On one of the wooden benches in the dining hall sits six year old Nan Moe dressed in a pink nun dress. She moved into the orphanage three years ago when her parents died.
- When I first got here I cried a lot, I did not understand the language and felt very lonely and afraid, says Nan Moe. Now she enjoys living at the orphanage, with her sisters. This summer she decided to become a nun for a month. Her head was shaved and her clothes were replaced with the pink robe.
A minority of the children at the orphanage are orphans. In Myanmar, it is common for parents to send their children away to give them a better life. Parents are often very poor, or the possibility to get an education is poor in the village where they live. In Aye Yeik Mon about 90 per cent of the girls have parents.
Thu Zar Tun is 19 years old. Her parents are still alive, and live in a poor, small village in the countryside, where there are no schools. When she was nine, she had to make the difficult choice to leave her parents and the village. Her parents wanted to give her the opportunity to get a good education, but to get that she had to move to the orphanage.
- Both my little brothers and I moved away from our parents when we were really young. If I had not left the village, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have today, says Thu Zar Tun. Although she lives in an orphanage run by nuns, she has chosen not to become a nun herself.
The girls sits with colourful pens in their hands, mechanically repeating in unison what the teacher reads from the billboard. Close by the older girls starts making the next meal. An orange noodle soup bubbles in a large black iron pot, which oozes thick white vapours. The smell of spices spreads in the large dark room.
Beneath the white mosquito net on the second floor, sits the oldest nun of the orphanage. Daw Dan Maye Thyi got there at 14, shortly after her grandmother made the decision that Daw Dan Maye Thyi should become a nun. Now she has lived in the orphanage for the last 50 years, and is now one of the managers. – I help children who have been in the same situation as me. My mother died when I was four months old and for me this has become my new family.
by Ylva Seiff Berge