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Taryana Volunteer Trip to Jangbi

Posted on October 10, 2010

We decided to spend our fall break as volunteers for the Tarayana Foundation. Tarayana is a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of vulnerable individuals and communities in Bhutan. As their webpage states:

“Tarayana was established in 2003 by Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, to help bridge local needs of disadvantaged remote communities with larger national initiatives…small communities in the remote corners still lag behind on many socio-economic development indices. The Foundation thus established to help these communities achieve self sufficiency through small and targeted interventions through the process of true local empowerment.”

Road to JangbiWe volunteered to spend a week in the small village of Jangbi in south central Bhutan. We traveled by bus for half a day on a road that we shared with cows (PIC 1 road to Jangbi). Then we had to walk for about 4 hours the way that the villagers do if they want to travel to other villages. After a picturesque, yet slightly exhausting trek uphill, we arrived at the village of Jangbi (roughly 100 inhabitants). We trudged up to the house of a local man and were instantly greeted with food, tea, and ara (homemade wine). The village monk greeted us with unbelievable generosity and gratitude for the work that we would be participating in for the next week. After we had consumed several gallons of tea, we left the house and walked several hundred feet to our campsite (located on a hill above the village. In most cases, visitors are required to pay the village per night to stay at the campsite, however, because we were going to be contributing to the village, this fee was waived. After a fantastic dinner, prepared by several very talented chefs, we climbed into our tents and passed out for the night.

For the next several days, we helped the village construct a new house, provided by the Tarayana foundation. Our jobs included sanding wood for the foundation, building the rock walls of the house and leveling the ground around the house. Although at first many of us felt that we were getting in the way and slowing progress, we quickly adjusted to the work environment (no verbal communication with the villagers) and were able to contribute generously to the construction of the house.

During the second night in Jangbi, we took part in a religious and social ceremony to bless the “to-be” house and pay tribute to the central figures involved in its construction (architect, construction manager, house owner etc). The village also offered a great deal of fresh fruit, candies and nuts to the eight Wheaton students to express their gratitude for our work. After the ceremony, the entire village gathered together to share songs and dances with the eight of us, during which time we shared some of our own creative acts (Doe a deer etc etc).

During our time in Jangbi, we were lucky enough to visit the local primary school. Attended by roughly 50 students, this school provides education, as well as room and board to the children of three villages. Upon our arrival, the students presented us with a performance of dance and song, including their own rendition of Country Road (“Country road, take me home to the place I belong, Jangbi…”). We then had to perform for them in turn. All eight of us were extremely touched by these children and brought along a MASSIVE bag of candy to hand out to the students during our second visit. Additionally, we participated in a soccer game with the students during one of our last days in the village (eight Wheaton students against 50 Jangbi students). We lost miserably.

By the time Saturday rolled around, many of us were ready to head back to RTC. We all acknowledged the rarity and importance of a trip like this, considering most people will never have the opportunity to do what we did. With a sense of accomplishment, a handful and stories and a new found appreciated for “civilization,” we packed up our things and headed back the bus.

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