Four Bhutanese nunneries — Sharab Yesel Choling, Samten Choling, and Upper and Lower Chothpo Goenpa — had been operating for years without proper classrooms and teaching materials, and even without trained teachers. That changed in 2012, when Khyentse Foundation awarded the Bhutan Nuns Foundation a $6,000 grant to support three teachers.
The grant supports teachers Ani Lopen Jigme Wangmo, Ani Lopen Damcho Wangmo, and Ani Lopen Choni Zangmo, who have lifted the spirits and improved the education of young nuns in these four nunneries. The teachers have made a huge difference in the lives of the young nuns, who all have a strong desire to learn.
One of the youngest nuns is Pema Choden, who in 2012 was just 5 years old. Before coming to the nunnery she spent every day with her parents, who are both deaf, while they worked in the fields and on road construction projects, under harsh conditions. The villagers in the community told the head nun at Samten Choling Nunnery about this bright little girl, and the head nun invited her to live and study at the nunnery.
Pema is now thriving at Samten Choling. She has even found her own student, an elderly woman who lives at the nunnery. During a visit, Dr. Tashi Zangmo, executive director of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, recalls, “When I was walking around visiting the little living quarters of the nuns, I heard a lot of laughter and noise from the old lady’s little house.
When I was peeping through the door I saw that Pema was teaching the 70+-year-old lady the Bhutanese alphabet. They were laughing and having a lot of fun. Little Pema taught the old lady how to read the Bhutanese alphabet.”
At the end of the school year Ani Lopen Damcho Wangmo asked her students to share their experience of the year. Pema was the first to speak up. “I was brought here by Ani Kathang (meaning the head nun). I was very little. But I have grown big. Now I know how to read and write because of Ani Lopen.”
According to Ani Lopen, hearing Pema say this was the best moment of her life.
Dr. Tashi Zangmo added, “The Bhutan Nuns Foundation on behalf of the young nuns of these nunneries would like to thank the donors of Khyentse Foundation with all our hearts and say that you have inspired many young nuns like Pema to be the future teachers. Namay semay cadinchey (thank you beyond sky and earth).”