The ATMA SEVA team recently took a trip to Wat Don Chan, a temple and orphanage located in Chiang Mai, with friend of the program Stuart Skversky. Stu has been working with the temple and children since 2009 through his organization, Stu and the Kids.
The goal of this post is to share the story of Wat Don Chan, the work that Stu does, and ways for people to get involved.
Wat Don Chan is a Buddhist temple which has an adjoining school and University with living accommodations for the students on the premise. Currently, roughly 650 children live at Wat Don Chan, way more than the facilities are designed to hold. Despite the crowd now, up to 900 kids lived here at one time! Of the current 650 living here, 450 of these children are school aged and attending the government school, ages five or six to sixteen. All of the children living here come from various hill-tribes and many are orphans. They all come here with the hope to get a better education. It is free of charge for the children to come and live here and study, with the support of the Thai government, the supporters of the Wat, and various Foundations. Even with the mentioned support and funding, the living quarters where the children stay are sub par, the daily food given is not enough, and educational materials are scarce. It is also worth noting that the school is at the discretion of the abbot. Day to day activities are run by the teachers, but ultimately final decisions are up to the abbot.
There are only four women on location to watch over and take care of the children. Because of this, students at Wat Don Chan have a way of “growing up fast,” in the words of Stu. It comes down to the older children taking care and looking after the younger children. From a Western perspective, this is hard to grasp, being completely on your own at the age of 7 or 8. It is also different when you visit and see the set up that the gravity of the situation fully settles in.
Wat Don Chan is a well-known temple and famous because of the abbot, who is said to be clairvoyant. Many Thais travel from all over to visit and speak with the abbot with the hope to gain knew knowledge about their life or futures.
The Wat is also home to thirty monks, many who are originally from Burma. Despite the overcrowding and lack of funds/resources, Wat Don Chan is home to many bright and motivated young students. Stu has been working tirelessly with this community and fundraising to support the further education for graduates of the school. There is a technical college associated with the Wat where university teachers volunteer their time to teach high school graduates, but it is difficult for graduates to attend four-year universities. Money is often an issue, so the funds that Stu is able to raise go directly towards these students’ university fees.
Below are several projects that Stu is actively involved with and fundraising for;
- Paying for multiple students University tuition.
- Buying/finding new or used computers for the students.
- Teaching English and cooking classes on a weekly basis.
- Running English camps periodically through the year.
- Helping hill-tribe or Burmese students obtain a Thai ID card which enables them to study at the University level
- Collecting donations of clothes, school supplies, and gym equipment.
To read more about Wat Don Chan, Stu’s work, and how you can contribute, visit his website at www.stuandthekids.org. ATMA SEVA has been working with Stu since 2009 on various projects and look forward to many more collaborations!
ATMA SEVA team