When I met with Nidup at Ashoka University, one of his friends sat down with us and said ‘This guy is going to change Bhutan, you’ll see’. What a wonderful moment, when the words you need to describe someone are handed to you in such an honest and genuine way. It also made me smile, because I have no doubt that it is true.
If you have been a follower of Pestalozzi’s work over the last few years, it’s likely you will have heard Nidup’s name before or have read something about him. The things he has achieved in such a short space of time are nothing short of inspirational.
Nidup comes from a small village in Bhutan where he grew up with his parents, who are both farmers and unfortunately never got to complete their education. Despite this, he strived to study and they encouraged this by sending him to live with his uncle, which allowed him to attend a school on the other side of the country with better educational resources.
In 2016, Nidup was selected for our programme and commenced two years of study in Maths, Physics and Chemistry. After completing his A Levels, he returned to Bhutan for a gap year before being awarded a full scholarship place at Ashoka University, a new yet prestigious Liberal Arts institution in India.
The time spent during his gap year was selfless, rooted in purpose and serving others. After raising £500 in the UK, an initiative that affectionately became known as ‘The Bog Project’ was born. With no toilet facilities having ever been available in his village, Nidup worked tirelessly for three months, alongside his father, a group of monks and villagers, to build a block consisting of four toilets and two basins. He also taught English to the local monks, some of whom had only completed a small amount of schooling and others who had never been educated.
‘English is important for them. There is a western influence in Bhutan, so it’s important for them to learn and to read’. He used his own money to buy books, trying to engage them with comics and graphic novels. He also taught guitar, played football with them and ran singing sessions, teaching ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles, the first song he learnt at Pestalozzi.
‘When you teach you learn more about yourself. I felt happy, because I was trying to share what I had learned with them. Having seen more of the world, I wanted to share that with them too. Learning is not just about school. Pestalozzi has changed the way I see the world. Before I had a fixed mindset, but now I have a growth mind-set and want to take on new challenges. If it wasn’t for Pestalozzi I wouldn’t be where I am today’.
One thing Nidup said that really struck a chord with me was simply – ‘How can I pass on what I learn?’
‘I hope donors can see the differences they are making in our lives by investing in education. If they continue to donate they will be helping students like me from underprivileged backgrounds to pursue further education, which otherwise wouldn’t be possible for many of us.’
For the moment, Nidup’s focus is centred around his Computer Science degree, which he commenced in 2019. His future plans outside of academia are to develop a library for the monks he has been working with, as well as to have read fifty books by the end of the year.
Watching Nidup’s interaction with the people around him at Ashoka made me so proud to know him. His ability to connect and engage is unique and acts as a reminder for people to strive to be better. What a powerful skill to have mastered. For the friend who said ‘this guy is going to change Bhutan’, my response would be, that with the toilet block, the English classes, the guitar lessons and an unfathomable amount of kindness, he already has.