Annual Fund
December 2017
Mrs. Daphne Hoch Cunningham, Board Member of the Bhutan Foundation, in Bhutan interacting with community members from Bumthang. 
What is it that draws us to Bhutan, this place some call a magical kingdom, the youngest of democracies, an agrarian culture of 800,000 fiercely independent people living in the Himalayas between two superpowers? What brews in the valleys of those majestic mountains that calls to us?
To answer these questions, I will share some of my experiences with you.
It seems reasonable to say that I was born with Bhutan in my blood. My parents and grandparents had been traveling there since the 1950s. In 1973, we children were allowed to travel with my parents for the first time; it was monsoon season in Bhutan, and I can still feel the wet stickiness of the inside of my rain poncho as we trekked for hours on end. Food was rice and chillis; drink was freeze-dried coffee or yak butter tea. We saw strong barefoot villagers and stoic people with goiters; we witnessed unwavering hospitality from those who could afford it the least. The mountains were magnificent, calling me to approach. At the age of 13, I was exhausted and elated.
Bhutan sank deeply into my system and continues to resonate there. After 44 years of traveling in comfortable vehicles with royalty and ministers as well as slogging and sloshing during treks with foresters of the Ministry of Agriculture over muddy, uneven terrain at dangerous inclines, grateful for whatever coffee, suja, or ara (the local brew) might be offered in the next village . . . I realize I have many answers to those questions. Why do I keep returning to Bhutan, and why do I work constantly with the Bhutan Foundation?
  • Because it left such a deep impression on me in 1986, when an indigenous doctor correctly diagnosed a knee problem simply by feeling my pulse. Today, I am thrilled to be able to support the faculty of traditional medicine through the Bhutan Foundation.
  • Because I saw that since the 1970s, Bhutan has been turning away foreign scientists in favor of waiting until Bhutanese scientists are trained to make discoveries about their own country. Through the Bhutan Foundation, I am proud to support environmental research scientists at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research.
  • Because the elder Bhutanese carry the wisdom of religion and culture; listening to their stories is a breathtakingly beautiful experience. Together with the Bhutan Foundation and the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, we are working on the restoration and adaptive re-use of the Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang.  It is a magnificent structure where a museum of cultural, religious, and historical information is being created for young Bhutanese to learn about the tenets that guided their forefathers.
  • Because the environmental policy set forth by His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck to keep at least 60 percent of the country under forest cover is embedded in the constitution. I once heard an exemplary environmentalist, Mingma Sherpa, call the national parks of Bhutan "Precious Pearls." Since then, with the help of the Bhutan Foundation and others, the government of Bhutan has succeeded in stringing the parks together like a necklace, in which numerous endangered species, like snow leopards and tigers, can now dance. I am proud to support the Bhutan Foundation's environmental programs throughout the country.
Each one of you has your own "Bhutan story"--and a story behind your choice to support the Bhutan Foundation. Together, we are equipping the Bhutanese people with the knowledge and skills to develop their country.
You are making a difference in Bhutan, and we thank you.
Bhutan has always maintained an independent attitude, insisting on the capacity to create and carry out its own development plan. The Bhutan Foundation helps build capacity among the Bhutanese people through access to global expertise and support for Bhutanese-led development initiatives in the four areas of Gross National Happiness: environmental conservation, equitable and sustainable development, good governance, and cultural preservation.
Our staff in our Thimphu and Washington, DC offices work tirelessly behind the scenes and in the field to develop local capacity and facilitate global expertise in Bhutan. Today, I write to ask for your support of our Annual Fund, which provides the Foundation with a solid base so that our dedicated staff can continue to implement these programs. As a nonprofit organization, the Foundation must ensure that it continues to have the staff and operations required to respond to changing needs in Bhutan now-and into the future. I hope you will consider building the Bhutan Foundation's future through a gift to this year's Annual Fund. To make a gift to our Annual Fund, please use the enclosed envelope or donate
Thank you for being a part of the Bhutan Foundation family.
Daphne Hoch Cunningham
Board Member
P.S. We would love to hear  your Bhutan story.  Please email it to us at   

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