IMPRESSIONS OF SOME BUDDHIST ORPHANAGES IN VIETNAM
June 26: Ho Chi Minh City
“We are back in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) presently and it almost feels like home. There are familiar faces as well as streets which is always nice. The adventure through Vietnam and Cambodia is winding down and it's a little sad since this has been the most fascinating journey I have ever encountered. The people are lovely. The most rewarding part of Vietnam and Cambodia is their wonderful children. From the kids at the Buddhist Orphanage, La Chang twins on the beach, and the Cambodian school kids thus far, I truly feel I have come away with a great deal of respect, empathy, and of course new friends that I will treasure forever! All of the kids are soo sweet and soo smart and willing to give anything a try whether it be frisbee or finger-painting.
“I was extremely impressed to see the passion indulged in each child's eye as they were introduced to something they had never encountered before. I am glad we were able to leave them with the game "Twister" as well as toothbrushes, vitamins, and many school supplies that they desperately needed. Above all, though, was the beautiful smiles we received as they welcomed us into their world living in these striving countries. I will remember them all always and hope they remember us. I hope to again have the chance to visit and see how they have grown.
“The children in Ha Bin that I was lucky enough to visit in the countryside are exceptional individuals. "Ha," a 15-year-old recovering from cleft lip was awesome. He is polite and entertaining when put in the middle of Neil and Pharmacist Jim belting out some karaoke. We were also able to meet a patient of Jim's up in the beautiful desolate hills of Ha Bin. He gave a new meaning to pride. Although nearly blind and his father recuperating from a stroke, they appear so strong and grateful to be alive which made me extremely happy. That's all the reminiscing for now, and we still get to be excited to take some kids to the Waterpark on Tuesday which I'm sure will be great fun."
June 14: Nha Trang
“Yesterday we visited a Buddhist orphanage to donate a bunch of items. We donated toothbrushes, McDonald's toys (thanks Scott), shoes, pens/pencils, and some soccer balls and frisbees. The Nuns there also served us an excellent Vietnamese lunch (probably the best so far). It was all vegetarian, consisting of their local soup with tofu and mushrooms garnished with some herbs and sweet/spicy sauce. Along with that there's this sticky rice paper served with peanuts that’s pretty good.
The rest of the day we spent playing with the kids. This was just a hoot for all of us. All of the children were so joyful and happy to see some younger people there (most of the Nuns were quite old). Our group member John entertained them with various antics like pretending he was a chicken, monster, and a bunch of other things no one would know. Amy, the co-teacher, showed them how to play the "Old man went to the Sea" game (it's like Patty-cake). The girls LOVED that one and once I learned it I was constantly being asked to play it, faster and faster! The rest of the guys gave piggyback rides and threw them around...we also played a little frisbee.
The kids were utterly ecstatic to play with our digital cameras. Most of the day was consumed by them taking pictures in all sorts of poses and giggling afterwards.
“Little English was spoken by the Nuns so unfortunately there wasn't much conversation with them. I would have liked to talk more with them to see the state of the place. But from what I understand it's basically a school that picks up orphans and other children in the neighborhood and teaches them and feeds them for free. The orphans are also offered a Monastic life to learn the esotericism of their religion and deepen their education. By the end of the day, we were all worn out but sad to leave. They were all so happy to have us and just had the most beautiful smiles. I even had one girl walk me to the taxi, holding my hand the whole way, and later offer me a flower. Very cute.
June 13: Nha Trang
“Today we went to another school for street children. The kids we played soccer with went to school here. A women named Kim started this school in the back of her bar to teach the kids and help them to learn English. She also runs a major campaign to stop paedophilia. The kids there were great. We helped them with English lessons and played some games. Everyone bought t-shirts from the campaign."
June 12: Nha Trang
"We went to a school in Nha Trang that is run by Buddist monks. Many of the children there are orphans who are living there and studying to be monks. The local children also attend school there during the day. These kids were really great. They were a little shy at first, but they warmed up really fast. We brought a bag of toys and school supplies for them and several games to play with the kids. We played jacks, frisbee, clapping games, and piggy back race. We also sang songs and took a lot of pictures. The kids really liked taking pictures with the digital cameras and then looking at them. Everyone seemed to have a great time here.”
BUDDHIST "LIFE AND HOPE" WORKS FOR ORPHANS AND DISADVANTAGED
Have you ever thought that some day you will make a big difference to the world?
How? Just Stop Smoking. Saving that money will make a big difference to this world with Life and Hope Association!
THREE KINDS OF LIFE:
1. Useful Life: Living for making this world better, making it smiling, happy, peaceful, hopeful and a brighter world.
2. Harmful Life: Living for destroying the world, making it cry.
3. Futile-Life: Living for doing nothing, neither destroying nor enhancing the world, living for dying only.
Which lives would you be leading?
“Rupam Jirati Maccanam, Namakottam Na Jirati”
“Body always Perishes, We are left only Virtues.”
“Good and Evil go out far, Be heedful to do all good deeds.”
“ May Your Goodness with great loving-kindness and compassion bless and protect you well.”
LIFE AND HOPE PHILOSOPHY
The Life and Hope Association is a non-profit, non-governmental and non-political organization. It envisages a Cambodia that is a peaceful and cohesive society, with equal rights and equal opportunity, built on a basis of loving-kindness and compassion.
The goal of the Life and Hope Association is to improve the lives of orphans, vulnerable children and disadvantaged peoples, in order to give them HOPE in LIFE and the prospects of a better future.
Life and Hope Association (LHA) is a Cambodian non-profit, non-governmental and non-political organization which was established in 2005 by the Young Monks of Wat Damnak, Young Khmer Youths and generous friends, who saw the urgent needs of the orphans, vulnerable children, poor children, street children, (Rubbish Children and Beggar Children) etc, who are living with miserable lives in the various communities. LHA is dedicated and committed to alleviating poverty and ignorance of Cambodians and encouraging them to have equal treatment in society by promoting physical and moral support. LHA is located in Wat Damnak, Salakomreuk Commune, Siem Reap Angkor Dist/Province, Kingdom of Cambodia.
LHA works with several active villages in and surrounding the Siem Reap and Bakong District, with the aim of alleviating poverty/difficulty of poor families, especially Cambodian children, by supporting them with basic needs such as foods, clothing, school supplies, health services, education, accommodation etc.
OVERALL STATEMENT OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Monks of Wat Damnak and friends established Life and Hope Association in May 2005 as a non-profit, non-governmental , non-political organization. Wat Damnak is located in Salakomreuk Commune, Siem Reap District, in the heart of Siem Reap Town, the most famous tourist city in the Region.
Siem reap is situated in The Tonle Sap region. The Population is about 755,000 of which 369,000 are males and 386,000 are females (51.2% female). With a female head of household number of 32.4%, the province consists of 12 districts, 100 communes and 882 villages. Siem Reap District, named after the province, constitutes the urban portion of the province.
Siem Reap is a well-known tourist city because of its location near the world famous Angkor Wat Historical Park. Ironically, Siem Reap is also known as one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia. After Pol Pot’s genocidal regime, foreign occupation, and extended civil war, all parts of the country including Siem Reap were left in ruins. More than two million people were killed, crippled or died of starvation, disease, overwork, torture, and execution. Countless others were wounded and disabled and would bear the physical and emotional scars of the holocaust for the rest of their lives. Families were scattered. Many would never find their loved ones again. The orphans wandered alone, searching for protection. Homes and villages were razed, and corpses fouled the rice-fields and roadways.
Today the effects of war are evident in the lack of food and clean water, in the missing limbs of land mine victims, and in the faces of our children. The Royal Government of Cambodia has been working hard to alleviate the poverty since the end of the civil war. However, the rate of poverty is still very high and many people are living in very poor conditions. They lack good quality education and the opportunity to access education. Orphans, the very poor vulnerable children, and children living on the streets are acutely effected by this condition.
The Life and Hope Association is dedicated and committed to alleviate poverty, ignorance, in order to get equal treatment, equal education and equal opportunity to all people, especially children throughout promotion and coordination of supporting and education. Monks are the key factors to implementing to achieve the goal of LHA.
Life and Hope Association is working directly with various communities in Siem Reap and Bakong districts, to address the basic needs of those communities. LHA is helping with such projects as social service programs, human resource programs, and to assure equal education for underprivileged children, and the equal treatment of social classes. Local communities are encouraged to change their social behavior, and focus on creating sustainable development programs to improve their living conditions. The younger generations are encouraged seek equal rights, equal education, equal treatment and equal opportunities to access education.
To date, LHA has been increasing income levels for many poor families and providing the opportunity to maintain a sustained income. By helping the families prosper, the children are not forced to leave school in order to work or beg. The pressure of the family economics is reduced and children are now free to attend school, better themselves through education, and subsequently improve their quality of life. Many orphans, poor children, street children and children vulnerable to domestic violence, drug abuse and crime in Siem Reap and Bakong Districts, are now receiving equal education, equal treatment and equal life-opportunities. We also encourage the communities to work together and form a cohesive and interrelated society full of loving-kindness and compassion.
opportunity to access education. Orphans, the very poor vulnerable children, and children living on the streets are acutely effected by this condition.
Visit the website: LIFE AND HOPE ASSOCIATION
"WORLD WIDE LANGUAGE STUDIES" PROVIDES RANGE OF SERVICES IN VIETNAM
SHELTER FOR STREET CHILDREN
This shelter for street children has helped hundreds of street children build positive futures for themselves. It gives street children a safe home, free meals, basic health care, alternative education, recreational activities and opportunities to learn a job so that they can go back home to integrate with their own families. Volunteers at this project offer valuable support and education to the children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
You will be conducting English classes and offer support to the children whilst being a positive role model for the children. You will become involved in a variety of activities, including teaching English, outdoor activities, arts and crafts activities, games, songs and social education. Volunteers will also be teaching life skills and helping with domestic duties. This charity is located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City close to the famous Ben Thanh Market.
MISS DON’S ORPHANAGE
The orphanage was started in 1998 by Ms Don, a Vietnamese woman who initially took care of a couple of street kids. It has since grown and she now houses around 30 kids in a small three story building. Volunteers help with teaching English as well as taking care of and playing with the children. The orphanage is located on the outskirts of Saigon.
SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
This is a school for children with special needs and learning disabilities. The children are aged 3 to 18. The school has about 50 children, both girls and boys. There are many possibilities for volunteers at this school such as taking care of the children, teaching English, classes in drawing/ music, playing games with the children. Also volunteers can teach any special skills or qualifications that could be useful to the children.
Your efforts will have a great impact on the children’s lives as you help contribute to their overall development. This charity is located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
FIRST OF JUNE SCHOOL
The First of June is International Children’s Day hence the name of the school. This is a school for poor children and street children. The school provides an academic education as well as teaching professional skills such as sewing, embroidery, craft skills,… There are about 300 students at this school both male and female aged 6 to 15. There is a lot of opportunity for volunteers such as teaching English, teaching computer skills, taking care of the children, playing games with the children,... This charity is located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
The School for the Blind is a private charity which supports blind children, teenagers and adults. The total number of the people this place supports is 55. There are different possibilities for volunteers at this school such as teaching English, presenting your country and culture, games and activities and day trips. This charity is located is located on the outskirts of Saigon.
This is a private charity which provides free meals for poor people and poor patients at some hospitals. They provides about 1,500 free portions of meal for the poor everyday. The volunteers help in the afternoon preparing and delivering meals for the poor. This charity is located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
THANH TAM CHARITY
This is a charity providing shelter, food and career support for misfortune pregnant girls who can stay at this place until they give birth to their child. After that, they can continue to stay here if they want for some time. This charity is good for female volunteers, especially those who have medical qualifications to provide some help such as teaching them some primary healthcare education. This charity is located about 20 minutes from the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
SCHOOL FOR DEAF CHILDREN
This school has about 130 deaf students from 3-22 years old. The volunteers can help teaching English, computer skills, drawing or playing with the students. Volunteers can do these activities with the assistance of the teachers there or they can learn some sign language. This charity is located about 15 minutes from the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
SHELTER FOR BLIND CHILDREN
This charity was established 15 years ago and there are more than 20 blind children who live here (boys and girls, aged from 6 to 20). There are a variety of activities for volunteers including teaching English, outdoor activities, arts and crafts activities, games, songs and social education. The staff is very friendly and speaks some English. Located very near downtown Saigon.
ORPHANAGE FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
The Orphanage for children with disabilities cares for abandoned children with mental or physical disabilities and helps to educate them to the fullest extend of their capabilities, both physical and intellectual, and to help them, as much as possible, towards independent living. There are about 400 children. Volunteers can talk/play with the children, help the physiotherapists when they do the therapies for the children, feed the children and teach some children to feed themselves, take them on their wheel chairs for a walk in the orphanage’s front garden. The location is about 15 minutes from Ben Thanh market.
This orphanage is belonged to a catholic organization. Established just last year, this shelter provide accommodation, food and education for about 40 orphaned children (14 boys and 26 girls) from 6 to 16 years old. Volunteers can teach English, computer or play with the children there. The orphanage is located located on the outskirts of Saigon.
The orphanage is belonged to a Buddhism organization and was established 17 years ago. The orphanage provides food, shelter, care and education for more than 120 orphaned children from a few days old to 16 years old (some babies were abandoned when they were just a few days old and placed in front of the temples gate and the nuns took them in and took care of them). Volunteers can work there as baby sitters, English/Computer teachers, play with the children or help out at the kitchen. Volunteers can also do meditation or learn about Buddhism. The orphanage is located located on the outskirts of Saigon.
SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
This school provides free full day primary classes for about 57 children with special needs (mentally disabled, deaf,...). Volunteers can teach English/art, play, talk with the children and organize some easy games or activities for the children. The orphanage is located located on the outskirts of Saigon.
SCHOOL FOR THE POOR
This school provides education for children of the poor. Volunteers can teach English/art to the children, play and talk with the children or take them to the park or botanical garden. The orphanage is located located on the outskirts of Saigon.
WORLD WIDE LANGUAGE STUDY INTERNATIONAL LTD is a British company offering Language and Volunteer Programs and Meaningful Tours. We provide high-quality language and volunteer programs in China, Costa Rica, Spain and Vietnam. WLS International started offering language programs, hence the name WLS meaning Worldwide Language Study. We now are offering language study programs in China (Chinese), Costs Rica (Spanish), Spain (Spanish) and Vietnam (Vietnamese). We also have Volunteer Programs in China and Vietnam and Meaningful Tours in Vietnam and China.
Visit the website: WORLD WIDE LANGUAGE STUDY – VIETNAMESE
DALAI LAMA BLESSED NEW TEMPLE IN KALMYKIA REPUBLIC, RUSSIA
The works are in progress in the newly built main temple of Elista, capital city of the Russian Buddhist Republic of Kalmykia. Soon to be ready are the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and rooms for important guests.
Major efforts, however, are put to create 17 statues of great scholars of Nalanda University which will surround the gorgeous golden temple of Elista miraculously built in 8 months, much to the surprise of many in Russia and abroad.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was asked to bless the site for the future temple just before he left Elista during his memorable 2004 visit to Kalmykia, suggested the installation of the statues making the Kalmyk temple the only of its kind.
“I think it will be a first temple where you will find sculptural representations of all 17 panditas,” said the Dalai Lama in a meeting with the head of Kalmyk Buddhists Telo Tulku Rinpoche and Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in Dharamsala last March. “Previously people paid particular attention to only 8 Nalanda masters, I added a few more. So, this temple will be a kind of official recognition of my point
of view,” he added.
The 17 statues of Nalanda scholars -- who compiled outstanding commentaries to Buddha Shakyamuni’s precious teachings -- have a particular importance for His Holiness the Dalai Lama who considers Tibetan Buddhists to be spiritual heirs of Nalanda, a major monastic learning center of India that was destroyed. Fortunately it
was all after its scholars had passed their skills and knowledge to the Tibetans. From Tibet, scholastic traditions of Nalanda were then spread to Mongolia and Buddhist republics of Russia.
The first to complete in Elista was the sculptural representation of Arya Nagarjuna whose “Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way” was explained by the Dalai Lama during the recent Kalachakra initiation in Amaravati which was attended by many pilgrims from the Russian Buddhist regions.
Soon to follow are the statues of Asanga, Shantideva, Chandrakirti and other scholars whose teachings may soon be part of a comprehensive study program that the head of Kalmyk Buddhists Telo Tulku Rinpoche plans to launch in the new temple. The statues of Nalanda scholars installed as an implementation of His Holiness' wishes will be a symbol of the reestablishment of classical Buddhist education in Russia.
Read this news item HERE.
Location Of Kalmykia Republic, Russia
BUDDHISM IN VIETNAM
The predominant form of Buddhism in Vietnam is a combination of Pure Land and Zen. Zen practice, with its emphasis on meditation is mostly pursued among the monks and nuns, while Pure Land philosophy and practice is preferred by the lay-people.
Truc Lam's Zen Monastery, in South Vietnam's Da Lat City is about 300 km from Ho Chi Minh city. It is located on the Highland which has been famous for its temperate climate and scenery since the time Vietnam was a French Colony.
This is one of the largest Zen meditation study centres in Vietnam, with equally large numbers of nuns and monks. The centre has many English speaking members. The centre is not only popular locally but also among Vietnamese abroad for meditation studies. The centre is under the teaching of the Venerable Thich Thanh Tu, a renowned teacher in meditation over many decades. The Venerable's teachings and lectures are embraced, practiced and circulated in many different forms of media around the world by Vietnamese BuddhistVenerable Minh Dang Quangs.
In the south there is a sizeable minority of Theravadin Buddhist, mainly among the ethic Khmer people (Khmer Krom), but also among the Vietnamese. Theravadin monks study alongside Mahayana monks at Saigon's Van Hanh Buddhist University.
There is also a unique Vietnamese form of Buddhism which evolved in the southern provinces, and is a successful combination of Theravada and Mahayana. While much of the philosophy is Mahayana, the Sangha (monks and nuns) follow the Vinaya rules (code of ethics) quite strictly, and go on the traditional alms round every day. As for example, the Venerable Minh Dang Quang (see picture) who was the founder of the Vietamese indigenous Buddhist order.
During colonial times, many hybrid Buddhist sects evolved, and most are still active today, especially among overseas Vietnamese communities. These include Hoa Hoa, a lay-based, militant, form of Buddhist Protestantism, and Cao Dai, a Vietnamese attempt to combine the worlds great religions, which emphasises prophecy and ritual, and is organised along the lines of the Catholic church, with a Holy See, Popes, and Cardinals, etc.
Theravada Buddhism in Vietnam
Vietnam was and still is a profoundly Buddhist country. The Sangha are very involved in the community,and temples often run schools, orphanages, medical clinics, and homes for the disabled. Lay people play an important role in religious life. Because of historical circumstances, Vietnamese Buddhists have faced much persecution in the last fifty years.
Most monks and nuns enter at a young age, and within the temples, education is greatly valued and encouraged. Most Vietnamese Sangha go to university, and now some hold jobs as teachers, doctors, lawyers and journalists. Many are also proficient in foreign languages, especially Chinese and English.
The main Buddhist festivals are Vesak (Buddha's Birthday) and Vulan (Ullambana). Vietnamese traditionally visit the temple on the fifteenth day of the Lunar month (Ram), and also in the various festival days of the Mahayana Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Committed lay people go through a formal ceremony of "taking refuge", where they are given a Buddhist name. They wear a traditional grey costume over their normal clothes when they go to the temple, to signify their status as serious Buddhists. There is a large and well organised lay youth movement called "Gia Dinh Phat Tu" (Lit: Family of Buddha's children) which is similar to the scouts. The official American name of the organization is "Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association". This organization has an official website in Vietnamese at: VIETNAMESE BUDDHIST YOUTH ASSOCIATION
There is great equality between monks and nuns, as there is between men and women throughout Vietnamese society. Monks are addressed as "Thay" (Teacher), Nuns as "Su Co" (Sister). All Sangha take the name "Thich", to signify that they have left their worldly family, and have joined the family of the Buddha. Buddhists greet each other by placing their palms together at chest level and saying, "Mo Phat" (Praise Buddha). An alternative form of greeting is to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha.
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