What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Unlike monks, nuns receive no financial support in Bhutan. Many live in poverty without adequate sanitation and nutrition. The Bhutan Nuns' Foundation is the first organisation to help nuns. Currently there is no place in Bhutan for the nuns to network and find resources and training. Bhutan has been untouched by outsiders and remains steeped in traditional culture and Buddhism, which is the essence of the Bhutanese way of life. However with TV and Internet newly introduced in 2002, Bhutanese youths are experiencing pressures of a changing society.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
A few years ago it was difficult for women to find a nunnery. Now there are over 1000 nuns and 26 nunneries in a population of 700,000. Bhutan has one of the youngest populations in the world with 40% of the population under 18 years old and 60% of the population under 25 years old. With the appearance of TV, the youths are turning to gangs and drinking and losing the foundations of their culture famous for introducing GNH (Gross National Happiness).
What is your solution?
The BNF have made construction plans to build a training and resource centre on a piece of land they have already acquired so that nuns can be taught health, nutrition, receive education and spiritual guidance. Here they can also be trained to become 'Agents of Change'. This is a project where nuns will act as social workers, counsellors and give spiritual and life guidance to their communities. The UK has over 100 Buddhist organisations and this project hopes to link the UK and BNF to raise awareness about the Bhutanese culture, their communities and the plight of the nuns living in poverty.
How will you deliver this?
Once the funds have been raised, the director of the BNF and a nun will be invited to come to the UK to give talks about Bhutan, their culture and the nuns. Though the visits will be scheduled at Buddhist centres, the talks will be open to all. The aim will be to create a network of contacts interested in funding the project to build the centre as well as being a cultural exchange between UK and Bhutan.