Gwen grew up in Southern Africa, but lived in London and Hong Kong, before she fell in love with, and moved to New Zealand to set up Sakura.
She is the mother of two incredible young men, and in her 'past life' was a lawyer specialising in crime and human rights.
Gwen has always been a keen explorer and a seeker of the deeper meanings of life. After a stressful career in a busy city she has come to understand how important it is to live a life that is grounded in the present moment.
After first discovering meditation as a tool for coping with stress and anxiety as a young mother and lawyer, she has since spent years travelling to different countries and exploring different types of mindful practice. Her love of people and this beautiful planet inspire her to want to be of service to others in a meaningful way.
Sakura was her dream and now it is her reality. Her vision was to create a beautiful, luxurious, safe and homely environment for small groups of people to connect and inspire each other to discover their potentials, and discover themselves at a deeper level. And that is what she has done.
Gwen is passionate about helping others overcome emotional difficulties and anxiety issues. She believes that people can live deeply meaningful and joyful lives if they have the right tools. On Sakura’s retreats Gwen will be by your side, helping you to overcome difficulties and teaching you the art of mindful and meaningful living.
Sandro Thiara Mota
Sandro is a professional World Fitness Federation athlete, originally from Brazil and now based in New Zealand. He is a fitness guru and weight loss specialist, with more than 15 years of experience training people all over the globe – including professional sports players and celebrities.
He is passionate about helping people achieve their fitness and health goals using a sustainable, organic approach to overall wellness.
Sandro has created and developed his own training method which he applies to his fitness and nutrition franchise business called STM Functional Fit. https://www.stmfunctionalfit.com
At Sakura he will be leading the fitness programme utilising a fun, innovative and exciting approach to your fitness . You will laugh your way back to health and wellness with Sandro as your guide and motivator.
Erin-Monique (Em) O’Brien
Em started doing competitive rowing back in 2001. Her success at school lead to a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee, USA. Between 2010 and 2013 she won numerous medals at the New Zealand Rowing Championships. In 2013 she made the New Zealand Elite Rowing team and as stroke seat, lead the Women’s Quad to three World Cup medals.
Early in 2016, Em retired from professional sport to pursue her personal training career. She has since achieved a world record for the indoor rowing marathon, smashing the old record by over two minutes, adding that to her 100km world indoor rowing record set in 2006.
Throughout her rowing career Em has coached high school and university crews with her main focus on general fitness.
At Sakura, Em will be joining Sandro to inspire you to achieve what you never thought was possible. You create the dream, Em will motivate you to achieve it!
Neena Truscott and Belinda MacDonald
This fabulous cooking duo were the first winners of the New Zealand television series, My Kitchen Rules!
Belinda is a qualified food technology teacher and has been a dedicated foodie all her life. She is passionate about creating beautiful seasonal medicinal meals which incorporate healing elements that are nourishing for the whole family. Not everyone can afford to buy superfoods from wholefood stores but with this approach of foraging everyone can incorporate healing greens and superfoods into their daily diet for little or no cost at all.
Neena has been through a huge learning curve since the birth of her twin girls. From allergies, to gluten intolerance, behavioural issues to sugar free and everything in between. Neena now knows it’s been the biggest blessing to go on that journey and pop out the other side to where she stands today. Neena is a qualified nutrition & wellness coach and she studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition which focuses on a holistic approach to wellness.
Together Neena and Belinda developed the Green Kitchen, http://www.thegreenkitchen.co.nz, where they like to take a holistic approach to food and fuel. Their philosophy is based on "wellness through awareness" so there is always an element of education and empowerment in everything they teach.
At Sakura they will be preparing your delicious, healthy menu, along with teaching various workshops including food foraging, nutrition and overall wellbeing.