Natalie Cataldo
Natalie Cataldo
Thailand 2018 - 2019
Sawadee Ka! My name is Natalie Cataldo, and I am in Thailand serving as a grant writer for the Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai and the Good Shepherd Youth Center in Chiang Rai. The sister organizations provide free long-term housing, education, recovery programs, and legal assistance for young women and single mothers who have sought help from dishonorable treatment (i.e. racial discrimination, domestic violence, etc.). I am truly honored to be given the opportunity to work with these organizations! Read More About Natalie →

My final weeks!

Hi friends and fam!

**This is a post that was meant to be posted a few weeks ago, but the server was down on the Lumos blog site!**

Happy Spring!!! It has felt so good to know that longer days and prettier scenery is finally here – both in Thailand and in the US. I love watching from afar everyone’s excitement about the seasonal changes. Thankfully, the smoke in the city is getting better and I’m able/willing to be outside more these days. The hot weather (and consistent layer of sweat) often brings unexpected memories back from when I first arrived here in Thailand. I thought I would get used to the heat, but truthfully I am only feeling more prepared for it. The sun is stronggggg here. Riding a motorbike everywhere gives you all sorts of weird tan lines. So, people probably assume I am one of the nuns at the home seeing how covered up I am when I’m leaving on my motorbike. 

As you can see by my nice drawing, there should a large mountain there! The smoke is crazy!!


My best look!

Something happened recently that was pivotal in the rest of my time here and especially with the home. A few weeks ago, a conversation took place between my supervisor and I. Although unplanned, this conversation gave me the space to share everything I had felt I wasn’t able to share in the time I have been here. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I needed to say “Hey, same team” with a staff member during a conversation. This was that conversation. Although it was dense with confrontation and awkwardness, the content was centered around the well-being of the organization and its residents. Keeping that in mind, there was no need for the conversation to be ugly. I am grateful for the ways I have learned to keep a monotone and open-minded demeanor here in Thailand, as I feel it has improved my communication and confrontational skills.

A group of volunteers I coordinated from Remote Year.

A photo from the home that I love. It was taken by a volunteer from Remote Year.

At first, it was unclear how my departure would be treated after the significant conversation. Would there be any celebrations for my absence? Would there be mourning of my absence? Have I helped this place in any way? Arnan Ratchawang-inn, a Thai artist, once said: “Don’t rely on your mood, for that is the excuse for lazy people.” I read this at the perfect time because my mood towards returning to the home each day was getting more and more negative. To see and serve the women and children – I wish that could happen for the rest of my days. To sit in an office filled with tense silence  …. I’d rather pass.

New roof over the daycare area that was built with help from a grant I wrote (woohoo!).


Either this looks wonderful to you or you scrolled past quickly.

I could not have predicted the outcome of that conversation. After allowing time and space to pass by, I was approached by my supervisor. I was told that not only was I understood more, but I was appreciated. There was a little bit more content in the follow-up, but those were the things that hit me the hardest. There is a larger understanding of both sides now, and things I could not understand before are now easier to interpret. And although there are still disagreements in operating functions (which I just keep to myself since I’m leaving soon) my mindset towards those disagreements contains more sympathy and humility at the same time. 

The changes in our office have been dramatic. Out of our vulnerability has come an atmosphere of trust, understanding, and surprisingly, confidence. Talking the talk is easier when the people around you understand you’re really trying to walk the walk. We have even incorporated prayer into some of our meetings. I’ve seen how prayer on the front end of a meeting and on the backend can keep the atmosphere consistently honorable. I liked reading this from Lumos traveler Shersty Stanton: “It is for the solutions to these systemic problems that we must think, discuss, collaborate, labor, and pray.” I completely agree and believe that these different facets of action are all vital for addressing issues, large or small.

Some of the women at the home learning how to make bean sprouts easily.

My last dinner with my sweet Thai teacher, Khru Pin!

Glory be to God on this one, and I am trusting that God’s timing in everything is perfect as this has happened so close to my departure. I am so grateful that I am leaving feeling rejuvenated by all that I have experienced here because of these past few weeks. The things that I have witnessed and the lessons that I have been given are ones I cannot take for granted. Although this season has been hard, I now feel that it has been a short term pain for long term gain.

The new home for the mothers and children is almost complete! I’m so happy I was able to witness its construction.

This week is the Thai New Year, called Songkran, and it involves everybody spraying water on each other (for multiple days) throughout the day. If you know me well, you know that most of my closet is the color white. I’ve done the math, and being in a modest country and also a more modest person in general, I’ll be doing most of the celebrating from afar. Happy spring and new years to you!

Thanks for reading and for caring!

Me and my new love!!




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