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Trongsa Penlop Inspire Program - 2019

 

Keeping with the tradition, the second edition of Trongsa Penlop Inspire Program powered by Drukair sponsored forty-four less privileged students from across the country on a six-day education tour to Thailand.

By Kinley Tshering

At the reception dinner for beneficiaries of the second edition of Trongsa Penlop Inspire Program at the posh Le Meridien in the capital Thimphu, forty-four students (22 girls and 22 boys) from across the country, including four differently abled students, sat huddled around tables primed with shiny cutlery – a little timid, a little nervous, and certainly excited.

This was their first dinning experience at a five-star luxury hotel. And their ostensibly mixed emotional reaction was a bit too obvious. And why not? Many of them were visiting Thimphu for the first time, leaving behind their rural homes and families, let alone a five star hotel.

The reception dinner organized for the students on 22nd December was a culmination of the three-day grooming, orientation and culture and sightseeing program in Thimphu that started on 20th December 2019. Drukair’s staff organized the sessions, conscientiously providing care to every individual student, making sure that each one of them was absolutely ready to travel and the see the world.



The students would fly to Bangkok, Thailand, for a six-day educational tour the following day. Sumchu Dema, a 19-year-old student from Zangthi in Samdrup Jongkhar, took her maiden domestic flight to attend this program. Students from the eastern, central and southern dzongkhags, closer to the domestic airports, were brought to Paro in domestic flights and transported to Thimphu while others were picked up in buses from around the country.



“It was both intimidating and exciting to fly in an airplane for the first time. My parents, who have never been on an airplane, were also both happy and worried as well,” says Sumchu Dema. “I am very curious and excited to go to Bangkok to learn and experience new things, new places and cultures.”

Drukair Corporation initiated the Trongsa Penlop Inspire Program as part of its corporate social responsibility in 2018, replacing the erstwhile Trongsa Penlop Rolling Trophy – an annual golf tournament organized by Drukair. The program, the brainchild of Honorable Yab Dondup Gyaltshen, was started with the vision to provide an opportunity to the less privileged students to travel abroad and see the world differently. Through this program, Drukair hopes to reciprocate more meaningfully the goodwill of the community towards the development of Drukair as an airline and as the national flag carrier of Bhutan.

The Gyalpoi Zimpon’s Kidu Office and the Ministry of Education selected the students – one female and one male student from each dzongkhag and four from Wangsel Institute in Drukgyel, Paro. The students were selected based on their academic performance and economic backgrounds.



Drukair provided the students with travel bags, tracksuits, shoes, ghos and kiras, including US$400 for them to do shopping in Bangkok.

“It is more than befitting for us
to give back to the community through what we do best, travel.”

- Tandi Wangchuk, CEO, Drukair

Tshering Choden, a class nine student of Wangsel Institute, was among the 44 students who left for Bangkok, along with four teachers and three Drukair staff on 23rd December 2019. Tshering is a hearing impaired student and this was her first time visiting a foreign country. “Although I am physically challenged, I am happy to get this opportunity just as other students. I am looking forward to learning a lot from this exposure trip,” she says.

In Thailand, the students took part in cultural program and interactive session at Dhammajairine Wittaya School. The students visited the Khao Keow Open Zoo, aquatic life areas, and entertainment centers, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World at Siam Paragon and the Royal Bhutan Embassy. The students also visited shopping malls in Bangkok on the final day.

It was an eye opening experience, describes a beneficiary student. “I was awed by the people, traffic, and huge, tall buildings. I was like the proverbial frog from a small pond,” she laughs, “I really felt that there is so much more to learn and explore. I am motivated to study harder so that one day I can take my parents abroad.”

Jamyang Dorji, 19-year-old student from Dechentshemo Central School in Thinleygang, says that the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he was fortunate to have received the opportunity to travel abroad, interact with Thai students and gain new experiences. “Especially for a student like me from a poor family, this opportunity has meant a lot. In the six days we were in Thailand, I felt as if I have seen the entire world,” he says. “I am more determined now to work harder to fulfill my dreams and serve my country.”

The students returned on 28th December back to Bhutan. More confident and determined. All of them were safely returned to their respective homes, just as they were brought to Thimphu.

“This is one of the closest programs to Drukair and we have been deeply touched by the profound impacts of the program. And we would want to continue this,” says Drukair’s CEO, Tandi Wangchuk.

Kinley Tshering

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