Om Sunisa Jamwiset, 34, from Thailand speaks about her path in developing her full potential as a woman and an activist.
I was born in a small village in Nong Khai Province, by the Thai-Lao border, in Northeastern Thailand. My village was very beautiful. It was like an island, surrounded by water. I used to play a lot in nature with other kids. When I was about 11-12 years old things started to change. Concrete roads were laid on our playground. Big trees along the river where we used to climb and jump into the river were clearcut and the river was dug. Many things happened at that time and I couldn’t understand why or who was responsible for that. Later I heard the term “development” was behind it. I decided to study community development in Khonkaen University.
After I graduated, I got a job as a research assistant for a community research project with a Japanese Professor. After a while, I decided to quit the job and went traveling to explore the wider world. I came to Wongsanit Ashram, located about one hour from Bangkok in a Northeastern direction. I thought that I would stay there for one month, and ended up living there for 8 years!
It’s philosophy of empowering individuals through self-reflection, meditation, skill development and social service kept me there. I learned about buddhist philosophy which I had never heard of before. Later, I got a job to do research by writing on alternative communities in Thailand. I became connected with many communities and learned from them. I was trained as a facilitator by Pracha Hutranuwatra, Jane Rasbash, and many other teachers in the Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), and teachers from other networks.
“If you are like a fertile seed, wherever you are dropped, you will grow beautifully and make a positive effect to where you are,” Pracha Hutranuwatra, my teacher and trainer at Wongsanit Ashram used to say in his empowerment trainings. I think that if I were a seed, I would really want to be a fully fertile one. I would want to reach the highest potential of fertility as a seed.
If I were a plant I would really want to be a healthy plant, to reach the highest potential of health as a plant.
If I were a flower I would really want to one day blossom beautifully with the highest potential of beauty as a flower.
I think every being has their highest potential of being. We, as human beings, also have our highest potential. But, what is it?
My journey of personal empowerment is about learning myself and searching for the highest potential of my presence on earth. A seed is designed to multiply life. It has to be fertile for what it is for.
What am I designed for on this earth? I learn from a seed, a flower and other natural beings, that to be a fertile seed, a healthy plant and a beautiful flower they need a fertile, healthy and beautiful environment. A flower cannot just work alone by itself to become a beautiful flower without the connection with other beings or elements. All things are dependent on each other. One’s potential is not isolated from other’s potentials. I should learn about myself and search for my potential of being in relationship and connection with others and in nature. I have found that place in community.
Living in the Ecovillage Wongsanit Ashram – a socially engaged, spirituality based community – for 8 years – taught me many lessons. Wongsanit Ashram provided a beautiful, healthy and supportive environment for individuals to learn about themselves, to search who they are. Like many Ecovillages, Wongsanit Ashram provided many tools for self–reflection so that we can see our strength, become aware of our weaknesses, and search for our potential. This community also provided a safe space for experiences, skill development, and providing platforms where we can use our knowledge, experience and skill to serve nature and society. That is the way of empowerment here.
I left Wongsanit Ashram 3 years ago and started Gaia Ashram in my home village at the moment. My journey of personal empowerment is still rolling on. I believe it is a universal responsibility to keep it going.
I aim to work with children and youth on nature awareness. I wish to see children grow up with a strong connection with nature, and have a lot of love and respect towards nature, as well as learn to live in harmony with nature.
To achieve this, my partner Tom Deiters and I, started Gaia School Asia as a voluntary organization. We work in collaboration with schools, communities, and parents, to provide educational programs, outdoor learning experience, and solutions practices with children. We also started Gaia Ashram, which is placed, and based, at Gaia School Asia where we live – a learning center for older youth to learn to live in harmony with nature and practice ecological solutions.