The Minister of Education helps us open the Lab!
Bhutanese youth seeking opportunities for engagement now have a reason to get excited – the Media Lab is now open for exploration! On Friday, March 29, we were joined by 85 of our friends in high schools, Civil Society Organizations, the media fraternity, and in government to officially launch the Media Lab, a space dedicated to giving young people a voice through digital media.
Youth members of our Media Lab Design Team began the event by sharing a few words about the origin and purpose of the space. “As of now in Bhutan, we are given the notion that creative pursuits like photography have no scope,” One remarked. “With the Lab, we hope to change that.” The vision of the Lab, after all, was a collective one born in collaboration with a number of inspiring youth like the members on our design team committed to bringing change to Bhutan.
Minister of Education Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel, our chief guest for the evening, also talked about democracy and the importance of youth voice and citizen participation in a democracy. “I would like to hope that this Media Lab grows as a powerful instrument in engaging young people to discover much more responsible forums that will enable them to articulate their voice,” Lyonpo remarked. Lyonpo also cautioned youth to refrain from the impulse to “make noise”.
We then opened the Lab for a public viewing, and showed our guests around the main areas of the space – the upstairs work bench/exhibit, the reception area, the reading and discussion lounge, and the computer workspace. With everyone standing in the main hall, we surprised young and budding photographer Jamyang Yeshi – someone deeply inspired during our workshops – with a DSLR camera contributed to us by PHOTOKidz Singapore.
For youth, we announced the call for membership. To keep the space intentional, we are requiring all youth interested in using the space to go through a process for becoming a member – filling out an application, taking an orientation, and, eventually, contributing a small monthly fee. By the end of the night, all 60 of our applications were gone!
The event concluded with an “Open Mic Night” event, an opportunity for anyone to just walk on the stage, share their experiences, read a poem or a story, sing a song or play an instrument – basically, an opportunity for free expression. After a nervy start, people eventually caught the drift of the idea and started opening up. Performances included:
- Ganchu, an RJ and Entrepreneur at Radio Valley, broke the ice by reading a personal poem about an anonymous girl.
- Thoepaga and Yeshey, young teachers, performed an acoustic version of their song, “Mawongpi Miser”
- Supe, an RJ, gave an amusing reading of “McCavity”, one of the rare T.S. Elliot poems intended for children
- Tashi Namgay, a social worker and director of the Bhutan Kidney Foundation, shared touching stories about his work with kidney patients
- Local musician Zhaw, along with Yeshey and Neten, sang two songs, including the popular “Kencho Sum”
- Lilly, a middle school student, read a poem
- Dechen, an architect working with the Tourism Council, sang a few songs
We had such a blast! Truly, we are blessed to have such friends, like you, who helped make all of this possible. Thanks to you, the space is now open (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) with programs underway. (Check out the website for more!)
However, our mission is not yet complete. As we are finding, it's much easier to start something than it is to continue and sustain it! While we are looking at ways of generating revenue through membership fees, creating a 'guild' of youth media consultants, and more, we still need your continued support. With your support, we can continue to build on the stock of equipment in the space, to cover the costs of bringing in high-profile local media-makers to run trainings, and, eventually, to even replicate these spaces throughout Bhutan. Consider giving once more to support youth voice in Bhutan's young, and maturing, democracy.
The Media Lab Logo
A scene from Open Mic Night
Girls work on their photostories during a workshop