Volunteering in Bhutan

Small, mountainous, and land-locked, Bhutan has a truly unique cultural character.

Punakha Dzong the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha Bhutan.
Punakha Dzong, the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Supplied: Kat Francis

Nestled in the Himalayas between India and China, and largely isolated from the rest of the world until the mid-twentieth century, Bhutan is rich in its traditional Buddhist heritage.

Following a series of political reforms, the country has transitioned to a more open, democratic constitutional monarchy. The king and royal family continue to play an important role in Bhutanese society.

The story of development in Bhutan strikes the careful balance of cultural and environmental preservation, with a cautious yet resolute embrace of modernity. The small nation is well-known for preferring to measure prosperity according to its own development philosophy – Gross National Happiness – which measures sustainable and equitable socio-economic growth, environmental conservation, the protection and promotion of traditional Bhutanese culture, and good governance.

Despite the government’s active approach to development, Bhutan still faces several challenges. The kingdom is endeavouring to transition from an agrarian society to a tech-savvy 21st-century country, yet a large proportion of the population still works in agriculture, predominantly in subsistence farming.

Australian volunteers are contributing to strengthening the education, health, agriculture and forestry sectors, and a highly-skilled civil society. The Australian Volunteer Program aims to align with and support the 12th Five Year Plan of Bhutan (2018 – 2023) priorities in the following areas:

  • quality education and skills
  • water, food and nutrition security
  • healthy ecosystem
  • economic diversity and productivity
  • healthy and caring society