Alum Sarah Diamond Looking Back Two Years

10 months ago

Why did you come to Kalu Yala?

I wanted a hands-on and exciting learning experience that was located outdoors. I also wanted to learn about the subjects I really cared about with other people who cared as much as I did. I’ve always been passionate about sustainable food systems so when I read about Kalu Yala’s culinary program, I knew I found something extremely special.

Dr. Aris, a raw vegan, teaching the students about the benefits and possibilities of eating raw.

How did your experience at Kalu Yala lead you to where you’re at now personally and professionally?

The jungle taught me how to heal myself through living. I had never been able to do that before because nearly all of my environments up to that point were stressful and ultimately conducive to being unwell. Being unhealthy was easier in those environments than it was to be mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. Kalu Yala was a different story. It was easy to be well, to care for my mental, physical, and spiritual health. Living with a smaller carbon footprint was similar. You would have to exert more effort to be damaging the environment than to be eco-friendly, which is the opposite of living in cities. Lastly, Kalu Yala’s approach to education was unlike anything I’d seen before. Every single second was a learning experience, even the afternoon swims in the river because we learned how to actually enjoy our lives while doing good. I couldn’t understand why education was anything but this everywhere else.

Sarah Diamond helping lead a workshop to her peers at Kalu Yala on creating yummy sauces.


Also, I learned how to really go after what I want at Kalu Yala. Even the process of getting to Kalu Yala was transformative for me. I had to tell my advisor, professors, friends, and school administrators that I was leaving to go to the jungle in the middle of my senior year, not something they heard every day. I had to be really brave and go after what I truly wanted. My mentors and peers at KY further fostered the momentum. I did things there that my previously somewhat reserved, shyer self never would have dreamed of. Ultimately, I became myself at Kalu Yala. That is how I discovered what my dream job even was. I knew sustainable, healthy food access was in my calling and I knew mental health care was extremely important to me. Now, I’m about to fly halfway across the world to start working at a nutritional therapy clinic. It’s pretty remarkable stuff.

The river can play a big part in a holistic experience at Kalu Yala.


I’m starting a new job soon at Food for the Brain Foundation in London, UK. The organization helps people get better through integrative and alternative medicine such as nutrition, supplements, body/energy work, holistic trauma healing, Ayurveda, and exercise. I’ve been working for them remotely for about a year now. When I visited the organization a few months ago, I knew I had to find a way to get to London. Then, a position opened up and I took it. My experience in Kalu Yala was a huge part of why I had the ambition, courage, and drive to do something so crazy. The healing that I did mentally from the built-in trauma through the amazing food, active lifestyle, living outdoors, yoga, and meditation at Kalu Yala all worked together to lead me directly to my current position. I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Sarah Diamond representing Food for the Brain Foundation at the Brain Bio Centre of London for CleanMed Europe 2018.


I am going to be co-managing the nutritional therapy clinic’s Low-Income Fund. The program will help provide nutritional therapy to low-income people suffering from debilitating mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression, panic and anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and more. As someone with severe anxiety and panic that has been able to lessen the core problem through nutrition and supplementation, this work means the world to me. Mental health care should not be something reserved for those who can afford the normally absurd prices. It should be affordable to all. Food for the Brain Foundation is working on making affordability a reality.

The Spring 2017 Culinary Program on a field trip to Panama City.

What was your biggest takeaway from living in the Panamanian jungle?

Learning how little you really need to thrive. I know it’s kind of a cliché, but it’s true. So much of life can add complications that are meant to trip you up, get you off track, and keep you from focusing on what really matters. In the jungle, there’s none of that. It’s just you, some other amazing people, and the world you can see right in front of you. It’s relieving and it’s transformative.

Sarah Diamond on the right with her Spring 2017 Culinary students and director, Karri Shelby, in the middle. Oh, and you can’t forget the delicious desserts.

You can check out the blog she started as her chosen personal project about mental health and healing,

A Spoonful of the Universe.