Earlier that morning we visited the Citta Sukha Monastic Education Center. I was truly impressed with this place, and with the head monk, Pone Nya Nauda.
From humble beginnings, this school has grown to become far and away the favorite place for local parents to send their children. They now educate 2,500 children with the help and support of the local community.
Not only is this Monk dedicated to preparing these poor village children for a better life, but he is also quite an entrepreneur. His latest venture is growing what is locally called the “Star Bean”, (Sacha Inchi). Turns out that this bean (which I’d never heard of before) is pretty amazing. The leaves can be used to make a delightful tea. The beans when roasted are a delicious snack. Beans are also a great source of protein and can be marketed in a variety of forms including powder. Oils from the plant are also marketable and can be used to produce highly desirable lotions. With over three acres now under cultivation, the Monk is looking to Sacha Inchi as an important source of funding to support the sustainability of his school.
In addition to a teak forest, he also has quite a large tract of Eagle Wood growing. I’m told that this tree (another one that I’ve never heard of before) is highly valuable and can sell for upwards of $1,000 per individual tree. The Monk also proudly pointed out another 30 at his disposal. I’m quite sure that land also will be put to productive use soon.
The Monk tells me that with the help of his local community he can manage the day-to-day operating expenses of the school. His immediate, pressing need is to replace the last of their original bamboo buildings. As you can see from these photos, this four-classroom building is on its last legs. It is now so deteriorated that the Monk says this is the last year he can use it. When I asked about his budget for replacement with a properly constructed building he responded with $30,000. Hmmm. Seems unrealistically low to me, but he insists that with the full participation of the local villagers he can complete the building for that amount. So … I say … let’s put him to the test. Perhaps there is an angel out there that will step forward and fund this desperately needed new building.