urban areas. The enthusiasm to build rural-urban bond is visible with the first-ever camp called ‘Rural-Urban’ Friendship (RUF) due to start in December 22. A total of 140 students from rural and urban areas will camp for ten days in a remote school, Lungtengang Primary School, in Dagana.

The program is will bring together children in urban centers and rural areas of Bhutan in an educational and recreational setup which would help to enhance the civic spirit in the students. The program aims to bridge the divide and differences through bonding and friendship.

RUF plans to hold such camps in the years to come in remote places to help children experience a peaceful life surrounded by nature and villages. The program was approved by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance on July 10.

The noble idea was envisioned by young teacher, the late Kelzang Chhoden, while she was teaching in Lungtengang Primary School in Dagana. She remains as a founder of the camp RUF and she is survived by her husband, Tenzin Dorji, who is also a teacher and the program coordinator of the camp.

Tenzin Dorji and his late wife Kelzang Chhoden learned that school children in remote schools were not as good in English as other subjects, even after concerted efforts to teach them, such as morning speeches, literary activities, remedial classes, collaborative and extra grammar classes.

Then an idea of a letter exchange system with a sister school struck them. They collaborated with schools in Thimphu and Paro. Thimphu Primary School was one of the first schools in Thimphu to jump to the idea. And it was a success as children were found not only learning a lot about the letter writing, but they were learning English as well.

Tenzin Dorji and Kelzang Chhoden wanted to expand the letter writing initiative to a camp to be held in the winter of 2013, but unfortunately Kelzang’s health failed and she passed away before her dream of the camp could be realized.

Tenzin Dorji was keen to launch the program in the memory of his late wife. “I started working out and actually the first person to talk to was former Zimpon Nima Tshering and I must say actual shaping of the camp actually got started by this January,” Tenzin said.

He shared his happiness with the dream coming true. “I feel happy for her (late wife Kelzang) and I am glad that I am able to do at least something for her,” he added.

He said it was important for him to keep his late wife’s dreams alive as she believed in it strongly. “Today, I am able to respect her idea and I could talk with so many people and now what she dreamt has come true,” he added.

His expectation from the program remains simple as he wants every child to be happy, all parents to be happy while sending their children to remote places where they will be able to learn and have a relaxing time. He said the camp atmosphere will ensure the safety of the children as there will be responsible coordinators and helpers to look after the children.

The total budget estimated for one camp is a little more than Nu 1mn for 210 participants including cooks, teachers and other costs involved in the camp.

The mission of the program states ‘by bringing together rural and urban adolescent students, teacher-volunteers role models values and provide platforms to learn for themselves GNH values through culture-specific activities. Through sharing the same food, living under the same umbrella and exchanging indigenous knowledge and expertise, the camp RUF enhances national integration and thus becomes a platform for promoting His Majestry’s YES (Youth Enrichment Services) initiatives.’

Tashi Deki / Thimphu

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