Camp to bridge disparity between urban and rural children underway in Lhuentse

Be it access to digital devices, the internet, or acquiring basic life skills, there is a disparity between children growing up in urban areas and in rural settings. To bridge this gap, a 10-day Rural-Urban Friendship Camp is underway at Khoma in Lhuentse. It brings together children from different parts of the country to indulge in practical learning. The camp which initiates learning beyond schools commenced last week.

Every year, Camp Rural-Urban Friendship brings together children from rural and urban communities and engages them in winter camps for practical learning.

For the 8th edition, the winter camp brought together 78 children, aged 6 to 16 from every district including the highlands of Merak, Sakteng, and Lingzhi as well as Lhop communities from the South.

The organisers have made this edition inclusive by including children with disabilities as well.

“We have not just sign language but also interpreters who would help in ensuring that this camp is not only inclusive but also participatory,” said Namgyel Wangchuk, Camp Director.

The camp this time emphasises on Education Beyond Schooling, a project from the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund secured by Bhutanese Chevening scholars working with Camp RUF. The camp focuses on four thematic programmes; Climate Change, Entrepreneurship, Media Literacy, and Cyber Security.

“The camp gives an opportunity for the campers to learn two important things. Firstly, on climate change, social media, and entrepreneurship. Secondly, they get to experience different ethnicities aside from their own,” said Dechen Rabgyel, a Chevening Alumni and co-leader of Education Beyond School.

He added the camp provides a platform for the participants to learn from their peers and facilitators unlike classroom learning where they learn just from the teachers. Besides, he said the camp would equip them with the drive to learn new things and develop a mindset that they can learn something new every day.

“At Camp RUF, we learned sign language. For me I think sign language is a very important thing to learn for every individual because there are people with disabilities so it is important to communicate with them. We also learned about media literacy, climate change and many more. Unlike in school, we learned it through experiential learning so we are grateful,” said Mendrel Rinchen Dolma, one of the participants from Khuruthang Middle Secondary School.

“I got to learn about climate change and social media. Most important of all, I learned sign language and also got the opportunity to make new friends,” added Nima Wangdi, another participant studying at Sakteng Lower Secondary School.

The camp which will end on Friday instills a sense of belonging and a wiliness to give back to the community among the participants. Toward that end, they organise post-camp projects every year.

One batch of the programme gave 2000 pairs of shoes to rural communities after the children realised that their rural friends did not have shoes.

Similarly, in 2018, the participants also collected warm clothes for elderlies and also raised a fund to build a house in a rural area, supporting one of Tarayana Foundation’s projects. The camp in 2019 also contributed Nu 200,000 to the National Covid Fund.

Since its inception in 2014, the camp has brought together around 800 students from across the country.

The co-founder Tenzin Dorji started the initiative to fulfil his late wife’s dream to narrow the gap dividing children in urban and rural areas.

Tashi Yangden

Edited by Phub Gyem

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