Jo-Anne Richardson believes in the universal power of love energy. She believes in the healing power in the energy of touch. Through her training with Innisfil's Suzanne Dobinson, Jo-Anne has embraced healing theories and offers the practice of Quantum-Touch, Reiki, and services like nutritional counselling, life coaching and general wellbeing.

A new business owner, she's created an oasis away from the world on the ninth line of Innisfil and is beginning the daily activities that involve building a client base. She's a graduate of Central Collegiate, Georgian College and the Canadian School of Nutrition.

When Suzanne Dobinson, who is a holistic health practitioner and reiki master herself, called Jo-Anne, it was to ask if she wanted to join a group of energy healers to travel to poverty and make a difference.

It was a difficult choice to make from an economic standpoint. New business, startup costs, where to put her limited resources... Jo-Anne hesitated briefly before committing to pay her way for a 10 day healing journey to Guatemala, in Central America.

Turns out the healing journey worked in two directions.

Guatemala is the most northern country in Central America, nestled next to Mexico, with a population of 13 million people. It is a country ravaged by political war and a decade ago saw the end of the longest civil war in Central American history. Thousands and thousands of people were murdered as warring regims fought for control.

Today, Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic. Its president? Alvaro Colom. His party? The National Unity for Hope.

So this is the country that Jo-Anne Richardson, Suzanne Dobinson, Michy Pozsgai (from Orillia) and three practitioners from Toronto and Windsor headed to with their healing energy. Jo-Anne's goal was to broaden her horizons, step out of her comfort zone, and join Suzanne on one of her regular commitments to those living in economic stress.

The group landed in Guatemala, travelling over simple roadways to their base an Antigua. With outlying areas situated in extreme poverty, their mission was to make a difference for a brief time to a group of people. It was an orphanage in the mountains, four hours by bus and a kilometre by foot, where their hearts rested and opened.

Jo-Anne said the vehicular trip was absolutely frightening, a mere trail with cliff dropoffs inches away from unsupported sand paths. They walked the last kilometre, carrying their gifts of crayons, educational cards, picture books, toys. There are 90 children who live there and they are not waiting to be adopted; this is their home and they live as a family. Wee babies, toddlers, four and five year olds right up to teenagers... caring for each other and 'parented' by 15 staff.

Why are they there? Their biological families can't care for them. They visit them when they can, but essentially these kids have 89 brothers and sisters.

For Jo-Anne this was an eye-opening Less is More window on a world she'd never known. "We took baby blankets, math flashcards, soccer balls, volley balls, shampoo, things that were special for these kids," she says. And in that environment, they gave reiki treatments, subtly, caringly and received love in return.

It's not fair to compare these children to Canadian children, says Jo-Anne, but they were openly loving, respectful, caring, and very, very happy. They grow their own food to feed their huge family and Jo-Anne noted that natural food, kissed by the sun and nurtured by the soil, was producing very healthy-looking children.

Back to home base in Antigua, they then travelled to seaside town where the very poor live. People suffer from diseases that go untreated medically so reiki treatments are a welcome respite, especially for older people. It was in San Simon that the group experienced the healing energy of vibrations of ancient land and ancient cultures. After all, Guatemala houses some of the greatest Mayan ruins that have attracted people to their energies.

And what did Jo-Anne receive during this journey? "I witnessed true carefree spirit," she says. "When you're there, you really get to know what matters. After being in the orphanage, I was so grateful to have spent the day with these children.

"I'm still processing the impact of this trip. But I've come back feeling so at peace and full of the feeling that we're all part of the same world, the same energy field. It's a matter of reconnecting with that."

It's a challenge to come back to this culture with its doom and gloom news casts and its insatiable demand for 'more'. Finding a balance in this world where her clients live and staying connected to a different world where simplicity anchors spirit... that will be Jo-Anne's challenge.

She says she brought back much more than she took.

Thanks, Suzanne Dobinson for continuing to lead these healing trips. And thanks, Jo-Anne for making the decision to go, and for openly sharing your experience.

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