A BUDDHIST teacher from Kendal has made history as her faith's first ever female fire chaplain.
Jacquetta Gomes, whose father was a London firefighter, has received messages from well-wishers around the globe, including a yak farmer in Bhutan, and a monk in Mongolia who works for the Dalai Lama.
The International Association of Buddhist Women has acknowledged Jacquetta as the world's first ever female Buddhist fire chaplain, and it is believed that she is only the fourth ever fire chaplain from her religion; the first being Rev Alan Urasaki, of Hawaii.
"It's wonderful; people write to you from all over the world," said Jacquetta, 61, whose husband Titus also teaches at the Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada).
"I was the first woman, so there was this huge amount of interest. It's like if you crack a glass ceiling or a glass door, that's what interests people."
In her new role with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Jacquetta is joined by two Buddhist monks who also teach at Kendal's Fellside Centre - Venerable Pidiville Piyatissa and Venerable Galpottayaye Pemananda. For the past year, she has also served as a temporary chaplain with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire chaplains are "in the service but not of it", and at any time they may be called upon to attend emergencies or to help care for firefighters and non-uniformed staff by listening to them in confidence.
"Proselytising for any religion is forbidden," explained Jacquetta. "You're there to serve people of all faiths and no faith."
Jacquetta has a full Staffordshire uniform, complete with steel toe-capped boots, and for Sussex she has a navy blue fleece with the Fire and Rescue Service Chaplains' Association badge.
Jacquetta's father, John Newbery, who sadly died in March, was a leading firefighter in London Fire Brigade and shortly before the Second World War he advised the American Ambassador to protect embassy rafters with asbestos paint.
Jacquetta shares her father's passion for keeping people safe, and is keen for more women to be involved in the fire service. She has been instrumental in forging partnerships between Kendal Fire Station and different faith groups, and she is on the steering group of Faith and Fire, a partnership between the Chief Fire Officers' Association, fire and rescue services, and faith communities to develop mutual respect.