Communities Unite!

We are all on the same team really!

There is a fundamental need inside every living being for connection and here at New Life we are fortunate to learn how to foster healthy fulfilling connections.

But let me share with you a magical secret lying just on the outskirts of the foundation.

New Life is situated within a Thai village called Samanmit, which just happens to mean friendship! We employ many local villagers, know them by name and include them in some of our activities. We are so grateful for all of their hard work, support and their joyful presence and while some of us may grumble while we work, the Thai staff always don an ear to ear grin. New Life enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the village and without their welcome, I’m not sure how well we would survive here.

The coffee shop adjacent to the foundation is affectionately called “Mama’s” and the family who live there and operate the shop know most of us by name. They really treat us like their own family. On occasion I have walked past with a sad expression and one of the ladies will run over to offer me a hug. I have also been invited to sit for dinner with them and experience their delicious home cooking.

The temple across from the foundation has a lovely resident monk who speaks a little English and is very happy to have guests. Every time I enter to meditate he appears genuinely delighted, offers me cushions to sit on and invites me to sit closer to the front. I feel more at home here than in my own country sometimes. What is the difference I wonder? In Canada, shopkeepers have to be polite to customers in order to gain their business. On some occasions I feel there is genuine warmth but mostly I feel it’s a somewhat forced politeness. Here in this Thai village I truly feel that the people really want us to be here and want us all to share in the joys of life.

Every New Year’s Eve the village puts on a festival of sorts and they invite New Life to play in a soccer (football) game. This year we were also collecting donations for the local village school. There is an emphasis on drug prevention education, which is a cause near and dear to all of our hearts and so on the morning of Dec 31 there was quite a procession heading down to the school. It was a bit like a ceremonious parade and it was heartwarming to witness the unification of New Lifers and the Thai staff. There were drums being played and flags being waved. Someone was carrying the ‘money tree’ (a collection of sticks holding the donated money fashioned into a tree like figure). People’s faces were bursting with pride and upon arrival at the school, New Life presented the money tree to a village representative.

Let the festivities begin!

The New Life soccer team wore matching t-shirts and the Thai team had their own jerseys. But the smiles were universal. The village had organized some party games in between the soccer game halves, which we all took part in and had a blast. The game was competitive yet friendly. In previous years New Life had the advantage for some reason or another but this year the Thai team really had their ducks in a row. They triumphed graciously and although we were somewhat disappointed, it was a real honour to see the joy and pride in the local Thai team.

During the entire event the Thais made sure we had plenty of refreshments and the after game feast was a delight to behold! There were many gratitudes expressed in both languages. We felt so welcomed and well cared for and I believe the villagers felt honoured and happy to be sharing in this day with us. Language barrier aside, most of us shared laughter and joy with one another.

Upon arrival back at New Life I feel different. I don’t just feel like a New Lifer anymore. I don’t just feel like a tourist in Thailand anymore. I really feel like I am a part of this beautiful village. I feel like I’m home where I belong. I feel connected. I have a new appreciation for the phrase “one for all, and all for one”.

I am forever grateful for this experience. I hope everyone can share in this feeling. Why don’t you join us next year? I guarantee the Thais will give you a seat at their table. That’s just what they do here, naturally, and that’s what we do here at New Life too. You’ll always have a seat at our table.

by Marisha Schaefer

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