Chimmi is a tour guide and, like many of his colleagues in the tourism sector, lost his only source of income when the pandemic started.
The pandemic upended the tourism industry in Bhutan—the second largest source of revenue—and left some 50,000 Bhutanese unemployed as a result. Chimmi is now working for Green Bhutan Corporation Limited (GBCL), a state-owned enterprise with mandates of re-afforestation, afforestation, landscape development and greening, planting of medicinal plants, ornamental plants, floriculture, and creating awareness on environmental policies and programs. Chimmi and many others have been hired by GBCL to carry out work throughout the country, including the landscaping of the Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang.
This year, we began the third phase of the Wangduechhoeling Palace project, which will focus on building on the research and restoration work over the past few years to transform the palace into a museum and cultural center. This phase also includes the landscaping work for the vast area within the walls of the palace. With international border closures, certain activities like training of fire prevention and mitigation, testing of elevators, and lighting have been put on hold as experts from outside Bhutan are unable to enter the country. However, at the palace itself, restoration of the Utse, the central tower, and landscaping work are still continuing uninterrupted and have even expanded to employ individuals like Chimmi. He was recruited to work on landscaping at the palace, which includes beautifying the grounds with flowers, new trees, and shaping of the gardens and lawn. While the work was difficult for first two weeks, since it was a whole new skillset in comparison to his work as a tour guide, he noted that the opportunity to help shape the palace has been a blessing for him since he has been able to pay for his expenses and sustain his family during these uncertain times. He said, “If given a chance to work at the palace again, I would jump at the opportunity.”
During these past several months, we have also been working remotely with Hoffman Creative, a full-service creative company based in New York, to help develop the branding design for the palace. In addition, we have been working remotely with our curatorial team based in Delhi, India, to begin museum planning and exhibit design planning.
Check out more articles like this one in Remote Not Removed: Bhutan Foundation Annual Report 2020.