Global work initiatives 

Being born and raised in a mixed-race family within Canada, is a heart-expanding, heart-wrenching, and illuminating experience. I feel eternally grateful for my Guyanese-British heritage, to have been born into both brown skin and white skin. 

When I was younger,  with the last name, "Beharry", I remember lying on the floor, telling my mum, that I wished I had a different last name. One that people didn't make fun of. Today, I wouldn't change my last name, for the world. It is my connection to my Guyanese roots. My dear, beloved, Guyanese roots.

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I've had many moments in my life, of feeling like I'm living in this, "in-between".  In Canada, when you are birthed in to a mixed-race family, you are no longer, "white". This is a fact that feels hard when you're in a privileged, almost-all-white-highschool. And, it's a fact, that today, I feel eternally grateful for. I love my olive-like skin, and yet, have had many moments of feeling like my skin isn't brown enough.  

The experience of making sense of the stark differences between the privileges imparted upon white skin vs brown skin, is life-long lesson in patience, understanding, despair, hope, and motivation. 

These days, my thoughts are focused less on the shade of my skin, and more on the inter-weaving of my cultures. Of honouring difference, and people like me, who feel they walk a thin line between belonging, and viewing their "home" country from a bird's eye view - always wondering where they fit.

For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep longing inside, to connect to my West-Indian/Caribbean roots. I am extremely lucky, that from young, my parents dedicated themselves to bringing us to the Caribbean, for the opportunity to immerse ourselves in our Caribbean culture. 

I began my "work" in the Caribbean, in Guyana, in 2003. In the past 15 years, I've spent thousands of hours in Barbados, Saint Lucia, Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana, teaching sexual health education to Caribbean youth, running yoga and meditation workshops, and facilitating empowerment groups for women and girls. This is truly my life's most important work. 

An overview of my experiences are below. Please send me an email at: carla@infiniteoceans.com to talk about collaborations, workshops, speaking events, or teaching in the Caribbean. 

Much Love, Carla. 

 

barbados. 2018

Yoga + Meditation

 

In Partnership with Jasmine Evelyn's Mindful Movement Yoga Studio + The Barbados Association of Endometriosis & PCOS. Christ Church, Barbados.

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If you were to ask me about my favourite place in the world, my immediate response would be, "Barbados!". The small, Caribbean island of Barbados is near & dear to my heart.  My family started visiting Barbados, 25 years ago, and it feels like "home". 

In June, 2018, I had the opportunity to teach a class at Jasmine's Mindful Movement studio, to raise money for the Barbados Association of Endometriosis & PCOS. 

2018 marks my first opportunity to connect with women in Barbados who are leading the mindfulness and yoga movement, in the Caribbean. A true honour. 

 

Trinidad & Tobago. 2018

Yoga + Meditation

Pranayama for anxiety + Depression

 

In Partnership with Aleisha Holder + The Gentle Yogi Studio. Valsayn, Trinidad & Tobago.

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I met Aleisha Holder by some divine intervention. Well, she's close friends with my cousin - but - our meeting led to an immediate connection, and an immediate plan to collaborate on our love for promoting yoga and meditation in the Caribbean. 

I spent 5 weeks in 2018, teaching yoga, meditation, and private workshops at the Gentle Yogi studio. 

Aleisha is a lawyer-turned-yogi, and consciously left her law career, after learning about the power of yoga and meditation to balance the burn-out of a challenging career. 

Stepping into the Gentle Yogi studio is a truly heart-expanding experience. Never have I had the opportunity to practice with women, honouring such diversity. Trinidad & Tobago are a beautiful blend of people and cultures. African roots and Indian roots come together to create places and people honouring Christian, Hindu & Muslim faiths, and moving together in shared spaces. 

My workshop focus in TT was on using breath work, journalling, and movement to control feelings of despair, anxiety, and depression. 

Working with social workers, psychologists, therapists, and counsellors is still often stigmatized in the Caribbean, and associated with weakness and failure. 

Aleisha and her sister, Ayanna, are literally breaking new ground by opening spaces for citizens to connect with a like-minded community. 

 

Belize. 2012 - 2016

Girls empowerment groups

Female leadership Community

 

In Partnership with Ocean Academy High School + Ms. Suzanne Micheleus, Founder of the Female Leadership Community (FLC).

My true heart's passion lies in empowerment work with young girls and women. It is THE place where I feel like I can impact girls in a way that has potential to initiate mindset shifts. 

My life path has been supported by strong, bold & powerful women. If not for the support of women like my mother and grandmothers, my female mentors, and my courageous female friends, I'm not sure where I would be, right now. 

Women supporting women is imperative to growth, confidence, and safety. I truly believe that for women and girls to make safe choices about their bodies and their relationships, they have to be taught that they CAN and are ALLOWED to make choices that honour their bodies and their hearts. All too often, women are still extending themselves beyond their boundaries, because, we live in a society that continues to teach women, from young, that in order to be "liked" or "loved", they have to give up pieces of themselves - emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and socially. 

It is always my mandate to support girls in knowing that they have the right, always, to make choices that feel safe and empowering for themselves

Suzanne Micheleus is a New York Native, living in Belize. She founded the Female Leadership Community (FLC), as a way for female youth in Caye Caulker, Belize to come together to talk about their feelings, to ask questions about how to navigate relationships, and to connect with other females to learn about healthy sexuality and relationships. 

 

Belize. 2012 - 2016

HIV & Sexual Health Education

 

In Partnership with Ocean Academy High School + Ms. Marilyn Alarcon. Caye Caulker, Belize. 

One piece of brilliance about the CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) is that "Life Skills" have been offered a place in the high school curriculum, along with mathematics and science. Brilliant. 

On my first trip to Caye Caulker in 2011, I started to learn about the dynamics of this tiny island. (Paradise, as many tourists deem it).  And, when I say tiny, I mean, literally no roads - only sandy lanes, for walking, biking, and golf carts. No cars. No traffic lights. And, herein lies the problem for socialization and exploration for youth -- everyone knows everyone. It is taboo to openly promote safe sexual practices, because with the underlying Catholic roots, early sexual experiences are not openly talked about. Safe sexual practices, such as "how to use a condom correctly" or "how to communicate and set boundaries in early relationships" are not openly taught. The only place to buy a condom is from the man at the corner store - who, of course, knows everyone's siblings and parents. 

And, while I LOVE this little sandy island, I started to see a troubling occurrence - young girls, as early as 14 years old, dropping out of school, because they were getting pregnant. Once girls were pregnant, they weren't allowed to continue in school, and were losing out on the education that they so desperately needed to empower their lives.  

And, then, I met Ms. Marilyn Alarcon. A local Belizean, running the Life Skills class; the shining light, and trusted listening ear for the majority of these children.

Just as a side note - The Ocean Academy High School was started by Heidi and Joni Mitchell - An American & A Canadian, who are permanent residents in Caye Caulker. The school employs all Belizean citizens. 

And, so we began - integrating resources from Canada, with the internal knowledge that Ms. Marilyn brought from Belize. 

We talked everything from correct condom use, how to protect yourself from STI's, how to say "no" in sexual experiences, how to communicate and talk about "love", and how to stay connected to your own boundaries with confidence. 

 

Canada. 2015

girls in the world: girls empowerment

 

I founded, "Girls in the World" in 2015, after talking to many mothers, who all shared the same sentiment - "I wish I had mentors for love and sexuality when I was growing up". 

My girls ranged in age from 10-16 years old, and once again, left me in awe, with their fearless wisdom. 

We practiced yoga and meditation together.

We talked about how to identify your feelings of happiness, sadness, worry, loneliness, joy, hurt, pain, and fear. 

We talked about how to live with self-assuredness, amidst the pressures of Instagram and Snapchat. 

We talked about how to raise up other girls and women, rather than compete. 

I learned that girls and women, all over the world are the same. We are often given very different sets of privileges, skin colours, and circumstances - and, this in itself often defines what we have access to learning and experiencing. But, many young girls experience the same feelings of worry when it comes to defining a healthy body image, and knowing how to love ourselves. 

 

Guyana. 2003

HIV & Sexual Health Education

Women's Domestic Violence Workshops

 

In Partnership with Youth Challenge International (YCI) + Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG)

By far, one of the most life-changing few months of my life, took place in my country of my roots, Guyana.

Living and working alongside 10 other YCI delegates, I was immersed in life, for nine weeks, in a remote Amerindian village, Surama, in the heart of the Guyanese rainforest. 

Surama is a village, existing, still, without running water or electricity. It is inhabited by the Makushi Amerindian tribe, and filled with the warmest, and most innovative families, who work in Agriculture and eco-tourism. 

 My role in Surama was to facilitate HIV and sexual health education to women and youth in Surama, and to guide women's circles to create discussion about domestic violence and positive communication within relationships. 

As in any teaching relationship, I, to this day, believe the wisdom I gained from the women and children in Surama, far exceeds the valuable life skills I was able to share.

I hold my days in Surama, close to my heart, and they remain my foundational learning experiences for initiating working relationships across global boundaries.  

 

 

Caribbean Women's

Small Business Collective

My Mission:

To support one Caribbean woman each year, in starting her own small business initiative. 

Here's who we're advocating for, this year: 

Miss Marilyn Alarcon

Children's Advocate. Life Counsellor. Caye Caulker, Belize.

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A portion of our profits will go directly to Miss Marilyn to support her small business initiatives in Caye Caulker, Belize.

I first met Miss Marilyn at the Ocean Academy High school in Caye Caulker, Belize, where I was teaching sexual health education. Miss Marilyn taught the life skills class at OA. I quickly learned that she was far more than a teacher. She was an unofficial counsellor, and all-around best friend to so many of the students at the high school. It was a normal occurrence for kids to knock on the staff room door to get her attention, to talk about everything from anxieties about friendships & relationships, stressors at home, or worries about love and relationships. She always had time. For every single one of them. Not only did they keep coming back to her, they would frequently track her down at home, in her yard, to talk.  

Miss Marilyn lives with her husband and her 3 children in a one-bedroom house. All 5 of them, share a bed, and they have one small living room space. There is a tiny kitchen, with the only source of running water, coming from outside her kitchen window. And she is happy. She seems to thrive on supporting others. 

It is Miss Marilyn's dream to start her own business. I asked her if she would be open to being the recipient of this years Women's Advocacy Scholarship. She graciously accepted. 

To support Miss Marilyn, please head over to my web store to purchase an online course, where portion of proceeds will be shared. To make a donation to Miss Marilyn directly, please send me an email here. (Please note, due to difficulties in sending money to Belize, lack of Western Union offices, and overall challenges for many Belizean citizens in opening bank accounts or doing online banking, I will collect all money raised for Miss Marilyn, and will organize money be sent to her, in a safe and efficient manner!). 

Donate

 

Here are some more details about Miss Marilyn, in her own words:

Hello! I am Marilyn Marie Alarcon, from Beautiful Belize. I was raised up in a single parent home with my beautiful mother and 8 other siblings. I must say it wasn't an easy task for my mom, who was also the caretaker of my grandmother. Many days she pulled it off with sweat and tears to provide for our family. 

Education on the other hand was always a challenge. We knew that somebody would have to be left behind from not having the finances to go on to high school. 

As a child I was always aware of our struggles, so being in grade school I would strive to do my best. I can recall at the age of 10, representing my school in a spelling bee contest. I was asked by the invigilator what I would like to be when I grew up.  At that moment I didn't stutter, for I have always known that I was destined to help others.

When I graduated from school, I then took on the role of being a father to my 8 siblings, as my mom lost her job. I worked very hard to assist my family.

I eventually met a wonderful man whom I am with for countless years now. I am the mother of three beautiful and smart children. 

For my little family, though, my task just keeps getting more difficult.  At present I am taking care of my mom and my two smaller siblings and a host of others kids that I’ve met along the way. 

My goal is not to leave anyone behind.  As my journey continues, I want to assist and change the lives as many kids, as a Children’s Advocate & Counsellor. 

If you have a woman from the Caribbean in mind who you think would be the ideal candidate for our scholarship, send me a note & let me know. 

If you are associated with a Caribbean business collective, or have a community of women in the Caribbean who would be interested in taking part in a 4-week small business intensive, drop me a line!! 

Why a Business Intensive in the Caribbean?

There are no words in this world to express my level of gratitude for the women in my life. 

My mum, a British-born Canadian will remain always, my lifetime HERO. The woman who taught me to stand tall and proud, to speak clearly & confidently.  Raised by her own awe-inspiring mother, a world war two veteran, my mother, mirrored and reflected, by her actions alone, that women can be educated, intelligent & strong, with a balance of gentle softness. 

My father is a Guyanese-born Canadian. How much more blessed could I get, than to have two parents from different cultures? My Guyanese grandma was a force to be reckoned with.  A Mother, a provider, a daily market-goer. A chef, a hairstylist, a woman who crossed the ocean, from Guyana to Canada, at the age of 40, to give her children an opportunity for higher education. She was a no-holds-barred Queen of decisiveness, resilience and action. 

I've been on a mission -- through Guyana, Belize, Barbados, Indonesia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia & New Zealand -- to learn how women work & what women need, not only to survive, but to THRIVE. 

here's what I've come up with so far:

 WOMEN ARE THE ULTIMATE MASTERS OF TURNING NOTHING INTO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.

I can't even count the number of women I've seen, living in a one room house, shared with a husband and multiple children, who have created LOVE, a home, a soft place for others to land. 

Women work HARD. In every country of the world. WOMEN WORK TIRELESSLY + SELFLESSLY.  

Much of this work goes unrecognized and is OFTEN UNDER-APPRECIATED + UNDER-PAID.  

Women, when given the RIGHT skills, education & opportunities, begin to SHINE.

I truly believe that through trauma + hardship, that one constant exists -- women in developing countries who are educated to find *their* OWN purpose can thrive.  

Women who have the means to create their own income can lift themselves out of poverty, can support their children, can steer away from prostitution & unwanted pregnancies, are more likely to avoid drugs & alcohol, and are more likely to access safe & supportive housing and relationships.