To many, an education and a better future are a privilege and a luxury, although exception do arise such as in the case of the learning centre in active operation under the roof of the iconic Wat Arun in the old Bangkok quarters. There, Indonesian businessman Hartanto Gunawan has spent four years as a monk, which has changed not only his future but also that of about 200 girls and young women who have benefited from his educational initiatives that blend Buddhist principles in the training of professional and life skills.
The students have found a rare opportunity to acquire skills needed for professional and worldly pursuits at the temple in Wat Arun Rajvararam (Temple of Dawn) Community Learning Centre (CLC).
“It’s quite boring at times. Sometimes I dozed off during the meditation class,” said Darunee Puanglabutr, 24.
“I didn’t quite like it. But as I sat with friends and the Father, it gradually calmed my wandering mind.”
The centre is run by the “father” and teacher Hartanto, 51, who launched it in 2007.
It offers meditation classes, but they are not its principal purpose.
The CLC provides a beacon of hope for many underprivileged girls who feel deprived of a promising future.
Each year, the centre hands out one-year scholarships as assistant nurses to 25 young people who are orphans or from broken homes and poor. Among them are needy youths and children vulnerable to human or domestic violence.
The centre has also introduced state-certified study courses for young people to learn some basic skills like computer work, English, Thai traditional dance, food and soap carving during the weekends.