Scouts build house for abandoned couple

Social service: Two boxes. Three pots. Four plates. Two mattresses. A blanket. A dog and two hens.

That is all Tobgay, 75 and his wife Tshewang Choden, 60, possess.

But the couple are all smiles and happy these days.

From today, they will have a new home to live in, possible because of the community based scouts in Samdrupjongkhar.

Life has been rough for the couple.

They have been living in a make shift house, that was once a quarantine unit for animals in the dzongkhag, for the past two years, located outside Samdrupjongkhar town. They own no land.

According to the couple, they lost three daughters and one son a few years ago. They have one more son who is still living but do not know where he is or what he is doing.

Tobgay who is from Bartsham gewog in Trashigang said they have had no one with them for many years.

The couple have had to shift home many times. “It was never easy to live because of elephants and then we shifted to our present house,” he said. “We’re poor, we cannot afford a rented house nor can we earn an income or depend on relatives.”

The couple depend mainly on people, some of them their relatives, living nearby and in Samdrupjongkhar who provide them with the essentials and firewood for their earthen stove.

“Sometimes we feel very sad because we have been living in darkness at night without electricity and no proper water supply,” Tobgay said. “Now that we’re old it’s difficult to fetch water or firewood, but some people have been very kind and give us at least one litre of kerosene to light a lamp.”

The couple joked about how they sometimes argue about the amount of kerosene used, fearing it may finish and there would be no more contributors.

Tshewang Choden who is from Decheling gewog in Pemagatshel has been sick for the past 13 days.

“Sometimes when we sleep it hurts to think about how life has become,” she said, her voice barely audible. “Of course, it also worries us that if we eat rice for breakfast then what if we don’t get food for lunch,” she added.

They have a few relatives in Samdrupjongkhar who provide them with food and vegetables but do not visit.

The couple never looked forward to the summer. They did not own a fan. Even if they did, they had no electricity.

In the monsoon, they lived with the rain leaking through their roof. In the winter, the wind passed through the gaps in the planks bringing with it, the cold.

The couple are happier these days. A few officials visited them and told them they would be moved into a proper structure with a kitchen and toilet.

“Maybe we’ll have the same life as now because we cannot work to earn but at least we’ll have a better home to live,” Tshewang Choden said. “We haven’t packed our things and I hope they will not charge us to transport our things, this has worried me a little.”

Scout focal person Sangay Tempa said its members that comprises dzongkhag and thromde officials, corporate employees, police personnel and a few housewives came forward to help the couple build a house located near the Samdrupjongkhar dzong.

He said the house will benefit not only the couple but also an anim. The scouts were initially constructing the house for anim Cheki, a physically challenged woman, when they learned of the couple.

“Then we decided to render our service to all three of them,” he said. “Our service will not stop there but we will plan and try to look for donations or contributors who could help supply rations, some have already volunteered.”

The dzongkhag officials helped them to get permission to construct the house on a government land and police personnels constructed the house.

Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar

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