We are delighted to introduce you to another, incredibly inspiring woman…here’s Jacquetta’s story…
Jacquetta Gomes, Sangha [Community of Buddhist Monks] Authorized Dhamma Teacher in Theravada Buddhism and Fire Chaplain
Jacquetta Gomes has a BA (Hons) Degree from Durham University and a Postgraduate Diploma and MLS Masters Degree from Loughborough University. She is a member of the SCR Senior Common Room of University College Durham University based in Durham Castle.
Burkes’s Landed Gentry
She was included in Burkes’s Landed Gentry, Volume III, England’s Northwest including Contemporary People of Distinction(1996) as a Contemporary Person of Distinction in recognition of her religious work. The Mayor of Kendal requested that a Pali Buddhist Blessing Ceremony be conducted for the Mayor’s Parlour in Kendal Town Hall to celebrate this achievement. An Osmanthus Burkwoodii bush was planted in the Multifaith Memorial Garden at Kendal Unitarian Chapel to commemorate this event.
Venerable Narada Maha Thera gave her the Five Precepts in Sri Lanka 40 years ago in July 1975. She was authorized to teach by Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera in 1983 and by Venerable Hammalawa Saddhatissa Maha Thera Chief Sangha Nayaka of the UK and Europe in 1984.
She is the co-author of Introducing Buddhismwith Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt (1896-1998) published in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, UK, and USA.
She has given many talks on women in Buddhism including at The London Buddhist Vihara the oldest Theravada Buddhist Vihara in the UK. She is a founder of BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada).
In August 1994 during a visit to London, Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt (1896-1998) gave her the Bodhicari Precepts which were developed at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles. As far as we are aware, she was the first person to take the BodhicariPrecepts outside the USA. The Bodhicari Precepts permit the holding of Chaplaincies. She decided that she would be interested if an appropriate Chaplaincy role arose.
Since February 2014 she has served as a volunteer Buddhist and Multifaith Fire Chaplain for ESFRS East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. In June 2015, SF&RS Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service appointed Venerable Piyatissa, Venerable Galpottayaye Pemananda and Jacquetta as volunteer Fire Chaplains. The Fire Fighters Charity multi-faith chaplaincy was launched during Inter Faith Week on 18th November 2015 at Jubilee House near Penrith in Cumbria, with Jacquetta as the first volunteer Chaplain for the Fire Fighters Charity. Jacquetta feels privileged to have the opportunity to work serve both the Buddhism and the Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire Chaplains serve as members of Chaplaincy teams; Chaplaincy is teamwork and needs those able to offer many perspectives and qualities. As a woman Jacquetta is happy to be able to offer a female perspective on issues. Some people prefer to talk to female Fire Chaplains. Fire Chaplains complement secular provision (for example counselling). Proselytizing of any religion is forbidden.
As far as Faith and Fire is aware, she is the 4th Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the world. Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women recognized her as the first female Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the world in 2014.
She was included in a list of eminent First Women by Carrie de Silva.
She is a Member of WFS UK Women in the Fire Service UK.
Faith and Fire
She was one of the founders of Faith and Fire.
The WCF World Congress of Faiths (of which Jacquetta is a member) established in 1936, supports Faith and Fire. In August 2013, the WCF invited Jacquetta Gomes to speak about Faith and Fire at the Religious Freedom for Planet and Peopleconference in Horsham, West Sussex, organized by the WCF and the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF).
Jacquetta Gomes spoke on Faith and Fire, at the Building a Bridge Through Spiritual FriendshipConference of Buddhist Chaplains from the UK and US, held at Balliol College, Oxford University in March 2014.
BEWES Buddhists Engaged with Emergency Services
BEWES Buddhists Engaged with Emergency Services is an informal group which facilitates contact between Buddhists (advisors, chaplains, mindfulness teachers, volunteers, etc.) working with, or who have worked with the emergency services and related organizations.
We asked Jacquetta a few extra questions…
What strengths or personal attributes do you think have really helped you to succeed?
“Buddhism, determination, mindfulness, persistence, respect and caring for others, sense of humour, sense of self-worth, a thick skin and wonderful support from others.”
How have you managed set backs / challenges along the way?
“I see challenges as opportunities.”
“I do not give up at the first set back in any situation. I see setbacks as often advantageous in the long run as these lead to patient reflection. Setbacks have prevented me from rushing into situations which were not right for me. As one door closes another door opens, often leading to a better and more appropriate opportunity.”
What is your formula / top tips for a successful work / life balance?
“A private life is as important as a work life.”
“Nobody dies wishing they had spent more time in the office.”
“Learn to relax possibly through mindfulness, meditation, or yoga.”
“Remember social media has an off switch.”
“Sleep and good food are important.”
What advice would you give to a woman looking looking to manage her career/working life?
“You are not perfect and cannot succeed at everything. Failures and mistakes are part of life. Be kind to others and remember they are also not perfect and accept they also make mistakes.”
“You are part of a team with your colleagues. Understand the difference between colleagues, acquaintances and friends. Do not give out or ask for too much personal information in inappropriate situations.”
“Do not take yourself too seriously. Value yourself and your achievements but do not criticize others efforts.”
“Accept relevant opportunities when they come. These may not be offered again.”
“Problems and issues which can seem huge at one point in time can seem trivial with the perspective offered by the passage of time.”
“Support other women and allow them to support you. Join women’s networking groups like Women in the Fire Service.”