Reinier and his girlfriend Anne, along with their two young daughters (19 months & 3 years), have been at the New Life Foundation for five weeks. Prior to this they have been traveling as a family for nearly eight months. Originally from Holland, they admit that some of their friends and family were not exactly enthusiastic about their plans to leave the country for so long, especially with two very young children.
They had discussed long-term travel before, but the timing just wasn’t right, what with jobs and pregnancies, until almost a year ago. They realized their girls were at an age where they weren’t yet required to attend school, so they began researching travel options in earnest.
Anne had been looking for places to volunteer in Thailand and had stumbled upon the New Life Foundation website. Anne pressed Reinier to read it. When he finally did, he was touched by New Life Foundation’s stated mission, particularly the emphasis on sustainability. When asked if they worried about bringing the kids to a community where people are recovering from addictions, stress, and burnout, Reinier responds, “we were not worried about bringing the children to a recovery centre, and we hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but more than that we were intrigued at the mindful approach, and that people were taking the time to work on themselves, and to change their lives.”
Reiner says, “At first it was difficult to get in touch with the people here because it’s a big group and we had the kids to take care of, the first week was hard.” They stuck it out though, and by the second week they began to feel a change. The community embraced the family and helped out with the kids. The girls attended school for three days a week, allowing one or other of the parents time to get involved in the community work, and to become more involved with community life.
Both Reinier and Anne admit to the difficulties in traveling with children so young, and the lack of time it gives them to spend together. But the rewards, they say, are huge. For Reinier is being able to spend so much more time with his children, a luxury not available to him at home because of his long work hours. And for Anne its watching her to girls grow and interact more and more with each other. They do not regret their decision to experience traveling and volunteering as a family.
For Reinier he says his experience at New Life has been surprisingly fulfilling. “It’s a very well-facilitated place. They have a pool, free wi-fi, accommodation, free workshops,” he explains. “They not only have yoga and meditation, but they also have art, pottery, tai chai, karate, basketball…many more things. I’ve also discovered that I like things I did not think I would like, I’ve even read some of the spiritual books in the library.”Yet his favorite part about life here so far remains the building of the meditation hall. Constructed almost entirely from mud bricks made on-site, it stands as a beautiful testament to the power of community. Reinier enjoys working with his hands takes pleasure in the immediate gratification aspect of community building. “Where there was nothing, now there is a wall. Tomorrow, another wall.” It seems a fitting metaphor at a place where so many are rebuilding their lives.