I was asked twice last week about volunteering opportunities here in Bhutan so I thought it would be a good idea to write it down and post it up here. It’s a little awkward because I actually don’t know all that many specifics. What little I know, is shared here. Please do not just take my word for it, be sure to do ample research!
First off, myself. I am here under the Singapore Volunteers Overseas (SVO) programme. The programme is managed by the Singapore International Foundation. There are two main categories of volunteers, specialist and in-field. Specialists volunteers generally serve short stints, around 1-2 weeks. I belong to the later category; in-field volunteers serve in their host countries for 6 months to a year. Extensions are possible.
The United Nations has a significant presence here in Bhutan (UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, etc) and one available volunteer opportunity is with the UN Volunteers (UNV). Information can be found on the UNV website. A special note, I met a German gentleman who works for Shell and is here as volunteer. Thanks to a tie-up with Shell and UNV, he is here on company expense but working as a volunteer for the UNV for a month. So those working with large corporates, do check with your HR representative. The UN offices do take interns from time-to-time, so if you’re fresh out of college, that is an avenue to explore.
The largest group of volunteers by nationality in Bhutan is probably the Japanese. Most of them are here with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), through the JOCV or SV programme. I have also met volunteers from New Zealand, here with Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA).
It is highly likely that there are other organisations, I am not aware of, that do send volunteers to Bhutan, but there probably aren’t many with significant presence. Drop me a note if you know any.
Last but not least, please consider coming to Bhutan to volunteer only if you truly feel that you have something to offer to the country and her people. Don’t volunteer to avoid the US$200/day tariff. If you really want to, save up and come as a tourist. High-value tourism is an important part of the local economy; providing jobs without overburdening the cultural and ecological environment that makes this country unique.