“We’re considered the bridge between staff and guests,” says Muktaali, also fondly known as Muks or Muki. She is currently experiencing her second work stay residency with Bethlehem Centre, after a four-month residency between January and April of 2019.
The Work Stay Resident program at Bethlehem Centre is a non-paid work/trade agreement where hours worked are exchanged for room and board. Residents live on-site, and commit to a minimum of four months.
There are usually two Work Stay Residents at a time working and residing at Bethlehem Centre, and these residents share tasks. These tasks encompass kitchen support (prepping meals, setting the dining room, serving and cleanup), guest services (check-ins, emergency contact, opening and closing, after hours security) and occasional housekeeping or small projects and yard/grounds/garden maintenance.
Deb, another Work Stay Resident with the Centre, says she was drawn to this unique experience because she wanted to live and work in a community with a positive and open vision. “I really liked what the centre stands for and what they’re doing. I wanted to be a part of it from a more intimate level.”
For Deb, this is also not her first experience as a Work Stay Resident, but it is her first with Bethlehem Centre. She was guided to the centre during a silent meditation retreat in Vancouver, where the meditation group was advertising for volunteers. “I thought I was applying to volunteer with them,” said Deb. “But their site directed me here! I think everyone who ends up here is here for a reason.”
For Muki, it was just the kind of experience she was looking for, during her off-season from volunteering/exploring community and farms.
“What first caught my attention was the slogan ‘Spirituality Without Borders,’” she says. “To me it means unity, and that all are welcome. I saw it as a chance to be of service to a non-profit centre that offered lots of personal time off to reflect.”
This expectation has not been far off from the experience itself. Muki says that while they’re always busy with work to be done, it can still feel like being on an extended holiday or as Deb puts it “every day is like waking up in paradise.”
“There is a gentle, serene and peaceful energy for those who slow down and tune into it,” explains Muki, giving credit to the years of love and prayer performed by the Benedictine sisters, who originally lived on the property and maintained the Centre and its grounds. “This energy is a constant to tap into any time and we have a great team. There are plenty of moments infused with lightness, flow and being playful. Smiles can be contagious.”
While Muki is a seasoned work stay resident and nomad, there’s been a few welcome surprises to this work stay experience that she wasn’t expecting.
“I did not expect feeling more connected as a part of the team, a family,” she says. “I did not expect to still be here after one year. I did not expect to have such a wonderful co-resident to share this last year with. I have co-worked with five Work Stay Residents, each a blessing in their own way, but Deb stands out as a kindred sister.”
Deb agrees. “It’s a great opportunity. Everyone is very supportive and encouraging and everyone has something to teach. It’s really helped me to see where I feel most myself and what I most enjoy doing”
Their greatest reward, however, is not in learning from each other or even the Centre itself. It’s in their interactions with guests that leave them feeling the most grateful for the experience.
“Seeing the faces and smiles of the guests,” confirms Muki, “and their transformation from arrival to departure. Some leave notes, give cards and bring flowers. It gives one a sense of a job well done being the bridge.”
For Deb, the most rewarding experience is hearing that guests had a wonderful time. “Then I know I was able to contribute to that in some way,” she adds.
With a fresh new year ahead, and hopefully an end to a pandemic that has made everything a little bit less warm and open, the work stay residents look forward to more guests, more contact and more social interactions. They also look forward to more reflection and insight into their own personal journeys, wherever those may lead.
“Life can throw so many circumstances beyond our control onto our paths. Especially this past year. So many changes and unknown factors to navigate,” says Muki. “The gift of this experience is that we can really put surrender and radical acceptance into practice.”
According to Deb, if you trust the spirit of Bethlehem Centre, if you relax into it, you’ll find guidance that will allow you to open up in new ways.
To learn more about the role email email@example.com or to apply send your resume and interest telling us why you would be a great fit for the position.
“People say we’re the best-kept secret in Nanaimo,” says Gerry Herkel, Bethlehem Centre’s Volunteer Board Chair, who calls in by Zoom from his Qualicum Beach home. He’s not referring to the volunteer board, but to the Centre itself, and one of the upcoming priorities for the board in 2021 is simple: get the secret out.
“We offer a calm, sacred space for individuals or small groups to relax and reflect, and our Centre is available for bookings,” says the friendly retiree, becoming animated as he talks about the treasure that is this sprawling, scenic retreat on the shore of Westwood Lake. “What is less commonly known about us is that we’re very community-driven and proud to be an inclusive employer.”
Gerry says they work with community partners including Food Share Nanaimo, Vancouver Island Rehabilitation Services and more, and hire people of varying abilities. The Centre is inter-faith, welcoming people of all paths (including those of none). He’s especially keen to spread the word about the volunteer opportunities available at the Centre, and the opportunity to join the board.
“Those of us on the board aren’t getting younger,” he says, in good nature. “So we would like to find more young professionals and especially those local to Nanaimo.”
In the background behind Gerry are rows of academic books that reference his long career as a Hospital Administrator, which has taken him through hospitals in Coquitlam, Edmonton, Burnaby, Vancouver, and Victoria. On the wall behind him is a simple wooden cross, a symbol of his own personal spirituality that is as much a part of his life as his hospital books. He’s been an integral part of the Centres growth and change, first getting involved when the last owners of the Centre were looking to sell.
Bethlehem Centre has been open since 1987, and was run by the Benedictine Sisters from Salem, Oregon. Then in April of 2001 the Sisters bought the Centre. By 2013, however, running and maintaining the space had become a burden of time and money.
It was at this time that Bishop Remi DeRoo asked Gerry to help the Sisters develop a business plan to determine whether or not the Center was viable of not. He accepted the task, and together with the Sisters submitted the completed plan to accountants in Nanaimo. The answer came that it was not viable. So the Sisters decided to sell the property.
Bishop DeRoo then approached Gerry again, asking, “What can you do to save this place?”
“I decided I’ll do what I can,” says Gerry. “I knew it was going to be a major challenge. It was difficult and complex, and we had to overcome a lot of hurdles and obstacles. But I’ve always been very positive and hopeful that we could do it.”
To start, Gerry visited the original advisory board for the Centre, and recruited five volunteers. These would develop into a society, and then eventually become the Board of Directors. By July 2015, this small volunteer group found four different buyers that formed an investors group to purchase the space and allow the Centre to continue as a non-profit centre.
What keeps Gerry involved in Bethlehem Centre now is the same sense of excitement he gets when he talks about the place. “It feels like I’m contributing to something positive and needed in our society today,” he says. “And to see the growth that is finally building here. Even with COVID we are optimistic. That has a lot to do with our talented Board of Directors, our Executive Director Donya, and our Director of Philanthropy Don. It’s very enjoyable to work with this group of people.”
While Covid-19 has brought with it a whole new set of challenges, the Centre has been able to apply for a variety of government subsidies, and received a huge and much-appreciated donation from the Sisters of St. Ann. The disruption has also challenged us to innovate.
“The future looks very bright,” says Gerry. He adds the Board has focused in on five strategic priorities over the next few years, including financial sustainability, organizational development, governance excellence, developing our programs and services and strengthening our brand.
Along with his work on the Bethlehem Volunteer Board, Gerry is also a member of the Rotary Club of Qualicum Beach Sunrise and Chair of Oceanside Health and Wellness Network. When he’s not busy volunteering his time locally, he’s been known to enjoy a good round of golf.
Invitation for Applications
Bethlehem Centre Society (BCS) Board is made up of professionals along with community-minded and spiritually grounded people who have made a commitment to be involved and assist with governing the society. In order to meet the challenges and effectively lead this dynamic organization, BCS requires candidates who can provide the leadership and strategic direction at the Board of Director level. Previous Board experience is not required, although an asset.
Nestled in the shadows of Nanaimo’s Mt Benson, on beautiful Westwood Lake, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, there are thirty-seven guest rooms and a variety of meeting rooms. The property sits on several acres and hosts a labyrinth, meditation trails and a pond.
BCS was established in 1987 by the House of Bread Benedictine Sisters. In 2014, the Sisters decided to sell the property in order to retire from many years of welcoming diverse groups and individuals to the Centre.
Now, Bethlehem Centre (Society) is no longer associated with any particular faith tradition, rather a multi-faith non-profit that welcomes all who are on a spiritual path. Our vision embraces “spirituality without borders” and we maintain the tradition of hospitality that has long been part of the Centre’s strength.
We believe that there is a connectedness in all of humanity in our search for meaning and spirituality, and we collaborate with many partners to offer programs that help people evolve in ways that expand our consciousness and connectedness to each other, our communities and our planet.
BCS board member will:
- Have a passion for our cause.
- Preferably be a resident of the greater Nanaimo area (although all applicants will be considered).
- Support the vision, mission, and values of BCS.
- Have a background in risk management, legal, technology, accounting and/or a related field.
- Represent our desire to reflect the diversity of our stakeholders and be open to diverse expressions of faith.
- Be familiar with a governance-based Board of Directors and non-profit organizations. Or have a passion for learning about them!
- Regularly attends board meetings and important related meetings.
- Makes a serious commitment to participate actively in committee work.
- Volunteers for and willingly accepts assignments and completes them thoroughly and on time.
- Stays informed about committee matters, prepares themselves well for meetings, and reviews and comments on minutes and reports.
- Gets to know other committee members and builds a collegial working relationship that contributes to consensus.
- Is an active participant in the committee’s annual evaluation and planning efforts.
- Participates in fund raising for the organization.
How to Apply
If you are interested in being of service to BCS’s Board, we welcome your interest. You are invited to send a current CV with a brief statement as to why you should be considered in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you looking for a change of pace? Wanting to contribute your skills and talents to a charitable organisation that offers a destination for people on their spiritual path? Consider this work-stay residency position as a part of the dynamic team at Bethlehem.
Bethlehem Centre Society offers a sacred gathering place for groups and individuals. Offering programs that help people evolve in ways that expand consciousness and our connectedness to each other, our communities and our planet.
We value traditional welcoming hospitality with simple, ‘cottage at the lake’ style accommodations and nourishing food for retreaters who come to stay. Our green initiatives and on-going care and attention for the lakefront property are evident in our day to day work.
We take pride in being an inclusive employer that embraces and honours the uniqueness, inherent value of each human being.
Our work-stay residents are a bridge between staff and guests. While there is a rhythm to the day, no two days are the same and are often filled with a variety of tasks. We are looking for individuals who are adaptable, easy going and strong communicators with a real eye for what needs to be done. Able to work alone and with others. Responsibilities range from kitchen to yard and everything in between.
This live in position offers room and board in exchange for thirty hours of work 5 days per week. We ask for a minimum four month commitment.
Nestled in the shadows of Mt Benson, on beautiful Westwood Lake, Vancouver Island there are thirty-seven guest rooms and a variety of meeting rooms, including a lakefront chapel. The property sits on several acres of forest and hosts a labyrinth, meditation trails and reflective pond.
The trail around Westwood lake is ideal for walkers, runners and bikers, with two beaches for summer swimming, kayak, boats and paddle boards.
To learn more about the role email email@example.com or send your resume and interest, telling us why you would be a great fit for the position.
They allow you to pull back, find inspiration, unplug, break unhealthy habits or routines, and delve deeper into self.
Retreat comes from the Latin verb “to pull back.” So, retreat, or a retreat, is a place where you pull back from the world.
During this time when we are unable to gather, consider a local individual retreat in nature on the sacred grounds of the Bethlehem Centre; your health and safety are of the utmost important to us, so we have a full safety plan in place and adhere to current public health orders.
The stunning lakefront setting is ideal for retreats, meetings and small conferences, and maintains the values of inclusiveness, positive spirit, healing and peace.
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