This story appeared on the 25 April, 2009 issue of the Bhutan Observer.
Building Houses For The Poor
“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art,” they say. And it did begin in emotion for Asha Kama, the founding member of Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu, (VAST).
VAST has lately initiated a community programme called Build-a-house through which VAST members will build houses for unfortunate families or provide financial assistance to do so.
The programme was inspired by a fateful meeting of VAST members with a poor family in Kabesa, Punakha. Ap Khen and his family of five live in a dilapidated hut. With father recovering from Hansen’s disease and mother suffering a terminal burn injury, four children are missing out on education.
Upon seeing the family, VAST took it upon them to help the family.
Although the initial plan was to complete the house by the end of April, it could not happen due to lack of fund. Over one and a half months, VAST members have collected Nu 198,388, which is more than enough for the first house.
The estimated cost of one house is Nu 88,000 and the time taken, one month. Now, there are some 13 donors, many from Thimphu and some from the US and Singapore.
The main objective of the project is to educate the youth on traditional lifestyle, to let them get a firsthand experience in traditional stone and mud masonry and carpentry. However, Asha Kama said the project had other benefits for the youth.
“Over the period of one month, the youths involved will get an opportunity to interact with the villagers which will help them get a better understanding of life, make them realise their importance in the society and change their attitude towards suffering,” he said.
“More emphasis should be given by other organisations including the government and schools. If that happens, the impact will be bigger and more resounding,” said Gelay, a volunteer at VAST. “Programmes like this can make youth understand the rich traditional values that the Bhutanese are losing touch,” he added.
The programme plans to construct one house in a year for other similar less privileged families. VAST hopes to carry out the programmes in other dzongkhags in the future.