To celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth King and jointly contribute to the National Year of Reading, Druk School conducted a campaign to collect funds to purchase books for a remote school in the Torres Strait Islands. The school's name is Tagai State College Erub Campus. It is a small primary school of 49 students in a community of only 376 people. A teacher at the school posted a plea via Facebook requesting 2 books to be sent by any person who could afford to do so as all the students in the school had read every book in the their library.
I approached the principal requesting that we as a school make it a project to collect books and send them as a part of our reading year celebrations. Madam Tshewang Choden Wangdi immediately embraced the idea and suggested we ask for money not books so that we wouldn’t get inappropriate or double copies. We established that the brief should be to purchase only books about Bhutan and as far as possible written by Bhutanese authors. The response was overwhelming.
The donations were collected over a period of only two weeks as we wanted to ensure that the books reached the children in Australia before the end of this academic year.
Class X parents initiated the collection at the close of their final meeting for the year, donating a massive Nu11,000. Students were also incredibly receptive to the needs of others and willingly donated in small amounts on a daily basis. I instantly noticed those same children who had come to my desk earlier in the year when I announced I had brought 30 books from Australia with me. They were the keenest readers who weren’t aware that this was a secret reading challenge to see which class would take the initiative and respond. In total students contributed Nu 6,900 and several classes were proud to say that every single member made a donation. Such is the power of giving. The teachers and staff also pledged to donate in varying amounts and as soon as our salaries were paid that pledge was acknowledged and another Nu 12,170 arrived.
Thus our FUNDS COLLECTED reached NGULTRUM 30, 070
After the initial 2 shopping expeditions the question of the postage became pressing. How much of our funds would have to go towards postage, needed to be established. The incredibly useful Bhutan Postal Services website indicated that it would be about Nu12, 000 and I promptly explained this to the principal who like me was shocked. Never a one to let obstacles stand in her way our Madam Tshewang then came up with the brilliant idea of seeking the support of the CEO of the Postal Services. She and I met this charming man and after a brief discussion it was agreed that the parcel could be sent at a discounted rate. I am indebted to him for his generosity in sponsoring this project and acknowledging that it was a worthy cause and a concrete way in which the post office could support reading year.
Off I went on my third shopping expedition for books, estimating the final weight and spending all that we could on children’s books, which highlighted the beauty of Bhutanese culture and spread the message of happiness. In the end there were some books that had to be doubled up as we really had exhausted all the titles applicable to the student cohort, but I am sure that won’t be a problem. They will certainly have the largest collection of Bhutanese books in Australia, and possibly the Southern Hemisphere, in their library.
I purchased from every book supplier in Thimphu and was able to get a 10% discount for schools when I explained the project from many of them so our grand total of 62 books was reached with the help and assistance of many in the community as well as our own school. We also included a brief note to the school and some prayer flags for the students to fly in Torres Strait. We now wait with baited breath to hear that our books have arrived and that the students of Tagai State College Erub Campus are enjoying them.
Everyone enjoyed playing their part in completing a circle of donation of books. I have to end by saying that the whole idea for this project came to me because of the books, which were written by ex-BCF teacher Andrea Chisholm and published and distributed this year through generous donations of people from Australia, Bhutan and around the world. It was also she who suggested to this teacher to put out her plea on Facebook. It seems perfect to complete the circle of love by having Bhutanese donate books to a school in a remote area of her home state Queensland.
I am sure that the Fourth King himself, as the inspiration and initiator of many education projects and an avid supporter of reading, would be pleased with this outcome.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Tashi Delek.