Buddhist principles applied to real-world issues
A Buddhist temple in western Sydney is taking the teachings of compassion, acceptance and inner peace out into the real world by helping the unemployed find work and thus independence and improved self-esteem.
The Vien Giac Temple in Cabramatta has partnered with settlement and employment agency AMES Australia to give jobseekers practical work experience and a pathway to employment.
The temple facilitates work for the dole activities that offer work experience in gardening and administration and it runs a vegetarian restaurant where jobseekers can gain experience in the hospitality industry.
The temple’s Abbess, An Thien, says the temple and its team of volunteers supports all members of the local community not just Buddhists.
“Our mission is to provide for the physical and emotional wellbeing of all people in our community – and our members speak English, Vietnamese and Chinese,” Abbess An Thien, who arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 1975.
“We aim to use the principles of Buddhism to help people and participating in employment training programs and job placements is a very practical way of doing that,” she said.
“So it’s really just about applying compassion and helping people who are in difficulty.
“We believe it’s important when we first meet these people to just let them talk. We try to work out their strengths and their issues and we work with them to try to help themselves build on their strengths.
“People are different and need help in different ways; but we always praise and encourage the people who come to us and try to understand them.”
AMES Australia Industry Relationship Manager Danny Kwok said the partnership with Vien Giac temple had been a great success.
“We have been working with the temple for some time and we have had great success in transitioning our jobseekers into employment through this partnership,” Mr Kwok said.
“The program also helps to break down the isolation some people feel and who would otherwise not have social contacts and links to the outside world.”
Mr Kwok said job seekers were given training and experience both at the temple and in the Huong Sen vegetarian restaurant doing work such as gardening, cleaning, food preparation, customer service, basic building maintenance and administration.
About 20 people of varied ethnic backgrounds participate in the work experience programs at the temple each week.
The temple also refers them to other charity organisations to help them with food, clothing or advice about financial difficulties. And it provides free meals.
“Everyone who comes here can learn about Buddhist values such as not harming one another, truthfulness, serving others, patience, generosity, forgiveness and compassion,” Abbess An Thien said.
The temple also provides lessons in the scripture and principles of Buddhism local primary schools.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist