BUDDHIST nun Ani Choying Drolma has touched the hearts of many with her singing while fighting for the rights of women and children in Nepal.
The 43-year-old has performed her meditation hymns and chants around the world to raise funds for her Nuns Welfare Foundation of Nepal, to help educate the less privileged.
Since the late 1990s, Ani has performed on several continents, including North and South America, Europe as well as Asian countries like Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Despite singing in Tibetan, Nepali and Sanskrit, she still manages to touch the souls of her audience.
“Music is universal and you do not need to understand the words to enjoy it.
“As long as it is sung from the heart, the audience will feel it,” said Ani, who is known as the “Singing Nun of Nepal”.
She added that singing her meditation hymns and chants was akin to positively charging energy which helped enhance spiritual calmness and clarity among her listeners.
Ani has released 12 albums and her autobiography has been published in 11 languages, with all funds channelled to the foundation.
In 1998, she opened a school called Arya Tara in Kathmandu.
From only one street child, there are now 80, ranging in age from five to 27.
At the school, they are taught life skills as well as reading, maths, science and nursing skills.
“I want the women and children to know they have a choice in life,” she said.
Ani explained that most women in Nepal were expected to stay at home after marriage while many children had become victims of child labour and child marriage.
Her passion for helping women and children started after she ran away at the age of 13 to join the Nagi Gompa Nunnery.
She was abused by her father at home and the final straw was when he nearly stabbed her to death.
In the monastery, Ani learnt from renowned meditation master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
“I was free and happy. I also learned how to sing there and was actually discovered by an American guitarist, Steve Tibbetts, who helped launch my music career,” she said.
In April this year, Ani was appointed Unicef Nepal’s national goodwill ambassador, a vehicle for her to reach out to more people in the country, and focus on issues such as childhood malnutrition
as well as infant and maternal mortality.
“In the beginning, it was just me and my two hands.
“Now, I have thousands of hands to help me make a change in the lives of children and women here,” she said.
Currently, they are involved in a pre-natal programme to get pregnant women to go for regular check-ups.
“The maternal mortality rate is high as there are not enough birthing centres and many women give birth at home with no medical supervision,” Ani said, adding that some babies were even born in animal sheds.
Many mothers are so ignorant they even give their newborn cold showers, resulting in them developing pneumonia.
They are also not aware of the need for vaccination.
“We want these women to get proper medical care and advice from the day of conception until the child is born,” said Ani, who is working with the government to set up early childhood education centres in remote areas.
For details, visit www.choying.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.