When I'm in town on Sundays, I go to a Buddhist pagoda for an informal English study group. My pagoda friends are eager to learn English & excited to be able to talk with a foreigner. In return, I get to spend the afternoon at a beautiful spiritual place & talk with a great group of people.
One member of our group is a nun who lives at the pagoda (seated in the middle wearing grey). She doesn't speak much English, so I could only get part of her story.
Trang 16 years old & has been living at the pagoda for two years. She's one of six children from the central part of Vietnam. She said that she wanted to study as a nun so badly that she ran away from home. Her family doesn't know where she is. The rest of the story is unfortunately lost in the language barrier.
Another young nun once told me that she came to live at the pagoda because it offered her a better life than she would have if she stayed in her hometown. The nuns receive food, clothing & shelter, as well as an education & spiritual practice. For many, it's an alternative more appealing than poverty.