It does not matter whether you believe in karma or not: doing good in this world will always be something that will build your character and bring you joy in the end. Spending time at the Thabarwa Monastery and Meditation Center is definitely an experience that will make you grow as a human being, and learn more about human interactions.
Thabarwa ("original nature") is a Buddhist Monastery and Meditation Center, located in Thanlyin in Myanmar (south of the city of Yangon), which is also a community of approximately 3500 people: other than healthy people, there’s sick people, people without limbs, blind, HIV positive, poor, old, children, young people, adults, homeless.
Buddhist philosophy is among other teachings to accept and care for every living being in need of help or care (humans, animals, etc.) and therefore the community receives people of all conditions with open arms and with all basic needs provided free of charge.
After acknowledging that, I can explain about volunteering: you simply arrive at the Reception and say that you want to spend some time volunteering there, and they immediately accept you, give you housing and food for free. The hospitality is incredible to see and puts everything in perspective in your life.
Once there, after the warm welcome from the hosts (Loic and Co.) and the other volunteers, you discover that there is a great range of options that you can volunteer there: helping the monks in the ‘alms’ during the day, activities with patients in the community (physical therapy, 'make them move', help with wounds and injuries, walk with them, take them to the pagodas, bathe, etc.), help prepare rice for the community, teach English and cook for the other volunteers.
Each of these activities brings a different level of difficulty and learning: I decided to participate in all of them in order to see up close the everyday of real people with real Myanmar problems, and everything was very enriching and rewarding.
In addition to the volunteer options, there are also volunteer activities, such as guided meditation and Burmese classes (Myanmar language, I even learned a few sentences there!).
Guided meditation is a 'star' apart in the whole experience: I have tried a few times and discovered a lot about my body and mind! It does not necessarily have to be a meditative spiritual experience, for in my case it has taught me a great deal about how my physiology works and how it is possible, with mind control, to suppress some instinctive impulses of the subconscious.
All meals are provided for the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and these are extremely well-made, healthy and hearty. Of course the ingredients are the most basic, for these are only derived from what the monks collect in the 'alms' during the day, but sometimes it was possible to have something more elaborate that was provided to the monks as well. Even though the base ingredients are rice, vegetables and fruits, the lunch staff (Lucho and Co.) work miracles and surprise us every day!
The accommodations are basic in Burmese mold: bed with mosquito netting, bucket bath with cold water, no WIFI in the common areas (it has in the reception). But in no way does this disrupt the experience there, because in fact this is what makes the experience more impactful and real, leading to a greater learning.
As for water, there is nothing to worry about: there is an engineering team in the community that has made possible clean and piped water for all buildings. During my weeks there I had no problem with stomach or any disease.
Finally, living a monk's everyday life and interacting and caring for various patients in the way the Thabarwa people do will surely change your way of looking at life. It will make you realize that happiness is not what you have, but what you do.
I have only to thank for this experience and I would like to invite everyone to do this volunteer too!!