Becoming a monk or a nun involves full-immersion into a monastic lifestyle in which one becomes fully devoted to spiritual pursuits. Devotion like this, be it spiritual or to a broader effort to improve the lives of people, is something volunteers across the globe can relate to and it is something ATMA SEVA has in abundance.
ATMA SEVA — whose tagline is, “Healing & Education for Humanity” – offers a multi-platform approach to service. Its mission is to, “bring a voice and platform to the needs of indigenous, ethnic, and monastic communities.” To achieve this, ATMA SEVA incorporates innovate educational programs – such as live video chats with Buddhist monks from Thailand designed to educate and share their knowledge and passion for Buddhism to people all over the world; to teaching conversational English to the Lawa Village, a remote tribal village located in the hills of Northern Thailand.
Based out of Northern Thailand and Bhutan, ATMA SEVA works with local community leaders, temples and other civically-minded partners to offer three key volunteer programs to the region:
- The Wat Doi Saket Project is an educational project designed to afford volunteers an opportunity to teach English to Buddhist monks in Northern Thailand. Presently, this project’s scope incorporates eighteen Buddhist temples and three Thai public schools. The Wat Doi Saket Buddhist temple has been working with ATMA SEVA since it was founded in 2000, and has been a major partner in outreach programs to educate the people of Thailand in HIV prevention and educational programs. When those projects came to an end in 2009, ATMA SEVA continued its partnership with the Wat Doi Saket temple by adding English education to its outreach programs.
- ATMA SEVA’s work with the Lawa Village tribe began in 2010. The local school in Lawa Village had heard about ATMA SEVA’s work on the Wat Doi Saket project and was interested in having volunteers teach at their school. Continuing in its efforts to teach conversational English to the region, ATMA SEVA places volunteers within the community in a full-immersion approach to both live and teach in the village. Additionally, the goals of this partnership are not only to bring English speaking skills to the residents, but to aslo build long-lasting relationships with the students and families there and add financial support and fundraising efforts. But, like many educational outreach programs in other countries, the education is not one-sided. Volunteers teach English, but also learn about Thailand tribal culture – particularly Lawa-Hill tribal culture.
- This approach of educating the volunteers spreads to ATMA SEVA’s work in Bhutan where the organization works as a registered tour-company in conjunction with local leaders to offer cultural tours, treks, and “eco-tours” (beyond the main districts, and deeper into rural Bhutan) within Bhutan. These trips allow participants an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the rich culture of Bhutan through site-seeing, meditation, and reflection.
But ATMA SEVA has even more to offer than these three programs. It just became a non-profit in Arizona, its founding pilot project to educate the region on HIV/AIDS has reached over 20,000 people, and it is currently talking with Habitat for Humanity and the Embassy of Japan to secure funding to build a school that will focus on housing and educating underprivileged children.
Clearly, ATMA SEVA’s outreach has grown in line with its organization. It is this multi-faceted approach to bring volunteerism and educate the region of Northern Thailand and Bhutan that is truly as unique as it is diverse. Need more proof? Please visit its website at atmaseva.org and maybe you too can participate in an online “monk chat”. You can also connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and their blog.