Young Buddhist Nuns

PhotographerRandall Howlett
PrizeHonorable Mention

We all know of the issues today involving the government of Myanmar. However, when I travel I look behind the curtain to experience people and cultures directly. My guide suggested something not on the usual itinerary. It was a school for young girls becoming Buddhist nuns. The school ran out of funds for completion. In fact, it's a shell with roof and no walls. Upon arrival the head teacher rounded up the girls to sing to me and then allowed me to photograph at will while having prayers and midday meal. She said the girls come from disadvantaged families with most ranging from 5 to 15 years old. They are permitted to leave the order in their later teens if they wish While given an opportunity for a full education with Buddhist teachings I did feel an element of sadness. They are permitted to visit their families only once (for two weeks) until they reach a certain age. I wondered about lost childhood and particularly not having the love of a parent. After a solemn meal the girls were allowed free time. This lifted my spirits when I saw them congregating, smiling and later waiving me goodbye. Following a donation to assist in completing the school, I recieved a blessing in Burmese from the head teacher. She may have wished for my return someday. Regardless, it's my desire to do so to see the school completed.