Arya Tara School
Nuns Welfare Foundation of Nepal (NWF)
Pharping - Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Running in its 11th year, Arya Tara School which was started in January 2000 is a flagship project of the Nuns' Welfare Foundation of Nepal (NWF), an NGO founded in 1998 by Ani Choying Drolma.
What started as a small school at a temporary site in Kathmandu with only seven nuns in the first year has over a period of only 10 years grown phenomenally to an establishment that boasts a five storied, well equipped live-in institution of learning in Pharping (Setidevi VDC-3, 18 km from Kathmandu) with a capacity to accommodate more than 60 nuns. Located in a serene and spacious setting overlooking the Kathmandu valley, the new school building is ingeniously built to withstand earthquakes and meets the needs of this growing spiritual/educational community; it includes several classrooms, a meditation hall, dormitories, computer lab, library, a kitchen and dining hall, storage room, office, proper toilets and bathrooms as well as rooms for the teachers and administrative staff. Living and learning in an environment with positive female role models is an integral component of the Arya Tara education. The new school in Pharphing which, started operations from July 2005, is now home to over 60 nuns who come from some of the poorest and most remote areas of Nepal, Tibet and India. The school remains open Sunday to Friday and each school day begins with prayers and meditation after which classes resume from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. There are frequent field trips to local pilgrimage sites, the zoo, museums etc. to enrich the students overall spiritual and educational experiences. Each student learns to take responsibility for the school by doing small jobs such as helping with the cooking and cleaning, buying school supplies and working in the garden. Classes are taught by eight full time paid teachers and other additional paid staffs include a cook, housekeeper, office assistant and director of the Nuns Welfare Foundation who assists with fundraising, administration, volunteer coordination and public relations.
Ani Choying has always believed that nuns have a great desire and potential to make the world a better place, if only given equal opportunities. Arya Tara School aims to equip nuns to help and to serve their communities in a professional and humanitarian capacity. With a fully developed and realized potential, she believes that her nuns will be able to not only help themselves, but also to help others. In brief, Arya Tara School aims to help young nuns bring their compassion into fruition, actively, effectively, skillfully and meaningfully. Traditionally, says Ani Choying, women’s education is neglected in Asia. “Most of the girls at my nunnery are from rural areas either in Tibet, India or Nepal, patriarchal cultures where women are expected just to cook, clean and bear children. Even in the nunnery, they are taught to read classical Tibetan in order to do the religious practice, but many cannot write their own names.” Her school would educate them in Literacy, Math, Science, Medical and Nursing skills, and Buddhist philosophy.
To finance her school, Ani-la generates income through musical endeavors. In 1997, Ani-la began performing and recording Cho for audiences around the world, connecting Westerners to Tibetan culture and music. Ani Choying has gained wide popularity in Nepal as well, after she released her first Nepali CD “Moments of Bliss” in 2004 for which she was bestowed with laurels for her fantastic soothing voice.
A supporter of the school once wrote: “We were invited to see a concert by a Buddhist nun at a 500 year-old monastery in Patan. Thinking this would be a unique experience, we jumped at the opportunity. To our delight we were entertained by a talented, witty and charming woman performing traditional Tibetan songs and chants. At the end of the concert we learned that this humble Buddhist nun was performing to raise money to build a monastery and school for less fortunate woman and children in Nepal, India and Tibet. Her selflessness and commitment was so great that we felt we must help support her cause.”