Sonam Rabgye

A little bit about me...

When I was a little girl of about twelve years old I began bird watching. A few years later, at the age of nineteen, I volunteered in an animal shelter, turned vegetarian around the same time, and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and Biology at the age of twenty two. Over the years I have developed greater compassion and empathy for all living creatures which is where my interest for environmental issues began.

Hello, my name is Sonam Yanki Rabgye and I am from Bhutan. I have lived in several countries including America, India, Canada and Switzerland. Currently I am living in Geneva, and after an internship with the World Health Organization I decided to apply for the WWF Youth Volunteer Program. I never had any field experience and wanted to get a “hands-on” approach to conservation work.
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye
Our group of volunteers with Sahondra
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

An Introduction to Madagascar

I wake up to a relentless squealing sound. I check the time, it’s 4:30 am. A bit groggy at first, but soon my mind clears and I realize it’s the weekly morning kisoa (Malagasy for pig) being slaughtered. Outside, the light is dim, but I see a few clouds parting making way for the first rays of the sun. I try to block out the noise and force myself to sleep. An hour later I stir from my slumber once again, this time to be woken up by melodious hymns seeping in from the church opposite.
I decide not fight it anymore, and instead rise with the Malagasy community of the village Vondrozo. By 6am, it is bright outside. I know that the afternoon will bring heat and humidity, not to mention hoards of children that come flocking to our door. But it’s a new day and my fellow volunteers and I go out to tackle our Malagasy lessons.

As I walk to the WWF office in Vondrozo, I come across a stall owned by a thin woman with a rather curious hairstyle, it reminded me of mini croissants parked on a dark shiny head. She is dressed in bright clothing with prints depicting an everyday scene; a herd of zebu. Her stall sells the popular Manoik vegetable that has been deep fried. I walk further on to see a garbage dump near a small shop selling sweets, peanuts, alcohol, Coca-cola, Fanta, Sprite – all delicately balanced on rickety shelves. The main residents of the garbage area are ducks, geese, and the odd chicken competing for scraps of food and whatever they can find. A woman stops, stares and then resumes bathing her little son with water poured from a plastic mug in a bucket. Life seems to stand still and there is no sense of urgency for the relaxed and simple folk of Vondrozo. I feel the urge to stand and stare as well, but realize that I too must be quite a strange sight for them!

By the end of our lessons it is evening, and with that comes the cool evening breeze, bringing relief after a hot and humid day. We hear singing, and as we approach, see locals dancing merrily to music amplified by big speakers and microphones. My friends and I join the fun dancing and singing till about 8pm. Now it is time to retire and I look forward to another day in Madagascar.

This experience made me learn more about myself and realize my own personal limits, not just physically but also having to live in an environment away from all the everyday luxuries that we are so used to in life. I learnt how we can do without so many of the material things that we have become so dependant in life now, the true difference between my wants and my needs. Lastly, this experience has only strengthened my personal pursuit in a career in the field of environment

© WWF / Sonam Rabgye
Elizey and grasshopper
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye

And now?

I am currently working with the Global Humanitarian Forum's Youth Forum. The Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) was launched in 2007 by Kofi Annan and Swiss Foreign Minister and then President, Micheline Calmy-Rey. The Forum is an independent and impartial platform to address humanitarian concerns.

Why do the program...

This is an experience that will stay with me forever, the memories, the friendships, and the knowledge I have gained has helped learn more about myself, grow as a person, widen my horizons and learning abilities, and made me better equipped for the future. Are you up for that?
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye
Malagasy women
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye