The North American Earth Holder Community is guided by a steering group, known as the Care Taking Council, and a Coordinator. Together, they are advancing policies and addressing organizational needs to fulfill Earth Holders’ founding document. You can learn more about the Earth Holder Community Structure here.

Who We Are

John–at home everywhere, including the Massachusetts wilderness

John Bell (he/him/his) is a Plum Village Buddhist Dharma Teacher who lives near Boston, MA, USA. He is a founding staff and former vice president of YouthBuild USA, an international non-profit that provides learning, earning, and leadership opportunities to young people from low-income backgrounds. He is an author, lifelong social justice activist, international trainer facilitator, father and grandfather.  His blog is www.beginwithin.info and email is jbellminder@gmail.com.

John lives in New England where consciousness of climate justice issues is on the rise–a strong regional center for 350.org, the Green Justice Coalition, Sunrise, Poor People’s Campaign, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, and more. He lives on the traditional lands of the Wampanoag people.

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Sara breathing with the scent of kale and great mother earth

Sara Henry (she/they) received the 5 MT name Complete Understanding of the Heart, in Plum Village Thailand in 2012, and received the 14 MT name True Manifestation of Offering, in Blue Cliff Monastery in 2017. She grew up in southern California, and is now a resident at Morning Sun Mindfulness Center in Alstead, NH, on the stolen lands of the Abenaki people. Morning Sun also practices in the Plum Village tradition. Sara enjoys playing in communities and dedicating time to healing and transforming. She is a yoga and Thai massage practitioner, peer counselor, and person of many trades. She cares deeply about mental and physical health care, intersectional racial and social equity, and bringing modalities from her ancestral lineages into her daily life. Sara aspires to walk the path with the mahasangha, with the intention to help transform seeds of discrimination and injustice into peace and refuge.

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Andrew–ever flowing in the
river of compassion

Andrew Deckert (he/him/his) received the Five Mindfulness Trainings from Thich Nhat Hanh in 1995, ordained in the Order of Interbeing in 2001, and has been active with Earth Holder Community Care Taking Council since 2015. He is a retired local public health worker, partner, father of three, and an ex Mindful Peacebuilding board member. Andrew enjoys jogging, yoga, gardening, inner work, and building community. He facilitates a mindful reading group, ecosattva half-days of mindfulness, and strives to bring mindfulness to local activism in support of the living world and each other.

Living in the lands of the Wintu and Pit River peoples (aka Northern California), Andrew has experienced deadly wildfires, heat waves and drought worsened by climate change.

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Chaya – looking deeply into the joys and pains at the front lines of disasters

Chaya Ocampo Go (she/her/hers) ordained as True Radiant Cloud at Blue Cliff Monastery in 2019. She is a Filipina social worker, scholar and activist committed to well-being and survival in marginalized communities across the Philippines. She served as an emergency relief worker post super typhoon Haiyan (2013). Great love and hope inspires her continued work among front liners. Her doctoral research features three short films on women leading grassroots disaster response efforts in the country: “Barangay Magiting (Village Heroes)”(2019).

As a migrant/settler on unceded territories in Canada, Chaya practices being in alliance with First Nations land and water protectors. 

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Sister True Vow sitting and breathing with compassion.

Sister True Vow (Sr. Thệ Nghiêm) is a second-generation Vietnamese-American who grew up in Pennsylvania. She ordained in 1999 and currently resides and practices at White Crane Hamlet of Blue Cliff Monastery, NY. As a practitioner in the Plum Village Tradition, she received Dharma Lamp Transmission from Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh in 2006. She has a deep interest in exploring the connections between Buddhist and Western psychology to help people heal and touch their fullest potential.

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Stephanie and her daughter Daphne–the embodiment of fearlessness

Stephanie Knox Steiner (she/her/hers)
ordained as True Earth Dwelling in 2017, also joined the Earth Holder Care Taking Council in 2017. She is a mother, peace educator and scholar, currently working towards her doctorate with a specialization in Community, Liberation, Indigenous, and Eco-Psychologies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She writes about these topics, as well as mindfulness and motherhood, at stephanieknoxsteiner.com.

Stephanie recently moved to Colorado, on the traditional land of the Ute nation, where climate disruption takes the form of a combination of warmer winters, drought, wildfires, and increased  intensity of winter storms such as “snowicanes” and “bomb cyclones.”  

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Shephali embracing Great Mother Ocean, the source of all life on Earth.

Shephali Patel (she/her/hers) is a traditional ecologist, regenerative farmer, educator, and climate crisis activist. All of her work centers around creating spaces that support people in remembering that they are Nature, and falling in love with the living world before asking them to save it. Her teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, the Plum Village Tradition, and precious visits to Blue Cliff Monastery continue to teach her how to weave these pockets-of-wonder that fuel the love-in-action needed to build a future of joy and peace for ALL of us. In between all this, Shephali loves to commune with the wild by staring at stars, hiking, rock climbing, practicing yoga and qi gong, and falling into the ocean over and over again.

Shephali holds both of her given 5MT names close to her heart as she works to embody each energy: Radiant Kindness of the Heart (given by fellow CTC member Sister True Vow) and Spiritual Action of the Heart (from CTC member John Bell).

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Simona Coayla Duba, our Earth Holder Coordinator who knows no bounds

Simona Coayla-Duba (she/her/hers) is an Andean-European Indigenous-environmental rights activist. She considers the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Andes of South America home. Simona is an alumna of Naropa University’s Environmental Studies department where she participated in an international academic research program at the Royal University of Bhutan’s College of Natural Resources. She is excited about relational healing, creative and collaborative solutions, and climbing up mountains! Simona has witnessed and felt the impacts of extractivist culture, such as mining and environmental racism, in her homes of the high Rockies in Colorado (land to the Arapahoe, Ute and Cheyenne) and Andean peaks (land of the Tiwanaku and Incan peoples).

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