Situated in the heart of Char village in Rovieng commune, Samrong district, Takeo province, Wat Prasat Neang Khmao is more than just a spiritual retreat for monks and Buddhists.
It’s a beacon of hope for the community, serving as an educational sanctuary for orphaned monks and underprivileged children.
Providing shelter and learning opportunities for 345 young people aged five to 20, the pagoda stands as a testament to compassion and progress.
Venerable Chuon Kakkada, a monk from Takeo and the director of Trey Rath Radio at the pagoda, explained that the students “hail from impoverished families, broken homes, and diverse provinces across the nation”.
Attracted by the teachings of Chief Abbot Phin Vuthy, these children join the monastic path, eager for the education and mentorship promised to them. They are drawn towards the opportunity for growth in a supportive environment.
Within the welcoming walls of Wat Prasat Neang Khmao, a primary school has been set up. The students receive complimentary education in subjects like Khmer literature, English, Pali, and computer skills.
The pagoda takes full responsibility for their education and well-being, even covering healthcare and teacher salaries.
“Here, you can learn kindergarten and English, along with computer classes, without any fees,” Venerable Kakkada warmly shared.
“You won’t need to spend any money, so you can focus on your studies without financial burden. The pagoda takes complete responsibility for everything”.
However, the provision of such care is no small feat. Despite having a system for collecting alms, additional resources are often necessary to accommodate the growing number of monks. Every day, the pagoda incurs cooking costs ranging from 2.5 million to 2.6 million riels per day ($625 to $650) for breakfast and lunch, with 150 kilograms of rice consumed.
The monks and nuns of Wat Prasat Neang Khmao show dedication to their spiritual growth, education, and well-being.
Their journey is made possible by the compassionate efforts of the pagoda’s leaders and the local community, along with generous donations from Buddhists both near and far.
After completing their primary education at the pagoda, the students continue their studies at other pagodas in Phnom Penh.
Venerable Kakkada actively searches for sponsors to support this essential stage of their education.
“On certain days, our Buddhist followers provide meals, allowing us to skip a meal and save resources to sustain our daily life. Initially challenging for young monks who must adhere to Buddhist practices and abstain from dinner, continuous education has helped them embrace this rule with contentment,” he noted.
The temple in Prasat Neang Khmao, built in the year 921 during King Jayavarman IV’s reign, is not merely a place of worship. It attracts Buddhist devotees who come to pray and make offerings. The real charm, however, lies in its role as an educational hub for vulnerable children.
With its rich history and inspiring leadership, Wat Prasat Neang Khmao is more than a simple pagoda. It’s an example of what faith, compassion, and community collaboration can achieve. Serving as a nurturing home for those who need it most, the pagoda is driven by a mission to uplift and empower both the minds and souls of its inhabitants.