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Norwegian receives Bhutanese Order of Merit for working with the blind in Bhutan

Einar Kippenes, a Norwegian teacher with a long history of working with the visually impaired in Bhutan received the Bhutanese Order of Merit (gold) by His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on 17th December 2017 during celebrations of the 110th National day of Bhutan. Kippenes received the award for his significant contributions to the National Institute of Visually Impaired in Khaling, Bhutan.

Einar Kippenes and his wife, Reidun, have a long history of helping visually impaired in Bhutan. In 1973, Mr Kippenes started a school for blind students in the mountain village of Khaling, of which he was the first Principal, and in 1979 he and his colleagues started an integrated educational programme for the blind. The programme included skills development, vocational training, typewriting, weaving, gardening and cooking. Reidun Kippenes has been working extensively with weavers in Bhutan, developing a system to get their products sold both nationally and internationally.

After 9 years in Bhutan, Einar and Reidun Kippenes returned to Norway, but their engagement in Bhutan was far from over. The couple took the initiative to create the Norway-Bhutan Association, and continued to be engaged in the country. 25 years after having moved back to Norway, Einar received an e-mail from one of his former Bhutanese students, asking him to assist in the establishment of a program making use of ICT to develop skills for blind people. The project is a success, and today ICT for blind people is an academic subject in Bhutan.

When interviewed by the Bhutanese newspaper, Kuensel, Einar expresses his gratitude for the merit award. “It’s a great surprise, and I’m very honoured”. On their way back from Bhutan to Norway last week, the Kippenes couple stopped by the Embassy in New Delhi, where we learnt about their exciting history of working as teachers in Bhutan and in India. We congratulate them both with the Merit received!