For 3 weeks I was at the Bongde institute for hospitality and tourism, our hotel school in Bhutan. The first batch of students is now almost finished with their internship and all of them can find work in the hotels is Bhutan; there is a great need for them.

Two new trainers from the Netherlands Niki and Floris are now taking over from Auke and Adrien and they will train the Bhutanese trainers and manage the insitute for the coming year.

I like to share with you the story of Shankar, Shankar a skinny boy from the south of Bhutan was a bit of a troublemaker when he came to our school. He was arrogant, tried to sneak out of classes and wanted to go to clubs at night. After he got strictly disciplined, he changed and became a good student. Now he is doing an internship in a Bhutanese 3 star plus hotel. I spoke to him, he told me because of his good training at our institute -he is now teaching all the staff in the hotel where he is doing the internship. His eyes were beaming and his dream is to become a butler. Such a nice story and also to see that the kids are becoming ambitious.

The second batch in our school is very talented. We have young cooks who learn fast and all are very eager to learn. I talked a lot to the students and many of them are from such poor backgrounds. Like Kinley, a beautiful young girl, her parents are farmers but they do not own land, they are sharecroppers, this means they have to work on the land of other people and they get 40% of the yield. They have a small home garden where they grow chilies and some plants that they can sell. Basically these people hardly have access to money and have to live from the land.For Kinley the education in our school can help her to create a better future and she can get out of the circle of poverty.

Bhutan is not the country of gross national happiness, when you hear the stories of the youth, they are heartbreaking: prostitution is on the rise and specially with western tourists, human trafficking (girls are sold into prostitution in India) and so many children are born without a father are not regarded Bhutanese citizen and therefore have no access to state sponsored schools and other facilities, there is alcoholism, domestic violence toward women and drug abuse. This is mainly due to lack of scope for the young people.

I want to end this blog with a positive note, Bhutan is a very beautiful country, the people are friendly and it has such a unique heritage, spirituality and culture. It’s a gem in the Himalaya, its not Shangri la: it’s a country in transition, one foot in the 19e century and the other in the 21-century. Bhutan needs time to find its way.

We want to thank the Nelis van Dril Foundation, The Triodos Foundation, The DT Family Foundation, EHL Smile Foundation and the Johanna Donk-Grote Stichting and many more for their generous contributions. We are very grateful.IMG_0905The trainers: Niki and Floris in the middle, with the Bhutanese trainers and Auke and Adrien