It was around 2011 when we first came to the prison. It started in a strange way. Our temple is the first female monastics in Thailand. It started 60 years ago from Ven.Grandma Voramai Kabilsingh’s time. Ven.Dhammananda, the present abbot is a second generation.
Being a temple for female monastics, people have been thoughtful, when they brought offering they also thought of the need for female, that is sanitary napkins. Our temple is small, and most members are past the fertile period of life. Sanitary napkins offered in a big pile began to claim space. When we have surplus rice, we take it to old homes, or male juvenile detention center, but they also have no need of sanitary napkins. Then an idea came.. the provincial prison. Ah, yes.
At that time the provincial prison was still in town near the famous stupa. The total inmates were 3500 and out of this number, 700 of them were women. We approach the officers at the prison and told them of our idea of sharing the napkins with their female inmates. They were very happy, as they have to set up annual budget to cover this cost, with our offering they could cut down on that.
As conversation continued, the officer asked if the bhikkhunis can also give dharma talk to the female inmates. Of course, we would be too happy to do it, it is our duty.
So that was the way we began, meeting the inmates. The straight dharma talk now developed into training programme. Attending the training and obtaining a training certificate would also help to reduce their sentence.
We are now in our 9th year. We conduct the training twice a month, after ten sessions, each training draws to a close, the participants receive the certificate. Each year the training focuses on different practical topic, i.e. self-disciplined, honesty, etc.
Each time a group of minimum 6 bhikkhunis and volunteers handle the training, one young volunteer specially prepare songs to share with the inmates. Now, this training is the main training course for the Nakhonpathom provincial prison.