Krishna Village and the Radha Govardhandhari temple at the Krishna Farm are a sanctuary for people from all walks of life who are drawn to re-evaluate their personal and spiritual paths. For volunteer turned aspiring devotee Anne-Katrien, her relationship with the Hare Krishna movement was an ongoing one, sparked at 15 years old when she met a Krishna monk on the streets of London. She reminisces, “He made me sing and laugh on the streets with him, talking about Eastern philosophies and religion.” He gave her a book on Krishna philosophy, but it wasn’t until years later, living in the attic at her parent’s house in Belgium that she discovered it again. Despite some misgivings about certain details, Anne-Katrien discovered a philosophy she could agree with, and found herself thinking, “They want to unite all religions and help people find happiness by loving God. What’s wrong with that?”.
Reading the signs
Following a tumultuous stint studying, Krishna appeared again several times in Anne-Katrien’s life, the first instance when she bumped into some devotees singing on the streets in Belgium.
She joined them in singing the Maha mantra and was invited to the local temple’s Sunday feast, which she attended gladly. Fast forward to a year later and following a distressing period, Ann-Katrien found herself homeless and in need of some help. Enter three Krishna monks who she encountered by chance on the street who offered her shelter at their temple. She recalls, “I told myself that magic comes in threes, and Krishna had come into my life three times... would he appear again? I decided I should accept the invitation and go to the temple.” She moved into the ashram for a few weeks, staying in a student dorm before moving to Paris to work at Disneyland. During this time, she attended Sunday feasts at the nearest Krishna temple in the Parisian suburbs - a two hour train ride away - and for the first time met people of the same age, “Which previously I hadn’t. They were just like me - energetic, happy, just normal people. I thought I can be here too! There’s a place for someone like me.”
A life less ordinary
After her time at Disneyland, Anne-Katrien continued pursuing a life of adventure and service with a job in Thailand, working as a community developer and English teacher for 6 months before “purely accidentally” becoming a professor's assistant in the anthropology department of the University of Bangkok. During this time, she went on trips to mountains and lived in jungles, conducting interviews and research on all types of people including individuals living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. When her visa expired, she flew to Australia for the next chapter of her life, planning to earn some money to create a large scale humanitarian project of her own.
Since being in Australia she has encountered a rollercoaster of experiences, from highs (discovering the country on road trips through the outback), to one of her all-time lows after she was viciously attacked on the street in Cairns. Despite all of this, she is still beautifully vibrant, gentle and gregarious, moving on from these experiences and spreading love and understanding.
Anne-Katrien arrived at the Krishna Village in November 2016 and stayed here for almost half a year until mid March 2017. During this time, she was a ray of sunshine thriving in the safe, nurturing environment that the Village provides and learning more about the Krishna way of life. After one month of living here as a volunteer, she decided to delve deeper into her spiritual journey and move to the ashram for a while. She remembers a turning point in her spiritual journey up at the temple, watching a video on 50 years of ISKCON: “It made me super emotional belonging to such a wonderful family spreading happiness in the world, and I was just so happy to be part of it.”
Later, Anne-Katrien spent her time happily working at the Krishna Village gardens as well as the temple shop, making garlands and in other services. In March, she took a flight to New Zealand for the next chapter in her travelling adventure. She concludes that the most important lesson she has learned throughout her amazingly colourful journey is that, “I’m perfect the way I am and no matter how much someone wants to change me, I like who I am, there’s nothing to change. I love life and there’s nothing wrong with that.” And we couldn’t agree more.