The power of downward dog extends beyond Paula Carey’s core strength and flexibility.
It reaches beyond the health of her patrons radiating through the greater community.
Carey and her yoga group are donating $13,600 to United Way of Greater Victoria this year.
“I’m a big believer in giving where you live, I know the work the United Way does. They identify where there are gaps in services and they make their program and partners accountable,” Carey said. “When I’m doing all my down dogs – and they’re not easy – so when we’re doing that work, I know the money we’re contributing is more impactful.”
Ready to Rent BC, Citizens Counselling Centre, Homeless Prevention Fund, both of Camosun College’s Leading Youth to New Careers and Single Parents Bursary Fund – all have benefitted from Carey and her yoga community’s generosity in the past.
Her focus now is the United Way of Greater Victoria – not only as a donor but as a volunteer.
“Paula has a real gift – she teaches people the power of philanthropy and leads by example,” said Jo-Anne Silverman, director of development for United Way.
Perhaps that’s because she understands poverty having grown up poor in Toronto. For her parents, generosity was not possible but for Paula, education was the door to new possibilities. A teacher arranged for her to take a course at the Ontario Science Centre as a host demonstrator which, she says, changed her life. By 17, she had a part-time job there and met her husband of 34 years, Nicholas, on her first day of work.
“What a great gig, stand in front of 1,000 people and use a laser and learn how to public speak at 17,” she said.
Having taught yoga for 15 years has helped, too. Carey talks with her yoga community on ways they can help bridge the gaps within our net of social services. She calls this “yoga off the mat” and donates all proceeds from the eight yoga classes she teaches every week to causes that support those most vulnerable in Greater Victoria. Her students also generously support the areas of need they identify each year.
“I trust them, and I think they’re going to do way better with my money than an individual charity,” she said. “Victoria United Way has staff with just such a depth of knowledge and passion, it blows you away. It’s the most wonderful volunteer job I’ve had.”
She’s in her second year serving on their Major Gifts Cabinet.
“I get to use all of my skills, I get to feel I am doing something amazing for the community,” Carey said. “I’m respected, I’m thanked … and I’m assured every dollar I donate is going to be amazing.”