In The Land of The Peaceful Dragon: Part II

•March 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Some interesting facts about Ura are that it is located at 2800-5000 meters above sea level and is in the south-eastern part of the country. Its total area coverage is approximately 267 square kilometers and it has a total population of only195 people. Having done further research I have also found that there are 10 villages with 10 Committees, about 229 households, 4 schools. The main livelihood of the people living in Ura is agriculture. Potatoes and mushrooms are the cash crops available in Ura, and the food crops produced are wheat, barley and sweet buckwheat. At this time the proposed sustainability project that will help keep the Ura resource center up and running, is the retailing and packaging of buckwheat.

The local community donated an age old two storied building to be refurbished as the new READ resource center. When I first saw the structure it resembled something that could have been used in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. However after some READ Bhutan renovated and revamped the building, it now tells quite a different story.

The new Resource Center is located approximately 100-200 meters below the east-west national highway and links the western part of Bhutan with its Eastern Districts that pass through the Ura Gewog. It is a two storied building designed in the typical Bhutanese fashion, with bamboo mat fences amply surrounding the perimeter of the building. Currently, the ground floor is being used as a day care center.  When I met with Ms. Pema Lhaden who takes care of the day care center free of cost for local children; she flawlessly fit the image of a beautiful Bhutanese highlander with rosy red cheeks. She timidly answered a few questions, as she hid behind her friends.  She told me that there were 19 students last year—most of them fell within the age group of 3 to 6 years old. After thoroughly inspecting and cross checking the report of the groundwork I continued towards the local Ura school for a meeting with the librarian and some of the faculty.

Land of The Peaceful Dragon: Site Visit Part One

•March 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As the nippy winter melts, it ceremoniously delivers yet another spring–a season of burnished hopes, aspiration and love. Spring welcomes yet another year, unfurling a new set of dreams and hopes in every soul.  It became the perfect hour, as I drove through the heart of the peaceful dragon country in the Himalayas, gazing upon the mesmerizing landscapes as I went.  

It was my first trip to Ura, Bumthang.  It rained the night before my trip and I was apprehensive about the snowfall on the high snowcapped triplet peaks of Dochula, Pelala and Yotongla en route to Bumthang. It was a beautiful drive all through to Bumthang amidst magnificent mountains that captivated onlookers with their awe inspiring beauty, snowcapped peaks that glistened in the sun, and meandering crystal rivers that quietly whispered secrets of a hidden land. There were smoking chimneys from an old house on a distant hill, and an old man holding on for dear life to the crisscrossed ropes at the back of an overloaded truck that was transporting goods. These were just a few of the extraordinary scenes that held my breath that day. They were so simple, yet so beautiful.

I could not drive very fast, due to the ice clad road. Just as well, because I wanted to savor the feast—the feast that my soul was so happily indulging in.  I felt the cold biting breeze on my face, as I sat humming the tune to ‘Island in the stream’ by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton while I tapping my fingers on the wheel…

It’s Only Because of The Library…

•February 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Alexander the Great chose a tiny village as the capital of what was to be his monumental empire. It was in that tiny fishing village that the awe inspiring Library of Alexandria was built. It was at the library that famed philosophers,  scholars, theorists, and inventors made their ideas come to life.  Archimedes invented a water pump still used today, Euclid discovered the rules of Geometry, and Ptolemy wrote a scientific book that would be around for 1,500 years. Fast forward thousands of years and the library is still a window to thousands of opportunities. Opportunities that have enabled people in rural villages to gain the knowledge they need to move forward, get inspired, and gain knowledge. Users of READ libraries in remote villages of Nepal and India are living proof that libraries are a key component to raising themselves out of a poverty trap. These people prove everyday that  they too, can and do make a difference in their communities. Although  they do not write complex theories, or make new inventions; the Community Resource Centers have let their ideas blossom, changing their lives — just like the Library of Alexandria surely changed the lives of people in that tiny village thousands of years ago. Here is a look at how a READ library changed one man’s life.

“The Library has opened my eyes to a whole new world,” says Narayan Bahadur Sunyal, 55, who lives in Besishahar, Lamjung. He further adds, “I feel like I’m missing something if I don’t make it to the library everyday.” After having completed only nine grades in school, Sunyal joined the Indian Army and was on active duty for 16 years. After retiring from the armed forces, Sunyal dove headlong into social services and even joined a political party.

After finding out about the Laxmi Narayan Community Library, Sunyal involved himself with many of the Library’s activities. He began spending a major portion of his day burying himself in books, newspapers, and journals. His reading covers a wide array of subjects ranging from literature to politics. Once he is done with reading for the day, he goes back to his friends and talks to them about the new things he has read. His current readings involve constitutions of other nations, and this he imparts to his political counterparts and colleagues. While the nation grapples for a new constitution, his knowledge helps advocate local concerns.

Armed with newfound knowledge, Sunyal’s confidence in himself  has shot up by leaps and bounds. His oratory skills can now keep huge crowds enthralled for hours, and this has made him very popular and well respected among his people. He has been entrusted with a number of responsibilities which he does with pride.

“What I have today is only because of the Library,” says Sunwal, with a radiant smile that is hard to miss.