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Gaia House Staff Team

Meet our team of staff, both non-residential, full or part-time staff who contribute their administrative and organisational skills, and our residential coordinators who look after our retreatants and retreat space.

Find out about joining our residential coordinator community.
Check for current vacancies in our non-residential staff team.

Residential Coordinators

Household Co-ordinatorJarda Cermak – Household Coordinator

“I found Gaia House via whilst living in Holland. As I hadn’t been here before and didn’t have much experience of practice yet, there were some steps I needed to take before I could be considered for the coordinator role. I decided to become a lay helper at the Forest Hermitage near Coventry, and after being there for five months managed to get a short-notice work retreat place at Gaia House thanks to a cancellation. When I arrived I couldn’t believe that such a place existed; I felt so relaxed and supported and couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like the best place in the world! Since becoming a Coordinator in October 2015 my practice has evolved so much. Although I still get up at 4am each morning to sit, I’m learning that I can practise in any situation, and the key focus of my practice now is being with everything that presents itself within our coordinator group. The challenges that arise present me with an amazing learning opportunity which I’m truly grateful for, and there is great joy in seeing what we create for our yogis, which is so wonderful and much needed, I feel. The intricate mix I’m experiencing of practice, service and living and working in community is unbelievably rich, and each day I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can.”

Kitchen Co-ordinatorBill Ball – Kitchen Coordinator

“Having taken part in many retreats and extended periods as a work retreatant over recent years, I’ve come to deeply appreciate all that Gaia House offers. So it’s a real privilege to be part of life here, with all the challenges and rewards. I never imagined I would become one of the cooks, but now several months later I cannot imagine doing anything else. I have lost count of the mugs of tea I’ve made and not had time to finish.”

Iain McCausland – Maintenance Coordinator


Sheryl Beaumont – Reception Coordinator


Reception Co-ordinatorAnne Cockcroft – Reception Coordinator

“I feel blessed to be serving at Gaia House. I applied to be here with a desire to initiate change in my life and find a deeper purposefulness. After coming on silent retreat, I felt drawn to offer service as a coordinator, it felt like coming home from the offset. I hope to use this opportunity to allow change and authenticity to unfold in my life. Gaia House provides a precious, safe, space for personal meditative practice, and being a coordinator allows an opportunity to integrate meditative practice within working life.  I value the sacred space that is offered here for personal transformation and growth, I’m keen to learn more about the Dharma and I’m also excited and enthused by this chance to live in community with both the challenges and rich connections that it offers.”

Garden Co-ordinatorWill Newitt – Garden Coordinator

“In 2002 I was on a tropical beach when somebody mentioned a place called Gaia House. Within a few months, I was on work retreat in the garden! It was my first real taste of working with the earth and awakened a deep love of the natural world that has been life-changing. What a strange but joyful quirk of life then to return a decade and a half later and offer something back to the garden where it all began. While my main focus is the garden and grounds, being a coordinator involves many and varied roles in the house. Days can be long and demanding but the opportunities for learning and growth arise constantly – Dharma doors are endless it seems.”

Marisa Liebaut – Household Coordinator


Non- Residential Staff

Siggi Streat

Siggi Streat – Operations Director

“I first arrived at Gaia House from India in 1985 to work as Volunteer Manager. Over the years I have been involved in different roles and returned in August 2012. Now in the role of Operations Director, I very much enjoy taking care of all the aspects of the silent retreat environment and the programme. I love working collaboratively with the many who are part of contributing to what the centre is today. My background is in social and awareness work and Dharma teachings and practice are close to my heart.”

 Finance & Development DirectorDevin Ashwood – Finance and Development Director

 “I came to Gaia House in the spring of 2000 on my first extended meditation retreat and have enjoyed returning many times since. I began working and developing projects in human rights and environmental organisations before extending into therapeutic, educational, Buddhist and secular mindfulness settings. I’ve specialised in teaching mindfulness to underserved people, in addiction agencies and am visiting Buddhist prisoners as a chaplain. Fundraising and developing projects in these areas, and developing the Dancing Mountains Zen Sangha has put me in a great position to take up my current role at Gaia House. I live with my dear wife and many children in a small house in Somerset.”

Michelle Foster

Michelle Foster – Finance Manager

“I’d been visiting Gaia House on retreat for a few years and was really looking for a change to my life when the advert for a Finance Manager appeared. It feels like the ideal job for me – a qualified accountant. I have now moved from Taunton to nearby Denbury and I’m loving my whole ‘life change’ experience. It truly is a joy to be part of the Gaia House family.”

Tracy Kewell

Tracy Kewell – Finance Assistant

“I joined Gaia House in 2010 after seeking work to supplement my employment at the local primary school. Having previously worked in a monastic environment, I was intrigued to find out more about the workings of Gaia House. The staff were very welcoming and it has been a pleasure getting to know the team. I live in Newton Abbot with my family and appreciate ‘to the full’ the peace and quiet Gaia House offers. In my spare time you might find me at the theatre or on the stage as I have a passion for amateur dramatics.”

Owen Barnett

Owen Barnett – Finance Assistant

“After two spells as Kitchen Coordinator in 2009-11 and 2013-14 I’ve now made the transition to the non-residential staff team where I help with the running of the Finance Department. Having lived at Gaia House for three years as a coordinator and spent many months on retreat in the Hermitage, coming to work here each day still feels like going home.”

Iain Fraser

Iain Fraser – Maintenance Manager

“I started working at Gaia House at the end of 2004. Apart from looking after the buildings, gardens & grounds, I am also a keen local historian, so combining all of these elements suits me well. The house has seen many occupants over the centuries, and had many structural changes, so what we have here now is often quite a challenge in terms of upkeep & maintenance! I love the setting here amidst the peaceful countryside and I live nearby with my family.”

Richard Rendle

Richard Rendle – Building Engineer

“I was called in to Gaia House in 2006 to fix a leaking tap and I am still here! I help with the general maintenance of the house and advise on building projects. Since working here I have developed an interest in meditation and Buddhism, which I really feel has really benefited me and my family. I live locally in High Week with my 2 boys, a dog, 3 cats and 11 chickens!”

Rachel Davies

Rachel Davies – Outreach Development Officer

“I first worked at Gaia House as a Volunteer Coordinator in reception between 2005 and 2006, and came back as Retreat Manager at the start of August 2008. I left to have my daughter after 5 and a half years of service in this role. Now I have returned from maternity leave I am working on developing Outreach opportunities, a very exciting prospect. It is a joy to work with such a committed team of staff, Coordinators and volunteers in the service of something so precious. I live nearby and look forward to the possibility of doing another retreat at some point when my daughter is old enough!”

Susanne O’Brien – Retreat Manager

“I feel very blessed to be part of the staff team here at Gaia House. My interest in the Dharma and meditation started in 2009 and my first retreat here in 2010 felt like the start of a new and nourishing chapter in my life. Having worked as a Coordinator at the Barn Retreat and then here at Gaia House, I was given the wonderful opportunity to continue to deepen my relationship with a special organisation that has had such a positive impact on me and many others.”

Sarah Abdy

Sarah Abdy – HR & Administration Manager, including looking after our Reception department

I joined the Gaia House family in April 2004 as PA to the Executive Director. The changes in technology and the need for development changed my role and in November 2006 I became Administration Manager. I thoroughly enjoy working at Gaia House, ensuring that the reception department and numerous systems, processes and databases support those that work and serve here. It is an amazing place to work with amazing people. I live just outside Totnes with my family and my border terrier Hamish!”

Hannah Seyfert

Hannah Seyfert – Communications Manager

I moved down to Devon from London in 2012 and when I spotted the Communications Manager job advert it felt like a calling. I joined in May 2015 and feel blessed to be part of a community that has health and well-being as its central focus. It’s a privilege to be able to contribute my skills and experience to what feels like an incredibly meaningful endeavour and work alongside a warm, open and dedicated group of people. I look forward to deepening my meditation practice during this next chapter of my journey and meeting more members of the wider sangha.”

Faith Burch

Faith Burch – Dharma Talks Administrator

“After finishing a term as volunteer Kitchen Coordinator in 2002 I decided to settle near Totnes in Devon, and since then I have relished living in a small, lively, creative, friendly community with a strong sangha so close to Dartmoor and the sea. Then in 2006 I was offered the role of running Gaia House Dharma Talks which I have enjoyed doing ever since. The benefits of coming to Gaia House on retreat over the years for me have been huge, and I feel fortunate to be part of the warm and committed team who continue to offer that to others.”

Richard Reid

Richard Reid – Kitchen Supervisor

“I first came to Gaia House on a three month work retreat in 2005 and immediately fell in love. I began as Kitchen Coordinator in 2006, Maintenance Coordinator in 2008 and then settled in the local area. In 2014 I returned to cook twice per week and am now the Kitchen Supervisor. It is a real joy to come to work at Gaia House and be a small cog in the wheel of Dharma unfolding in the west. Outside of Gaia House I help run Freely Given Retreats, am studying towards a degree in Environmental Science and have recently become a father to a beautiful baby girl.”

Melanie Stephens – IT Support Officer

“My IT background varies from administrative roles, teaching IT in adult education and working as a technician. I joined Gaia House with very little knowledge of its offerings and without knowing what to expect. What I have found is a wonderful supportive staff team that puts people first and ideas into practice, always striving to ensure that their daily duties and needs reflect consideration to the environment and ethical issues, which I really value. I enjoy meeting the many people who visit Gaia House and working within a warm, friendly community”.

Alan Lewis

Alan Lewis – Freelance IT support

“I spent 17 years as a Buddhist monk in England, Thailand and Sri Lanka. I began developing my computer skills in monasteries to assist with administration. I’ve been running a successful IT Support business since 2001, providing PC-based IT Support to self-employed people and small businesses in the South Devon area of the UK. My web-sites include Calm IT Zen Moments, and the Gaia House website which I built and manage along with my wife, Vanessa.
I also occasionally teach at Gaia House and local meditation groups.”

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