22 March, 2015, Tsalumaphey, Thimphu:
Under the patronage and guidance of Her Majesty The Queen Mother, Gyalyum Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck, the Bhutan Nuns Foundation (BNF) commemorated an important milestone with the traditional earth ramming ceremony of the Training and Resource Centre for Bhutanese Nuns in Tsalumaphey (Babesa).
The very auspicious occasion was graced by Her Majesty The Gyalyum, who led the earth ramming ceremony. Guests including nuns, volunteers and both national and international supporters also participated.
The ceremony, which started at 6 am with the installation of the doors of the four cottages, marks an important phase in the construction process. The half-day program included prayers and blessing as well as a series of traditional songs that are typically sung during earth ramming house constructions. The song leaders were women from a few different regions of Bhutan, demonstrating how wide spread these construction practices used to be as well as serving as role models for future generations for whom these are no longer the norm.
Her Majesty The Gyalyum, BNF’s visionary Patron, has always encouraged the use of traditional architectural practices and materials. Since BNF is through its work with Bhutanese nuns, already completely committed to preserving and protecting Bhutanese culture and traditions, it was natural for BNF to follow this path.
Several seasoned architects and engineers from both the Department of Culture and the Ministry of Works and Human Settlements have been a valuable source of voluntary support and expertise towards this project. Unlike the vast majority of construction projects in contemporary Bhutan, all the labor, including the masons and carpenters are local people trained in the traditional Bhutanese methods of construction. It is hoped that this construction can be a model for future building projects by showcasing the simplicity and beauty of using local materials and local building practices.
Establishing the Centre has been one of the most important priorities of the Bhutan Nun Foundation. The Centre is envisioned as a place where Bhutanese nuns could have a platform to come together, learn, share and recognize their own potential.
The proposed trainings, which are not currently available to Bhutanese nuns, will include teacher training, counseling training, training for hospice work and general capacity building not only for the sustainability of their own nunneries but also to give them the tools to reach out to the wider Bhutanese society.
For the almost 1,500 nuns scattered throughout Bhutan having a centralized space of their own is critical for their safety, convenience and comfort away from their nunneries. The center will also welcome Buddhist practitioners from around the globe to be part of this unique spiritual space.
In around 2010 Tshalumaphey was identified as the site for the centre but it was only in 2014 that the gift of a generous donor made it possible to begin the construction by laying the foundation of four cottages that will be used as residential spaces for nuns who come to the center to receive both short-term and long-term trainings. However BNF continues to seek financial supporters in order to begin building the main training center, which includes classroom facilities, library and a conference hall.
The Bhutan Nuns Foundation (BNF) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2009 under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck. The Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life and education of all Buddhist nuns throughout the country regardless of any differences. The Foundation is committed to the quality education and empowerment of all the women and girls who are in the nunneries, as a way of enhancing their capacity to support society in its search for Gross National Happiness.