What's Your Karam?: Carla Henson

Every so often, the Giving Blog will feature a story of generosity from the Karam family. We will be highlighting exciting fundraisers, heartfelt stories, and inspiring words from the people who have chosen to help Syrian refugees. This is one of the first posts in that series, and features Carla Henson.

In a yoga studio in Southern California, a mindful Californian native is full of Karam. Her name is Carla Henson. At age 29, she is a yoga teacher who has become a wonderful part of the Karam family. She was part of the team at Zeitouna Spring 2015, which was centered around the idea of holistic healing.

“It is yoga that has helped guide me on a path to self-acceptance and a balanced lifestyle. I have experienced ways in which yoga has helped release suffering in my life,” Carla said, when asked about her dedication to yoga. It is no surprise then that when Kinda Hibrawi, one of her students and the Director of Education and co-founder of Zeitouna, approached her about joining the Spring 2015 mission, she leapt at the idea.

Getting to Reyhanli, a small town on the Syrian-Turkish border was not an easy feat for Carla: she had never left the U.S. prior to her trip. To prepare herself, she did a fundraiser through GoFundMe.org where she raised around $2,500, which took care of her expenses.

“I was amazed at the amount of love and support I received! I had never done any fundraiser before, nor had I ever left the country,” she recalled. “This had me very excited to share [the love and support] with the children when I arrived.”

Her experience working with the children was life-changing. While at first, some of the children felt embarrassed to engage in what Carla calls breath-centered movement, they eventually felt the calming effects of the yoga and meditation practice. Carla remembers some of the students vividly, “They would come up to me after class and let me know how relaxed they felt. This is huge! As chaotic as their life has been, they can find that quiet place when they slow down, listen to their breath, which is always in the present moment, free from negative emotions like fear and doubt and instead cultivate a steady mind.”

Recently, Carla’s Karam has been a fundraiser at her yoga studio. She teamed up with Vivi Jewelry to host a jewelry sale with 75% of the sales donated to Karam’s programs! The fundraiser was held at Be The Change Yoga in Irvine, California on September 19th and 20th. The fundraiser was a success, with many of the attendees learning about Karam Foundation and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria for the first time.

Carla has a word of advice to those who are looking for ways to practice their Karam: “If you are feeling the desire and drive to create a fundraiser or volunteer, just know that you have so much support out in the world, filled with people that are willing and able to donate to make a difference.  I know for me after my life changing experience with Zeitouna, I like to ask myself everyday 'how can I make a difference, even if I can't always be where the refugees are physically?' and really, the possibilities are endless!”