Since we haven’t been able to welcome any guests to our lodge lately, we thought we would share with you all what our team has been up to while awaiting Bhutan’s borders to reopen. Below is an interview with our operations manager, Sonam Dorji, on his recent work with the Gangtey Lodge green team.
How has the community been coping during the pandemic and which members of the community have been affected the most?
People in the community have been worried from the time Bhutan detected its first case of COVID 19: they are tense and fear to even talk to, or be near, people who are not from the valley but, as Gangtey village and Phobjikha valley are located in remote parts, the pandemic has not had much impact. There have not been any positive cases in the valley from the onset until now. Desuung and health officials advocate about the virus and the do’s and don’ts, and people are now coping with the pandemic, following COVID protocols as advised.
As Gangtey village and Phobjikha valley are one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bhutan, the Pandemic has had an overall effect on all the hoteliers and farm houses in the valley. The hotels and farmhouses have been closed since March 2020, since the outbreak of COVID. Community members have also been affected in selling their cash crops as they have not been able to source a market outside the valley due to travel restrictions. The Government is addressing this and making every effort to search for a market and help them in any way possible.
What has the Gangtey Lodge Green Team been doing whilst the hotel has been closed?
As a part of giving back and helping our community, the Gangtey Lodge Green Team is assisting the community with regard to maintenance, upgrading, and general house upkeep. Gangtey Valley, the remote location that it is, has a critical shortage of labour and skills. Sometimes small things count the most. In 2009, just over ten years ago, our valley was electrified. However, skills and understanding are still lacking. It can be challenging for elders to change a light globe, not to mention the difficulty of repairing small home appliances. Assisting and helping teach basic skills makes a huge difference in their daily life.
We are also closely working with the Black-necked Crane education Centre in Gangtey (RSPN) in various projects such as the maintenance and cleaning the cranes roosting area, and the upgrading of hiking trails. We help local schools within Gangtey Valley in building infrastructure facilities, and have plans to help in the renovation of class rooms and staff rooms.
What do you do as the head of the green team?
As head of the Green team my main responsibility is to bring the Gangtey Lodge team and the community together. Our strategy is on a community led, bottom up approach rather than top down. I go around and ask people in the community, School, Monastery and other Department officials heads, to see if Gangtey Lodge can be of any assistance. If any of them require assistance I schedule it into our Lodge projects, and coordinate implementation with our Green Team.
Does leading the green team bring you fulfillment?
Yes, At the end of the day it gives me satisfaction and fulfillment. No matter how hard the task is or how challenging it is to coordinate, the result at the end always encourages me to do more. Nothing matters but a big smile and the gratitude from our neighbors’ and village friends, whenever we help matters a lot.