by Roberta Margison
Carolina from Brazil is a volunteer at New Life Foundation with her husband Fernando. Carolina looks after our duck family and has also facilitated several workshops, including Brazilian dance and mantra meditation. To celebrate their second wedding anniversary they renewed their vows in a Thai wedding ceremony in the romantic setting of the Foundation’s forest hall. The wedding was attended by the entire New Life community including Thai staff and local villagers. Both communities watched with love and support in their hearts as the villagers guided Carolina and Fernando through the ceremony. Many people take or renew vows of abstinence at New Life, but this was the first time that New Life hosted a ceremony to renew wedding vows!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a volunteer at New Life Foundation. I’m 29 and Brazilian. I have been married for two years to Fernando who is also at NLF as a volunteer life coach. It was beautiful when we renewed our wedding vows. I felt really blessed that the whole community including the Thai villagers came along. Our Thai cooks at new life, Pi Pen, Katae, and Jaeng, did my hair and makeup Thai-style. Even although communication was difficult due to the language barrier, it really was heartwarming to feel loved and supported by everyone.
Fernando and I had been living in Australia for a year then traveling for two and a half months around Indonesia and Thailand before coming to NLF at the end of May.
In Brazil I am a training coordinator for civil servants who work for the court of justice. My volunteer role includes looking after the ducks at NLF, which I love. I’ve also been involved in running a Brazilian dance (forro) workshop, organising a community treasure hunt, game workshop and mantra meditation.
How did you hear about New Life and what made you want to come here?
We found New Life the help-X website when we were looking for volunteer opportunities in Thailand. Initially we planned to volunteer for 2 to 4 weeks. However, we’ve now been here for more than 3 months…my father has an alcohol addiction so when I heard that NLF was a recovery community, I thought by giving my time to others I might also be able to heal myself. I liked the fact that people who come here are already on a path to be free of addiction and/or depression.
Had you heard of mindfulness meditation before you came to New Life? What do you think of it?
I had heard of the term mindfulness in the English language but it has never been translated to Portuguese. In Melbourne where I lived for a year the term ‘mindfulness practice’ has become really trendy. I first heard about meditation when I was 13 and attended a holistic course for youths. At that time I used to take part in group meditation once a week. After the 18 months course I didn’t meditate again for about ten years until I became a monitor in the same holistic course. I find it hard to meditate daily but at NLF it is much easier and I really enjoy it. I often go to the 6am meditation session where we practice sitting and walking meditation. Although I struggle to maintain a daily sitting meditation routine, I am sure I will continue to be more aware and mindful in my daily activities including when I return to work in Brazil.
What have been your greatest joys and challenges at New Life?
My greatest joy is related to the support network within the community. I felt welcomed and accepted from the beginning. I love being around people that show they care about me and about how I am feeling. This has definitely been the best thing for me, although working with the ducks is a close second! I feel very useful taking care of them by cleaning their house and feeding them twice a day. I have learned so much about ducks! They truly are interesting creatures. I love how they walk in line when they see me coming with their food. I can now recognize the different quacking sounds they make when waiting for food compared to when they are laying eggs. It’s amazing to see the hierarchy among them. They are all female but some ‘alpha’ ducks adopt male behaviours and try to mate with the more passive ducks!
My greatest challenge has been dealing with the impermanent nature of the community. I struggle to say goodbye when people I have developed friendships with leave. I like it when new people join the community but the idea that I may not see someone I’ve connected with again, is a challenge. I realise this is a way of learning more about impermanence and as Julien would say, learning to ‘just be with it’.