What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘nunnery’? What do you think volunteering at a nunnery would be like? What we can say from experience is it is not what one would expect. After the hour and a half long drive, we timidly entered the Zabu Oak Shaung nunnery anticipating a crowd full of prim and proper nuns. Instead, jubilant and welcoming faces greeted us. Our worries instantly dissipated.
At first, we did not know where to go but then these small nuns popped out of nowhere and dragged us to the main hall. The small nuns sat across from us and all at once, cried out “Mingalabar!” which means ‘welcome’ in Burmese. We proceeded to split them into three groups according to their ages. Each group was assigned one of the three activity groups (games, arts, and sports). In the games group, we started with an icebreaker. The young nuns were reserved at first but became bolder with each passing minute. We played charades, marshmallow challenge, boom shakalaka, who’s the leader, human knot, and pass the candy. Our goal was to evoke a sense of teamwork and promote cooperation. Everyone was having such a great time that we lost track of time.
The arts group was much quieter in comparison but that’s because the kids were so engrossed in what they were working on. From what we could see, the kids continued working on their masterpieces, heedless of the chaos and the screams of joy coming from the games group area. Coloring papers, color pencils, and crayons were scattered all over the floor. The bracelet-making workshop was especially popular but there weren't enough beads to go around. That is definitely something we can keep in mind the next time we go on another trip. The ‘color it in’ and ‘connect the dots’ sheets are specifically chosen ahead of time to help stimulate the children’s growing minds. Last but not least is the sports group. Unlike the other two groups, this one conducted their activities out in the open. The baking sun was beating down on the kids and the activities coordinators like a drum but it had little to no effect. The kids, used to the heat, participated eagerly without a moment’s hesitation and the coordinators could care less about the heat as long as the children were having fun.
Before the trip, we had asked the nunnery in advance if they needed any necessities. They gave us a wish list and we acquired the items accordingly. The nunnery gratefully accepted the gifts and in return, provided us a Burmese traditional lunch. The trip started from a simple smile, a single hope, and a fragment of encouragement and ended in such a positive note. Hopefully, we made a lasting impact on the nunnery or at least gave them a day of joy. We can tell the little nuns were awfully glad that they didn't have to attend lessons that evening. As the volunteers left the nunnery in high spirits, we could not help but think that this was a great way to start off the new term of Community Service.
Written by: Kristina Huang and Cindy Li
In every Community Service trip, each and every single one of the members tries his or her best to share knowledge with the orphans and to introduce them to a world that they barely understand. However, during this trip to Olive Garden, we decided to simply have fun and bond with the orphans. Everyone exchanged laughter, jokes, songs and exciting conversations. It was a precious moment when there were no boundaries or gaps between the orphans and us. Everyone was connected in a way, either indulged in a fun activity or a thrilling match of soccer out in the yard.
Different from the previous trips, we taught a song, Heal the World, to the orphans. Afterwards, they in turn taught us their songs, which are all in the Chin language. As we sang side by side, it became evident that if we just reach out to them, if we just manage to take a few hours out of our own time, we can give them the friendship, the warmth and the affection that they lack in their lives.
Next to the song group was the games group. Loud laughter and constant giggles were heard as we played several different games with the kids. No one was left out; everyone happily played a game of building towers with just paper and chopsticks, each squealing with excitement as the towers wobbled back and forth.
Right across from the games group is the art group. Everyone sat still as their partners drew birds and flowers and patterns on their hands. The little kids chuckled in satisfaction as we painted little hearts and stars on their little arms.
Out under the scorching sun is the sports group. As the boys played soccer, the girls hula-hooped and played dodge ball. After being worn out by the scorching sun, everybody came back inside and joined the other three groups.
Time passed by and we had to say goodbye. To show their gratitude for visiting them and donating supplies to the orphanage, the orphans sang several songs for us. It was truly a touching moment as everyone swayed back and forth to the melody. Even the guide that came along with us sang a slow country song while one of the children played the guitar.
Yes, they'll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Then I awake and look around me, at the four grey walls that surround me
and I realize, yes, I was only dreaming…
The sad lyrics of the song touched each and every one of us. To return this favor, we all sang Heal the World and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye. As we left, we can still see the children waving their hands with bright smiles and bright eyes.
It was one of those days with the perfect weather, the endless stretch of clear blue sky above my head if I ever look up, with traces of faint white fluffy cottons here and there. As I sat there in my car, heading for school, I couldn't help but feel this bubbly excitement building up inside of me. Finally, the big day was here, the trip to the orphanage was happening. As I arrived school, the atmosphere was lively, with apparent enthusiasm radiating from the students. At 8 sharp, the students left for the destination, to create matching smiles for this beautiful day.
After forty-five minutes of drive, the words "Aung Zay Yar Min Monestary" greeted me. As soon as I entered those cement gates, the sight of blurry figures running around and sounds of happy giggles filled the air. For a few minutes, I sat there on my car,simply watching the kids playing merrily, feeling a smile forming on my very own lips at the sight of such happiness. There were flashes of maroon color and I realized that some of the kids were novices. A minute later, when the bus arrived, I joined the other students, carrying a stack of supplies and headed towards the headquarters of the monk who was in charge of this orphanage. On my way, I caught sight of a group of little boys holding a spool and looking upwards, something that resembles so much like hope glinting in their eyes. It took a full minute for me realize what one of them was doing; he was flying a kite. I stayed behind, watching them, amazed at how happy they looked just by playing with such a simple thing. Taking in their dirt stained trousers and their dusted shirts, I thought of my younger siblings playing with expensive iPads and Xbox at home. My heart broke a little at the thought of how privileged some people were in this world and yet they never realized it, merely caught up in their complaints of life, whereas there were these children here, who feel fortunate enough just to have a roof over their heads.
As I trudged along the dusty path, I saw children of different ages, ranging from about five years old to teenagers. Later, I would find out that the orphanage also has a number of infants, who were abandoned by their parents, which was a shocking news. At the monastery, the students were welcomed by a friendly monk, who told us briefly about the orphanage, of how he had started this on his own with the help of a few donators, and of how he is currently looking after over 200 orphans. Recently, he has built a school to offer free education to more than 2000 students of the neighborhood. His speech was a subtle reminder of how lucky and fortunate I was, we all were, to be going to an expensive school like ISM .
Shortly after the inspiring speech, the students broke into different groups according to various activities such as games, english teaching and art. At first, the older children were a bit shy, standing rigidly and darting glances at us. However, when they saw how the younger children ran into the welcoming arms of the ISM students, they could no longer contain their interest. Soon, every possible space was occupied, the playground, the classrooms, even the hallways. Laughter and squeals of excitement took over the air, as sounds of applause occasionally broke out from the sports group. Little by little, we were able to excavate the hidden talent of cooperation and the secretive competitive mindset of the children through the marshmallow challenge in which they were excitedly engaged in. In the arts group, children were intently listening to the instructions on how to do origami, their face full of determination in folding up a beautiful bird.
As the sun slowly made its way upwards, and the seconds ticked away, the smiles got bigger and brighter. Not a single minute was gone wasted. For once, there were no boundaries between the rich and the poor, the lucky ones and the unfortunates, the privileged kids and the orphans. We all came together as one big family of the world, brothers helping the sisters, parents looking out for the kids, friends supporting classmates. A bond was created, , temporarily uniting as one community, one society of human beings. We were all content as a result; them to experience one of the few memorable fun days in their lives and us to be presented with an opportunity to help create smiles.
On the 12th of October 2013, a group of ISM students indeed helped create a positive difference in a small corner of world. Every student, with no doubt, put all their efforts into making this change possible, in lending a warm helping hand to those who are in need of love and affection, which we take for granted. We decorated this world with beautiful smiles and laughter, happiness and memories. By the end of the day, together, we surely made a difference.
On Saturday, November 2nd, the first installment of 14,000 USD or 13,500,000 Kyats was delivered to the Kyndamin Village in the Delta. Village leaders, along with the teachers at the school were all present to accept our donation. They are very appreciative... Even while we were walking through the village the grandmother (in her 80s) of twins came to us and expressed how grateful she is that her grandchildren will have a middle school to go to. The children were in 3rd grade so they will likely attend the new school.
Now the villagers are OFF AND RUNNING with the building. Construction is due to begin within the next 2 months. More donations will be delivered as we progress, step-by-step, toward our goal of making this school a reality.
Special thanks go to Mr. Hla Soe (father of Laura gr.7) who offered to drive three HS community service students (Ryan gr.12, Kaung Myat gr.11, & Steven gr.12) along with Mr. Todd down to meet with the villagers. Mr. Hla Soe's company is also donating a Solar Pump System which will pump water to the new school. The surplus of water from the pump system for the school will also provide water to the village. This helps greatly by making it easier for villagers to access their water supply and prevents water contamination because the villagers will no longer have to go to the water source to get their water. THANK YOU MR. HLA SOE!
Also, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to and support this project! 100% of your donations are going to help these village children in their education. We could not make this project happen without your generous support!
We still have a ways to go with fundraising... if you or anyone you know would like to find our more about this project and how you can help, please click HERE.
Also, click here to see more PHOTOS from our visit to the village!
Thank you for your support!
The ISM Community Service Team
A total of 18 members from ISM Community Service and Microloans attended the YGIN (Yangon Global Issues Network) conference held at ISY on April 6 and 7. By attending YGIN, we learned how to work and interact with students from different schools, heard lectures and discussions on current global issues especially in Myanmar, and were able to form our own opinions about the issues going on in world today. The conference made us put our apathy and ignorance about current global issues aside and learn how we can make a difference. We all attained important public speaking, cooperating, problem solving skills while having lots of fun.
The ISM English Summer School ProgramYou know when you're about to take on something new, a really big challenge in your life… and you're not quite sure how it's all going to work out... And then people begin to encourage you, saying "we can do it"... "we can make it happen!" and more people start doing the same. That is the feeling we had when this project began back in March 2012.
I'm happy to say now that, because of the enthusiasm of ISM students, we did it! We made it happen, and we made a difference!
The English Summer School Program ran for 3 weeks, from April 30th to May 18th 2012. We taught 56 Burmese children ages 7 to 13. Over 200 ISM students and teachers were involved, making us a huge team of English teachers.
The great thing about this program was how many different groups of people from both ISM and our local community were invovled. Included were the ISM 6th and 7th grade advisory and health classes; the Community Service Club which has ISM students ranging from 6th grade all the way up to 12th grade; teachers from the elementary and middle school; administrators supporting us along the way; and there were teachers and the principal from the Burmese school who backed up our efforts everyday throughout the 3 week program. Plus, of course, the 56 Burmese students who were ready and willing to learn English with a lot of enthusiasm!
ISM students came to understand that,
although the Burmese students do learn some English in school, they hardly ever have a chance to practice it. This understanding helped us prepare lessons that focussed on the Burmese students acting, playing with, practicing, and speaking the language.
This, of course, was a challenge for ISM students who, for the most part, had never taught English a day in their life! It was sort of scary for some of us, especially in the beginning. To overcome this fear, we prepared and practiced our lessons ahead of time. And, as the Summer School program progressed, ISM students began expressing their excitement and joy with the program, saying things like, "When can we do this again?" and "Can we continue this program next school year?"
It was surprising to see how much the Burmese students learned during these three weeks of daily practice. At the end they all shared their gratitude and we celebrated together with a "graduation" ceremony and an ice cream party. Many of the Burmese parents and families showed up to share in the celebration of our accomplishments during those three weeks. We now feel much closer with our local community, and a feeling of friendship and respect is growing between ISM students and the Burmese school children. What a wonderful bonding experience this was. Together we proved that when we put our hearts and minds into making a positive difference in the world, the results can be life changing!
ISM Community Service would like to express our gratitude to everyone who was involved in this program. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Let's keep it going, keep reaching out, keep giving, and keep doing community service as much as we can so we can continue to truly make a difference!
By Mr. Todd
The Community Service Club (CSC) is all about starting small to reach for bigger goals. Starting in September 2011, the Community Service club has been devoted to helping the children in the Primary Burmese School just a corner away from ISM. We meet with the children on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 3-4 pm almost every week. All members of the Community Service club truly engage themselves into educating and making a brighter day for these children. We engage the children in fun activities such as art, gardening, games and English teaching. As the months have passed by, it is evident that the children’s abilities are growing as well as their desire for learning.
Once, we had a day where we planted a small garden in the front yard of their school. The children in the school got together with the members from the CSC and planted eggplants, onions, grapes and flowers. We told them that these tiny seedlings would grow to be big plants with fruits and huge leaves. We told them that they were just like those seedlings, ready to burst out and become mature and caring citizens. We regularly went to check on the seedlings and in only three months they had become huge plants with full-grown vegetables and fruit ready to harvest. The children all gathered around their little garden with proud smiles on their face and we came to realize that we had made a sustainable difference. This garden is something that will stay with their little school forever.
In English teaching class, we blended some humor and fun with what we were teaching to get the kids motivated and interested. We engaged some friendly competition between groups and got them involved by creating colorful posters about with the words they were learning. We could tell that some kidswere truly attracted to our lessons since they would study new material once they got home. We’ve sat where these kids are sitting now, so to speak, in a class, listening to a teacher drone on and on about something that nobody was listening to. So, we're making it our mission to get the children excited with fun activities but still maintain their focus on learning.
In Art class, we carried out activities such as coloring, drawing, face and hand painting and card making. The kids enjoyed the face and hand painting tremendously because they could have their favorite cartoon character, object, or animal drawn onto them by the members of our CS group. The card-making activity was also a huge success during Christmas and each child received a Merry-Christmas card from the CS club.
One very memorable time was when we brought over donations from the ISM Community Service week to the Burmese school. Our donations included books, pencils, pens, canned food, rice, eggs, clothes, and hygiene materials such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. We emerged into their little school carrying boxes and books and supplies and bags like a sort of bizarrely happy marching band. All the kids in the school as well as their headmistress and teachers came rushing out, all looking like little children on the morning of Christmas receiving their presents.
With our donations, the headmistress and the teachers at the school cooked Mohinga, Coconut curry soup, and tuna salad for all of the students and served them while the children were taking their year-end exams. She also passed out the clothes and told us that the students truly enjoyed getting the “new” clothing to show off on their holidays. Our old has become their new.
Everyday around our neighborhood, we see kids our age lugging around huge pails of water to their houses, we see young boys playing with marbles while they could be going to school, and we see young girls serving Mohinga in the local shops while they could be earning a good education. “Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?” Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master and author of Peace is Every Step once said. Our CS club does the best we can to help out with what we see. Although we may not be able to change everything all at once, by starting out small and giving what we can, we are making bigger and bigger changes day-by-day. Simply by seeing, caring, giving and
changing we are truly making a difference!
Written by Yuri
At the start of the second quarter, the ISM HS and MS Community Service club set up a goal that seemed reachable: to complete at least one big community service activity before the semester ends. We achieved our goal the day we visited the Boys’ Training School / Orphanage in Yangon on Saturday, December 3rd.
On that day, there were about 21 community service students and 8 teachers who went on the trip. Living there are about 150 boys, many of them are orphans or come from families unable to support them financially. They range in age from about 6 years up to about 15 years old with 3 students already in the tenth grade.
We brought with us clothes, shoes, books (exercise books and Burmese stories), hygienic materials, stationary, and a WASHING MACHINE! The washing machine was a last minute surprise that was donated by the family of a CS student (Pike). All other supplies were bought from the funds raised from the Book Buffet, CS student donations, and from funds from the previous year.
On that special Saturday the we all headed out to the orphanage at 8:00 am. We were eager to get started on our activities which included games, storytelling, English teaching, art, and sports. We had prepared everything ahead of time and when we got to the orphanage, we were excitedly greeted by a group of children who were just as excited as we were.
Our activities such as sports and games truly brought the kids out of their shells as their athletic and fun side emerged. We had the boys sweating and bouncing around everywhere after these activities. Some of our activities such as storytelling, art and English teaching allowed many boys to show their inner talents in listening, reading, drawing, painting and acting. It was nice to see the boys truly engaged in their projects at hand.
In art, the boys could ask for their favorite character to be painted on their faces or hands. That way, they could be reminded of the fun they had once we left. There were many magnificent works of art drawn by our ISM students in the face-painting booth. We felt that all of the activities were both interesting and exciting for the boys at the school. The nice thing was that they got to experience all the different activities as we rotated groups every half an hour.
We stayed at the orphanage for about 3 hours and cherished every minute of it. At the very end of our trip, all the kids from the school lined up together to say goodbye to us. At that moment, we could almost feel the sense of joy in the air and it came to dawn on us; Community Service is not about how much money we can donate or how many things we buy. It’s not about changing lives or moving mountains. Looking at their genuine smiles and hearing their giddy laughter, we realized that Community Service is all about the happiness, the joy, the laughter, and the hope that we can bring to somebody’s life, even for 3 short hours. In the end, we reached our ultimate goal.
Special thanks to: Mr.Todd, Mr.Nick, Ms.Katie, Ms.Meghan, Ms.Zoe, Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Nilan, and his friend Mr. Jeff and the entire Community Service group for participating in this special trip. And to the Boys’ Training School Orphanage for letting us spend this most wonderful day with them!