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The reality of child monks

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Updates on our projects and work in Nepal

The reality of child monks

Michelle Welsch

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On average, one or two out of ten monks will remain at their monastery as adults.

The monastic life is not easy, for various reasons. A sample daily schedule:

  • 5:15am wake up
  • 6:00am morning puja
  • 7:30am breakfast
  • 8:00am Tibetan study
  • 9:15am academic classes begin
  • 11:30am lunch
  • 12:00pm Tibetan instrument and art practice
  • 1:15pm academic classes resume
  • 3:00pm tea
  • 3:30pm afternoon puja 
  • 6:00pm dinner 

This routine is often disrupted by religious observances and holidays. Puja can be held for days at a time, and involves long periods of sitting, chanting, praying, meditating, and reading Tibetan. Saturdays are typically reserved for chores and cleaning. On Sundays that aren't filled with ceremony, monks enjoy free time playing soccer and watching television. 

Whoesher, 6 years old

Many monks are brought to monasteries as small children. As they grow older, some choose to leave. They may have an urgent family situation or are interested in pursuing other opportunities.

Young monks at Matepani Gumba

Let's say a monk leaves his monastery and hasn't learned basic English and Math skills.

On top of the challenges of adopting to post-monastic life, he is going to have a difficult time finding work.


When I first visited Matepani Gumba, international volunteers were relied upon as English teachers. Volunteers from all parts of the world (with different English accents) would stay for brief commitments, ranging from two months to one week. During the tourist off-season, the monastery would exist for months at a time without any volunteers and any English instruction. When the weather cleared, volunteers returned, but quality was never guaranteed. Many arrived untrained and unreliable, bringing an inconsistent array of cultural competence and experience.

In addition to conducting my own research, I spoke at length with individuals familiar with the history of the monastery, prominent community members, and senior monks.

Everyone agreed that a permanent English teacher would be a valuable asset to the school.

Advertisement in local newspaper

Nwong translating the contract from English to Nepali

Our signed document

We placed an advertisement in the local newspaper and interviewed several candidates before hiring Manoj. Manoj is a student himself, finishing his degree in business, and has a schedule that allows him to teach classes during the day. We were lucky to find him.

Members of the school board drafted and signed a one-year contract for Manoj to teach English grammar, composition, reading comprehension, and conversational practice. It was a process that took team effort from many individuals, both within the monastery and the local community.

For $70 USD each month, we are sponsoring Manoj's annual salary. 

And at the end of the year, we hope to provide Manoj (and Nwong) a bonus for a job well done. 

To contribute to Manoj's monthly paycheck and learn more about the academics we support, review our priorities