Changing Lives in Thailand: Dhammajarinee Girls’ School | How One Buddhist Nun Became a Hero to Hundreds of At-Risk Girls

Girls at Mae Chee Aunampai Passakchai’s boarding school in Thailand.

IEveryone loves those exceptional individuals whose inner fire leads them to inspire us with great deeds of love or compassion. Mae Chee Aunampai Passakchai, a Buddhist nun who runs the only free Buddhist boarding school for girls in Thailand, is one of these heroes.

When Aunampai was 20, she became ill and went into a coma for three days. Doctors could not determine the cause of her illness and were certain she would die. When she came out of the coma, a respected monk told her, “I am advising you to become a Buddhist nun for three months in order to extend your life span.” Aunampai found she loved being a nun and never looked back.

In Thailand, a good education is not free. Boys who are orphans or from poor families can go to a Buddhist temple to become a novice monk and receive a free education, but girls who lack opportunity do not have this alternative.

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First graders at Dhammajarinee Witthaya Girls’ School

Poverty presses these girls into going to work in order to help their families. Working as cheap laborers in factories in the big cities causes some girls to become easy prey for brothel agents. To provide an educational opportunity for these at-risk girls, Aunampai founded the Dhammajarinee Whitthaya School. The girls study in residence and the local Thai people support them.

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Girls at Mae Chee Aunampai Passakchai’s boarding school in Thailand.

The school now has 430 students, in kindergarten through high school, plus 38 teachers and support staff.

Every year the new girls arrive at the school with diverse problems, but within a year the students are on par academically with other Thai students in their grade. Aunampai knew these at-risk girls needed more than book learning and discipline—they needed a way to deal with the incredible stress that most had already undergone at such a young age.

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Mae Chee Aunampai Passakchai and one of her students.

In her deep compassion, she provided the tools needed to help release past trauma in the girls. She introduced Transcendental Meditation and the TM Sidhi Program and made it part of the daily curriculum. After the introduction of twice daily meditation for both the students and the staff, the teachers saw the girls getting happier, more peaceful and alert, and ready to learn. The only reason Aunampai is now able to consider expanding the school is that meditation allowed the at-risk girls to settle down, focus on their studies, and integrate socially in a smooth manner. They are even winning top academic awards.
Girls in poverty in Thailand are more vulnerable than ever before. More at-risk girls want to come, but the school lacks space and has had to turn away girls. This year Aunampai is building a new classroom structure to allow hundreds more girls to attend her school. Her goal is to have 1,000 students.

Dhammajarinee Witthaya Girls' School, thai girls school, aunampai

Girls practice their daily meditation.

The construction of a large Vastu building for classrooms to accommodate about 500 more girls is now underway. A significant portion of money has come from the Thai government and private donors, but the school still needs to quickly raise $125,000 to finish this large building by January 2014. If you would like to  help with this project, please call (515) 707-1308 for more details.

To read more about this project, visit TM Becomes Integral Part of Buddhist School in Thailand.” To make tax-deductible donations to support the classroom building project, please visit Seeds of Heaven. Click on "Donate" and find Dhammajarinee Witthaya Girls’ School, Thailand.