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Trongsa Penlop Inspire Program - 2018

A trip to
remember

Forty-four students from less privileged families, including four special needs students, recently visited Bangkok, Thailand, through the ‘Tongsa Penlop Inspire Program’ powered by Drukair

By Kinley Tshering


Drukair’s 4 pm flight KB 152 to Bangkok on December 22, 2018, had onboard a group of special passengers. And most of them were stepping onto a plane for the first time in their lives.

Dressed in orange jackets, white polo T-shirts and black tracksuits, 44 students, including four special needs students, were bound for Bangkok, Thailand. This was their maiden flight as well as their first visit to a foreign destination.

There was muffled nervousness as the students boarded the aircraft, walked through the aisle to their respective seats, tossed their hand luggage in the overhead bin and sat down and buckled the seat belts. Patiently waiting for the plane to take off into the skies, the students were quiet in personal thoughts.

These 44 students from less privileged families, along with four teachers, were making their first trip abroad as part of Drukair’s educational outreach programme under the banner of ‘Tongsa Penlop Inspire Program’.

The first batch comprised 20 girls and 20 boys from 20 dzongkhags with two escort teachers. In addition, four special needs students (two boys and two girls) along with a male and a female teacher were also selected from Wangsel Institute of Drukgyal Central School in Paro. The Gyalpoi Zimpon’s Office selected the participants and also sent Gyalpoi Zimpon Wom Chitem Tenzin as a facilitator and guide.

Hon'ble Yab Dhondup Gyaltshen giving away merchandise to students

A part of Drukair’s Corporate Social Responsibility, the ‘Tongsa Penlop Inspire Program’ aims to provide enriching experiences to less privileged students and teachers identified from schools across Bhutan. This programme includes a fully sponsored excursion to a selected Drukair destination, offering the students and the teachers the opportunity to learn about new places and cultures.

Drukair believes that such exposure would inspire the students to strive and reach for new heights through academic and personal excellence.

This program will be an annual affair.

GETTING STUDENTS READY

Even before the students boarded the plane to Bangkok, they were thoroughly briefed and oriented. The beneficiary students arrived in Thimphu on December 20. They were put up at the Youth Hostel. The orientation programme included a grooming session by Drukair cabin attendants and detailed briefing on the tour itinerary.

Student briefing

Drukair also hosted a dinner for the students at Le Meridian, Thimphu, to provide them an opportunity to experience five-star luxury dining.

Hon’ble Yab Dhondup Gyaltshen graced the dinner. The senior management of Drukair and the Board of Directors also attended the dinner. Merchandise and gifts, which formed a part of their travelling kit, were distributed to the students at the dinner.

A GLIMPSE OF DRUKAIR PREMISES

On the third day, the students were given a tour to Drukair’s inflight catering premises followed by a tour to the engineering and aircraft maintenance area to provide exposure on the background services of the airline.

The students also visited the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service premises followed by a quick visit to the flight operations office.

The students were also given a dry run of the departure procedures in order to allow them to check in by themselves and to experience the entire airport facilities.

Paro Airport Tour

Students boarding their first flight

OFF TO BANGKOK

The students took the 4 pm flight to Bangkok on December 22. Their initial edginess gave way to excitement as the aircraft flew over the mountains, offering an aerial view of Paro’s diminishing landscape and entered the cruising altitude. In Bangkok, the students stayed at the Grand Mercure Bangkok Fortune, a four-star hotel, pampering them with high-end luxury experience of a metropolitan hotel right in the heart of Bangkok city.

For the Bhutanese students who have lived in the mountains their entire lives, the attraction of the sea was a little too much to resist. On the following day, they packed their swimsuits and trunks and took a two-hour drive to the popular Pattaya Beach to experience the sea. The students made the best of their time by the beach.

Students at Pattaya Beach

“It was such an overwhelming experience to see the vast body of water and to swim in it. We have studied about seas and oceans but never seen one. To be there physically was simply wonderful,” one of them said.

On their way back, they visited the famous Khao Keow Open Zoo along with a treat of local Thai cuisine.

Students at Khaw Keo Open Zoo

A little departure from the fun and frolic, on the fifth day of the tour, the students visited Dhammajairine Wittaya School in Ratchaburi Province, Bangkok. The school had organised a complete set of events for the day with cultural dances performed by both Bhutanese and Thai students, video presentation of the school, kindergarten activities and vocational training programmes, among others.

Visit to Dhammajairine Wittaya
School, Bangkok

This educational tour enabled the exchange of cultures between the students of the two friendly Kingdoms. The school also hosted a lunch for the visiting students.

A teacher accompanying the students said that the educational tour to the Thai school was indeed an eye- opening experience for all of them. “The visit was a great learning experience. We learnt about the Thai education system, their schools and unique culture, among many others,” she said. “We came back so much richer in both knowledge and experience.”

Students at SFX Cinema in Bangkok

In the afternoon, the students watched a 3D movie at the SFX cinema. The Royal Bhutan Embassy in Thailand assisted by the students of Trongsa Penlop Scholarship hosted a dinner for the group that night.

Students at Dream World

The visit to Dream World Play Arena in Bangkok on the following day was one of the most looked forward events on the itinerary. And why not? Dream World is one of the most popular theme parks in Bangkok with plenty of fun-filled attractions and entertainment for children. No wonder, the students spent the entire day there until they were totally exhausted.

The students visited the ‘Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World’, the famous marine zoo in Bangkok, on the final day. The students were stunned to see some of the rare animals found at sea.

Students visits Royal Bhutan Embassy
in Bangkok

Well, a trip to Bangkok is incomplete without a shopping expedition. The students visited one of the best shopping malls in Bangkok before retiring for the night.

“I had never even dreamt of flying on a plane, let alone travelling to a big city like Bangkok and staying in beautiful, luxurious hotels. I am grateful for this opportunity,” said a girl student. “I will remember this trip for a long time!”

“This trip has inspired all of us to work harder. It has shown us the limitless boundary of opportunities in life,” said a male student.


BACK HOME

On December 27, 2018, the students checked in on their own, going through the entire airport facilities in Bangkok’s busy airport and flew back home. The flight landed in Paro at around 8 am. The students were escorted to the Youth Hostel in Thimphu.

Students from east returning to their homes
via domestic flight till Yonphula, Trashigang

Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen and Hon’ble Yab Dhondup Gyaltshen granted an audience to the students that evening.

Her Majesty expressed her deep appreciation to Drukair for initiating this programme. The students received mementos granted by His Majesty The King.

Most of the students left for their homes on the following day except for 13 students from the eastern dzongkhags, whose flight to Yonphula was scheduled on December 30. To keep them engaged, a day tour, which included hike to Cheri Lhakhang, a sightseeing tour to Buddha Dordenma and a visit to a local bookstore, was organised. Later in the evening, they were treated to a Bhutanese movie.

They boarded the domestic flight to Yonphula the next day.

Kinley Tshering

He is the Editor of Drukair In-flight magazine (Tashi Delek) and Creative Director of Zoom Out Productions (Publisher).