Fourth King Inducted into Kyoto Earth Hall of Fame

On February 13th the Fourth King of Bhutan was granted the honour of induction into the Kyoto Earth Hall of Fame for his outstanding work and contributions to environmental conservation.

“The Fourth Druk Gyalpo was among the earliest world leaders to become conscious of the mounting pressures of development on the bountiful, yet fragile ecosystem,” Her Royal Highness said in her address to the gathering. 

“As a result, Bhutan is more green today than it was at the beginning of Bhutan’s developmental process some 50 years ago and highlighted that Bhutan has a forest cover of 72 percent, with almost 50 percent of the country declared as protected areas that host an array of flora and fauna, including some of the rarest and threatened species in the world,” Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck said. “Such achievements emboldened Bhutan to pledge before the world at the COP 15 that it will forever remain carbon neutral.”

In the acceptance speech that was read out by Her Royal Highness, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo said that he looked upon the award as a recognition accorded to his people and country for their efforts to live and progress in harmony with the natural habitat, and that he dedicated it to the people of Bhutan and all those, who have been steadfast in their support and commitment to preserve the natural environment in Bhutan and the world.

Read more of the inspiring article from the Kuensel HERE

Teacher Blog of the Week: The First Week of School

Our teacher blog of the week comes from Julia Tousley- Ritt’s blog Julia’s Journeys.

“As I walk toward my office, every student stands and says “Good Morning Madam.”  I try to respond to them all, and listen to them giggle as I walk by.  My short curly hair and being a foot taller than most Bhutanese make me easy to spot in a crowd. Charly and I are currently the only westerners in Mongar, but most locals are eager to say “hello” and give us a smile.  This is a great place to be a ‘filingpa!'”
              – Julia Tousley- Ritt, 1st Week of School

A poem about the king

Photo Credit: Julia Tousley- Ritt

Language in Bhutan

For centuries, the different valleys of Bhutan were isolated from each other by torrential rivers and deep gorges. As a result, most of these valleys developed their own dialects. At present, there are about 13 different dialects spoken in Bhutan.

However, there are three major languages: Dzongkha, Sharchopkha and Nepali. Dzongkha is mainly spoken in the west, Sharchopkha in the east and Nepali in the south. News is broadcast in these three languages from the Bhutan Broadcasting Service in Thimphu on short wave and FM.
Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. It has some similarity to Tibetan in speaking, while the alphabets are exactly same as Tibetan (but uses different style of scripts). It is also taught in schools and all students can speak Dzongkha and English. Although Dzongkha is a major subject in schools, English has taken precedence over Dzongkha in terms of students’ interest and their literacy, because most of the subjects like mathematics, science and geography are taught in English.
The language of instruction in Bhutan is English which students begin learning in about grade 2. All subjects (except for Dzongkha of course) are taught in English, which means no language barriers for BCF teachers! 

Bhutan Celebrates National Education Day!

Yesterday, while Canadians celebrated Family Day and Americans observed President’s Day, Bhutan took a moment to reflect on one hundred and four years of education with the first ever National Education Day.

Formal education was not common in Bhutan until 1907 however, “[d]espite the late start…there were already awakened minds and enlightened initiatives which lit the lamp of learning, albeit in the most modest surroundings, right from the beginning of the last century,” said the education minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel.

READ the full of the article HERE.

Teacher Blog of the Week: Home sweet home!

Our BCF teachers have finally made the long journey across Bhutan to their postings. They traveled from west to east dropping of people along the way on a journey that can take up to four days for the people posted in the far east.

Our blog of the week focuses on Kendra Matheson and William Spavold’s journey to their new home in Trashiyangtse which is one of the furthest east of the postings. They give detailed descriptions (with photos!) of the journey as well as their new home.

Day 1: Thimphu to Wangdue
Day 2: Wangdue to Bumthang
Day 3: Bumthang to Mongar
Day 4: Mongar to posting location!

“And now I am very pleased to present our fabulous master bedroom. It was pretty amazing to wake up this morning to monks chanting a deep, long song accompanied by something like a didgeridoo. The curtains and bed frame came with the room. We brought the mattress and bedding from Thimphu. Our mattress was too large for the bedroom so within a couple of hours a cheery pair of carpenters came by and built an extension on the bed frame. We are so well taken care of!”
                 – Kendra Matheson Our New Place: The Virtual Tour

Photo Credit: Kendra Matheson Our New Place: The Virtual Tour

Bhutanese National Dress

National dress is a part of Bhutanese culture that dates back to the 17th century when it was introduced to lend a unique identity to the people of Bhutan. All Bhutanese citizens are required to observe the national dress code during business hours, and students are required to wear uniform’s of national dress to school.

Men wear a gho, which is a knee length robe tied with a belt. The gho is folded in such a way that a pocket is formed in front of the stomach. This pocket is an extremely useful storage compartment – you would be surprised at the things that some out of those ghos! Women wear colourful blouses over which they fold and clasp a large piece of rectangular cloth called a kira, creating an ankle length dress. A short silk jacket, or toego, may be worn over the kira. Everyday gho and kira are cotton and wool according to the season, and are patterned in simple checks and stripes in earth tones.

For special occasions and festivals, colourfully patterned silk kira and, more rarely, gho may be worn. Additional rules of protocol apply when visiting a dzong or a temple, or when appearing before a high-level official. Male commoners wear a white sash called a kabney, from left shoulder to opposite hip. Local and regional elected officials, government ministers, cabinet members, and the King himself each wear their own coloured kabney. Women wear a narrow embroidered cloth draped over the left shoulder, called a rachu. 

Last year our BCF teachers had great fun in their kiras…

BCF teachers are encouraged to wear national dress in school, but it is not mandatory. Many teachers have found however that wearing national dress is simply the easiest option, as it helps them to fit in and feel part of the community. It is also just a comfortable and practical piece of clothing to wear every day.While in Thimphu for orientation teachers have the opportunity to purchase and be fitted for national dress.

Check out the class of 2011 in their new gho’s and kiras! 

Class of 2011 i n Thimphu, February 2011

Teacher shortage still an issue in Bhutan

As Bhutan moves into a new year, the year of the iron female rabbit, it is time for reflection on the year that has passed. In the year of the tiger the ministry of education acknowledged a teacher deficit of about 1000 teachers as the biggest challenge facing education in Bhutan.

An uneven number of teachers in urban areas versus rural areas has been address as one of the major problems. To combat this the ministry has implemented a new limit on the number of years that a teacher can spend working in a city center from 18 down to 5 years. Once a teachers 5 years is up they will be transferred to a rural community where their skills are desperately needed.

“In the tiger year, the education ministry committed to ensure that teacher supply met demand by 2013” 
Kuensel Feb. 6, 2011

This year BCF has 21 teachers and 3 lecturers in the field. This is a step towards helping the Bhutanese fill this gap, but will need to be increased in 2012 to continue to make a real difference.

On to the year of the iron female rabbit!

Teacher Blog of the Week: Orientation over!

Once our BCF teachers arrive in Bhutan they all take part in a two week orientations session. This is a really fun time when the teachers get to know each other as well as the BCF staff in Thimphu. While in Thimphu they have cultural lessons, curriculum training as well as learning the basics of the local language.

Our teacher blog of the week  comes from Ian and Vicky’s blog In the Shadow of the Mountains where they recount their experiences during orientation over the last two weeks. 

“We have now finished orientation and today we head out east to our postings. We have been warmly welcomed and treated to some incredible experiences over the past 2 weeks. We have been given lectures introducing the education system, the special aspects of democracy and the basics of Buddhism and now feel that many aspects of Bhutanese culture are now much more familiar to us. Both the Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs and the Education Minister made the time to receive us and spoke eloquently about their visions for Bhutan and their passions for developing the education system. Their deep concern for the youth of the country and their clear perspective on the role we will all play was both impressive and inspirational” 
                               – Ian and Vicky Heading out East 

Photo Credit: Vicky Chartres and Ian Swift The Road Trip to Our New Home


Robert Bateman Print Now Available on Ebay

The Bhutan Canada Foundation is now offering the limited edition signed Robert Bateman print “Cranes of Bhutan” for sale on Ebay. This beautiful print is one in a set of illustrations from the book, “Birds of Heaven”, and has never before been offered for sale. The cranes pictured are held sacred in Bhutan, where they are often seen as harbingers of heaven and omens of longevity and good fortune.

All prints are signed by Robert Bateman. Prints are 10.5″ by 15.75″  with borders of 2″ top/sides and 2.5″ bottom. All prints are unframed.

100% of funds raised through the sale of the print will go to support The Bhutan Canada Foundation programming in 2011.  Prints are $195 + shipping and handling.

Purchase your print today. Click HERE

Canadian Dentists Provide Aid to Bhutan

Bhutan Dental Mission Team

The Bhutan Canada Foundation is a proud supporter of the Bhutan Dental Mission, a group of dental professionals who provide much needed aid to villagers in Eastern Bhutan.

In 2010 Dr. Andrew Cheng and his team traveled to Bhutan for the first time, helping villagers in the town of Bartsham with their dental needs. Following the success of this first mission the group now plans to permanently install a clinic in Bartsham, Bhutan.

Below is an excerpt from the group’s travelogue:


I ask Andrew how he is doing. “Sore fingers and back,” he says blurringly through the mask. “I can’t believe we have 200 more to see. Why did I let myself get into this?” ” You’ll get your reward through enlightenment,” I venture. He throws a swab (unused) at me. The volunteer assistants we have are 18 years old and have disappeared for a quick break “Peter, come and help”. I grab the saliva sucker but get it in the wrong place. “Further over,” he says testily but then smiles and apologizes. He is feeling the pressure. I ask Tony too. “Pretty focused,” he says. “I have to be.” Nicky shouts patiently, “Next monk please”. ” 20 more coming up,” says Serena. With all these long robed individuals it’s like as I imagine the 12th century to have been.
read more…

In March Bhutan Dental Mission will host a gala event in Vancouver, BC. Proceeds will go toward funding a second dental mission to Bhutan, including nine (9) dental personnel, mobile dental chairs and operating set ups.

Guests of the Gala will enjoy a fabulous cocktail reception, a decadent 3-course dinner, spectacular silent and live auctions, exciting live entertainment and many more fun surprises! You are guaranteed for an enjoyable evening.

Tickets are $150 each. Call 604-765-7605 to get yours!

If you cannot attend but would still like to support the Bhutan Dental Mission donate online today!

See the Bhutan Dental Mission in action. Watch the video of their trip!

Bhutan Dental Mission Documentary from Greg Bartels on Vimeo.