When you think about chanting Buddhist rules or poems (smouth in Khmer), you imagine a 50-year-old person who could be called grandfather or grandmother, or a Buddhist monk doing this job. However, you may find it surprising to see an 18-year old boy who could chant so impressively that he brings his audience to tear with his beautiful voice and meaningful life stories.
Vann Sothun, a 10th grader at Preah Monivong high school in Battambang province, is one of those rare young people who are talented in a lot of art forms, including chanting and role playing.
Vann Sothun knows how gifted he is and has used these gifts to help preserve arts and religious beliefs. He told Lift that he is sometimes invited to chant for a local radio channel, 88.5 FMz. He said he learned to chant when was staying in a pagoda for several years and he really loved singing, too. By chanting, he could actually preserve Buddhist rules which imply a lot of educational messages. “Sometimes, I chant about how grateful parents are, so as a child, you should treat your parents nicely,” he said. “It helps reminds young adults to be thankful for their family.”
More interestingly, the 18-year old can also play roles pretty skillfully. He and other friends do some role plays relating to educational purposes. Some of the plays they have done have been shown at school. The themes range from the importance of helmets to domestic violence. He has, so far, played roles in seven or eight stories. What is even more amazing is the fact that he can write scripts for most of the stories he has played. “I sometimes write scripts for these stories. But I also need help from friends,” he added.
Besides his ability in arts, he is also inspired by the usefulness of volunteering. Volunteering for High School Student Red Cross Associations, Vann Sothun is the president of the association which consists of eight high schools across Battambang province. He said he has been volunteering for about three years. As the president, Vann Sothun is responsible for a number of tasks such as participating in meetings organised by the association, visiting different communities in Battambang and other provinces to donate Red Cross aid to people in need, organising meetings and keeping in touch with other school members.
In addition, he has participated in community services. He has been involved in a student project, which was sponsored by the US embassy alumni, as a public relations officer. This is a small project that aims to get students to put what they had learned from a workshop conducted by the alumni on environmental protection in real practice. Vann Sothun said he was responsible for communications with local authorities to make sure the project ran smoothly.
“It is a great experience for me to have a chance to apply my knowledge in real practice,” he said, adding that he was very interested in helping people and the community. He found it very useful and was happy to do this volunteering jobs.
Through community service he could share his knowledge and experiences while also learning from others. Helping people better understand traffic laws and the necessity of wearing helmets, for instance. “I am so happy to scarify my time and energy for community development,” he said.
Since he has been involved in so many things, it has caused difficulties with his studies at school. However, Vann Sothun told Lift that he could still maintain a pretty good rank in class. “I don’t do superbly well in class, but I can make it to a fairly good level,” he explained.
In the future Vann Sothun wants to continue his studies at university. “I want to go to university so that I will have a bright future,” he said.