While having the good fortune to accompany Linda on home visits in Quang Nam Province, we also visited a couple of Pagodas – which in Vietnam are best described as Buddhist “places of worship”.
Some of the girls in Linda’s CEF sponsorship program are young nuns in training and something that struck me as interesting was just how many there were! I became intrigued as to why this was the case and discussed it with Linda in depth.
She explained that there are a number of different reasons why, some being:
· The family give the girls up due to poverty and take them to the Pagoda and ask the nuns to bring them up
· Homeless little children are taken in by the nuns themselves
· Homeless children get to Pagodas and ask to be cared for
· Girls from poor families know how much their family is struggling and take themselves along to the Pagoda and ask to be cared for by the nuns for their parents sake
· Girls sometimes (and rarely) are passionately drawn to being a nun although still a child
· Older girls of 14 and up might fall in love and have their heart broken - so choose to become nuns
· Girls who consider themselves very 'ugly' become nuns quite young - usually from age 14/15 on - as they realize they are shunned – and especially by males
I discovered that In each Pagoda there are different policies - some girls are just cared for on a daily basis until older when they start their Buddhist studies and practices at age 18. However, in some Pagodas, the children are expected to start their Buddhist studies and practices as soon as they enter.
We watched on as young nun Vy (11 years old) was receiving a partial head shave from one of the nuns. Only when she is 18, will her head will be shaved completely.
The young nuns-in-training we met that day were just delightful. There was a beautiful innocence and gratitude about them and yet also a worldliness somehow, which I attributed to possibly having come from a background of lack, poverty and/or homelessness. It was such a joy to observe these young girls…. playful, joyful, mischievous even … as they grow up in a caring and loving environment with the nuns and can at the same time receive an education through the wonderful sponsorship program of Children’s Education Foundation.
All these photos were taken by Gael McKenzie, to see more of her beautiful photos please see: