Student Story: Bhutanese Students Write Their First Book

This September, the students at Jakar Higher Secondary School in central Bhutan wrote their first book. It was a collection of stories and poems called We Are Bhutan

Book Launch Party: Students are signing books and celebrating with pizza

The book was first published on Amazon, where it currently ranks as the #43 best-selling book in its category. Students used these profits to pay for printing the book here in Bhutan. They printed 1,000 copies and have already sold almost half of them.

The project was organized by BCF teacher Mr. Evan, who collected the stories, helped the student editors, and sold the book to its American publisher. “This was a really cool project,” Mr. Evan said, “but the students did most of the work. I just got them started.”

To celebrate the book’s release, all student writers gathered on 5 October for a book signing and pizza party. Over 80 students were in attendance, along with the school’s vice principal. The party was hosted by Mr. Evan, who helped the eight tables of students autograph as many books as possible.

 

“I think it will really inspire others to write for our next book” 

-Tshering Wangmo, grade 9 student

 

“I felt very happy to attend this party, and I think it will really inspire others to write for our next book,” said Tshering Wangmo, a student from Grade 9 who contributed two poems.

Also among the guests were the four students who won international awards with their writing: Dorji Wangchuk (Grade 10), Tila Rupa Chhetri (11), Amandika Thapa (9), and Tandin Tshering (10). Their stories and poems received special recognition, each winning an award in America.

“I was really surprised when I saw my poem in a magazine,” said Tandin Tshering, the most recent winner. “The publisher didn’t even tell me I won. They just sent me a copy of the magazine.”

As for We Are Bhutan, the students hope to sell the remaining copies within the next two months. They plan to set up a booth during next week’s tshechu (festival) and sell to all the visiting tourists.

“Once we raise enough money,” Mr. Evan said, “we will use it to print our second book in January.”

 

 

This story was written by Choki Om. Choki is a grade 9 student in Evan Purcell’s class. Congratulations to the students at Jakar Higher Secondary School for publishing We Are Bhutan – this is an incredible accomplishment! And thank you Choki for taking the time outside of publishing a book to share this story!

You can purchase We Are Bhutan here

Newsletter from Jakar Higher Secondary School

Ever wonder what goes on in schools in Bhutan? Take a peak at the student made newsletter to learn more about their reading week “Wall Magazine” contest and their new School Museum!

 

Jakar Higher Secondary School Newsletter

 

This newsletter was made by the English Literary Club at Jakar Higher Secondary School. Thank you BCF teacher, Evan Purcell, for sharing all the great work your students are doing!

 

Three Published Authors in Central Bhutan

When I first volunteered to teach in Bhutan, I did not expect to see my students become published writers. I thought I’d teach some classes and maybe do a few school-wide projects. I didn’t expect my students to be so ambition… and so talented.

Now, during my second year at Jakar High School in central Bhutan, I have three students who just sold their writing to publishers in America, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Our first writer is named Dorji Wangchuk. He’s a student in grade ten, and he wrote an original fable called “Tree God,” about a village on the brink of environmental disaster and a mysterious visitor who teaches everyone how to fix their own problems.

It’s a really good story, and you’ll be able to read it in October when the anthology I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids Vol. 9 comes out. The book, funded by the Houston Literary Organization, collected stories and poems from students all over the world. Dorji is the first Bhutanese writer to be a part of this project.

“I was really surprised when I heard the news,” Dorji said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”

His award ceremony is scheduled for October 27 in Houston, Texas. I really hope he gets to go, but plane tickets might be too expensive. Still, even if he doesn’t attend, he’ll always have the honor of being a published writer at sixteen. I’m really proud of him.

My other two writers are both poets. Amandika Thapa from grade nine and Tila Rupa Chhetri from grade eleven will both be featured in the Sewing the Seeds of Peace anthology, also based in Texas. Amandika’s poem “A Conversation with Peace” and Tila’s poem “Looking for Peace” are both beautiful pieces of writing.

Their big award ceremony is scheduled for next month, to coincide with the International Day of Peace on September 23.

I love my job in Bhutan. The students here are so motivated and clever. As a foreign teacher, I truly feel that it’s my responsibility to help them reach their full potential. Because Bhutan is such a small country, it can be hard for the students here to know how to express themselves. They all want to be heard. I just gave them the megaphone.

 

This blog post was written by Evan Purcell, a BCF teacher in central Bhutan. Read the published story in the national newspaper in Bhutan, Kuensel, here.

You can also follow the writers’ work at https://iwrite.org/i-write-contest/ or https://www.inspiritry.com/pages/peace/art-of-peace-tyler

Summer Reading Program: It’s a Wrap!

With the summer almost at an end, it also brings the end of another very successful reading program.

Our teachers came together for a lively discussion sharing their own unique experiences and debriefing on the program. We are very thankful of the contributions each of our teachers made this summer. To each of our teachers, thank you for supporting education to youth in local communities across Bhutan!

Interested in joining our reading program? We are now seeking teachers to join us in 2019! Read more information at: https://bhutancanada.org/programs/bhutan-reading-program/

 

Lobesa Library donation

This blog was written by Joy Vardy – Reading Program 2017 – who coordinated a large shipment of books to Lobesa. 

I have to share this little anecdote. It illustrates how precious books are in Bhutan.

I had donated a 4000 book library to Lobesa school in central Phunakha and shipped it to Bhutan from Australia. I was back in the country for a month to set it up. Children had been sent from class throughout the day to help me in the library. They arrive in hoard proportions at lunch break and after school. When the room suddenly grows dark I know there is a new gang of children outside the window and door craning in.

The kids here show amazing initiative. They pick up the task at hand instantly and quickly organise new comers or younger students to do what needs to be done.  They display great responsibility. I’ve had them fixing spine labels, alphabetically ordering by author surname, matching printed borrowing cards to books among a dozen other jobs. They are so keen!

One young girl – she is perhaps 11 years of age, helped me all afternoon in the library. She was a fast worker and learned quickly. She deftly organised new comers to tasks. At lunch she wanted to stay on but before I shooed her out to eat she picked up a book I had put aside. I was going to remove it from the collection; it was a girlie princess cartoon book. She was the last child to leave.  It obviously appealed so I said she could have it.

Her face was ecstatic. ‘Really? I can have this? For me? ‘

“Yes, but Shh !,” I said winking,  finger to my lips. “Have you many books at home?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I have an old reader and a book of stories.” The reader once belonged to her adult sister and she knew the text of the story book by heart.

The princess cartoon book stayed on her lap all afternoon. When she moved around the library it went with her. I wish now that I had given her a decent piece of literature instead of a trashy cartoon novel; such a simple thing, to double her library with the giving of a reject book.

I would cull much of the existing collection in Lobesa. The books are tattered, dated – often with torn pages and missing front covers. I would let the kids take these books home. For many that book may become one of 3 or 4 titles they own and read until it is known by heart. For them, it would be gold.

I was finishing up for the day at 4:00pm with Phunstho, the Library assigned teacher when 20 or so kids turned up at the door offering to help. These were ‘town kids’ who lived locally and did not face a bus ride or a long walk home to a farm. They finished their after school chores in the classroom and came up to help in library.

“Can we come back before school tomorrow?” they ask. “That would be wonderful!”

By the time we begin library classes next week these kids will already be skilled in alphabetical order, know the difference between all the sections of a library as well as recognise the first three letters of an author’s name. Most importantly, they will know that books are placed on a shelf vertically, with the spine facing out, replacing the current habit of tossing a book onto a haphazard stack on a shelf.

I will not have been able to organise the library without the help of these children and when it is set up will be a gift of quality literature they and their teachers have never seen before in their lives. For this one young girl, the gift of a single book is a third of a library and it is probably memorised already.

Summer Reading Program

“I sense this may be and will be a life-altering experience- but I’m not yet sure in what ways….”
Mary Ann Pruyser, one of BCF’s volunteer teachers this summer, has given us a look into her pre-departure thoughts. This month marks the take off of our Summer Reading Program. We’re sending 16 amazing teachers, including Mary Ann, to embark on a trip of a lifetime, acting as reading mentors to students in Bhutan. Understandably, these teachers have a lot on their minds. Here’s what she had to say:
“I feel confident, but know I will have to train myself out of the western way of thinking and make that inevitable adjustment to ‘traditional society’ lifestyle – letting go of a focus on materialism and the need to be comfortable at all times.

I’m very excited about the prospect of exploring this unique culture which I’ve been fascinated with for many years. I feel very privileged to be part of a Canadian excursion to Bhutan – a once in a life time experience. Looking forward to observing the culture from a western perspective and then upon return to Canada, observing my culture from an eastern more traditional perspective.

I’m curious about exploring ways that will assist young Bhutanese to improve their English skills in a short time. 

I’m expecting to gain friendships, connections for future volunteer teaching experiences, challenging myself through the harder times which will inevitably be part of such a trip, gaining a deep appreciation about how locals live their lives, viewing the breathtaking landscape.”

Looking for an experience to bring perspective and adventure into your life like Mary Ann? Check out our programs and upcoming trips at www.bhutancanada.org