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
These true stories are written by ISM Community Service students and teachers.
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