January 1, 2024: Good Karma Class

January 1, 2024: Good Karma Class

On January 1st of each year, we host a Good Karma Class at Namaste Yoga to invite the wheel of good energy to begin with us! We have made donations to individuals and families in the past, as well as organizations whose cause speaks to our hearts.

This year, we chose to donate to the Neary Clahan learning center in Cambodia, because one of our long-time students, Gwen Higaki, is making her 14th trip there with her husband, Vernon, at the end of February and this has been a life calling for her! We raised $600 towards restocking the marketplace there. In addition to this amazing news, Kent State University will also be taking a group of students to Cambodia to join Gwen and Vernon for the first time and collaborate with their wonderful learning center. THANK YOU to our yogis who always come through for such deserving causes. Please take a moment to read some of Gwen and Vernon’s story—a journey that began in 2009.

From Gwen: I never expected to be involved in the field of education – anywhere in the world – when I first visited Cambodia in July 2009. In fact, I was at the peak of my career at FirstEnergy Corp. when Vernon and I went on a mission trip to Battambang, Cambodia to meet orphan children our church (Western Reserve Grace, Macedonia) was sponsoring. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and resilience of the Khmer people who had endured a mass genocide in the late 70’s followed by another decade of civil war. After our second trip to Cambodia in 2010, I was obsessed by the needs I saw. I decided to retire early from FirstEnergy in May 2011 to pursue ministry opportunities in Cambodia. Mine has been anything but a typical retirement!

My husband and I co-founded BrightStart Learning Cambodia in October 2011 – a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing educational assistance to Cambodia’s underprivileged. We started with one teacher and 25 children who were failing in their over-crowded school. We soon learned that BrightStart’s remedial learning center environment (with free classes) was unique in Cambodia and the need was pervasive. Thanks to our supporters, over the next 12 years, BrightStart has become a thriving ministry serving over 500 students at 9 learning centers in Battambang, Cambodia (the nation’s second largest city) and its nearby villages.

My favorite BrightStart learning center is called “Neary Clahan” (Brave Woman). Established in 2018, Neary Clahan is a place of community for women, offering them a safe space to grow and learn, to be accepted, and to experience God’s love. We see these courageous women from difficult life circumstances building a culture of encouragement for one another. Each student receives individualized attention from our experienced teacher. Many are eager to be literate for helping their children to read and do homework. We also provide free childcare to many toddlers so their moms’ attention can be devoted to their studies. Our students are further motivated to attend class to receive incentive points for our market reward program! The Neary Clahan market stocks the items of greatest need – clothes, basic food, and household items – for our students to shop and “purchase” with the points they have earned. The market has been an encouraging reward for their commitment to study.

Neary Clahan (brave woman) is a place of community for women, 
offering them a safe space to grow and learn....