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A Story of Recovery, Rebirth, and Rebuilding: Get to Know The Hanai Foundation’s Founder

Founder of the Hanai Foundation, Kimberly Smythe, knows what it’s like to feel lost.  Her personal journey through trauma, healing, and ultimately to transformation guides the foundation’s work as it builds the Hanai Center and its community-based programs.

Kim is passionate about helping people learn, heal, recover, grow, and collaborate to find authentic connection with one another.  It is this passion and her love of the Central Oregon community that fuels the foundation’s mission to provide a shared grounding space for people of all ages and walks of life to enjoy – one that inspires empowerment, independence, courage, kindness, innovation, and understanding.

A Message From Kim

“Old stories can be challenging to let go of.  I urge myself each and every day to be kind to myself, to know that it’s okay to struggle…it’s called being alive.  I also encourage myself to walk through fear and experience the growth that comes from being uncomfortable.  I choose to open myself up, not to be closed in as I’ve been most of my life.

As a teenager I became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. Society calls me a “birthmother”, not a “mother”, because I gave her up for adoption. It’s a label that made me feel less-than then and for many years after.  This was a time in my life that was emotionally and physically traumatic for so many reasons, chief among them being physically isolated from the comfort of family and friends and forced to endure this difficult journey alone without any real community to support me.  I was young, vulnerable, had few coping skills and a ton of shame which I was ill-equipped to deal with and which had long-lasting impact. 

While I went on to marry and have a wonderful family to include three more children, I still had so much shame which I hid by keeping in constant motion. I moved back and forth between family and work, tending to everyone’s needs and ignoring my own.  After many years, I decided I had to take charge and face the emotional wounds that were holding me back from leading and enjoying an authentic life.  I wanted to find peace with the decisions I had made when I was a young girl.  In quiet desperation, I found support in the late Mariah Crawford, a masterful, kind-hearted spiritual counselor who lived in Redmond, Oregon. 

When I first met Mariah, my life was filled with building a new business and I didn’t have much in the way of a fellowship to separate me from work.  I trusted Mariah with my story and she provided a safe space for me to express my pain for the first time in my life.  After twenty years, I finally felt heard.  Mariah helped to guide me to a much different perspective of my story, one of truth and self-forgiveness.  As I began to heal and come home to my true self, I recognized that community was missing in my life.  I formed a group to share a safe space with – a group that still exists today and is very important to me. 

During my process of healing I decided to write a book about my experience.  Reaching back and digging up a part of my life that I’d been terrified of sharing was both emotionally exhausting and liberating.  Owning my voice when very few birthmothers had done so before me felt like a huge burden lifting.

When I handed in my manuscript, an undefinable inspiration came to me.  I was sitting next to my editor, Sandie Sedgbeer, and I turned to her and said something totally out of context.  “You know what I really want to do?  I want to build a place where people can gather and know they are more alike than different.  I want to create a multi-generational, non-denominational space for community where respectfulness is a pillar and vulnerability will be the norm.” In that very moment, both my editor and I knew something had shifted.  My book, it would turn out, was the first stepping stone that led me down a path that would eventually become the development of the Hanai community center.

My very first interview about my book was live on the internet.  I had no idea what I was doing, I had no experience, no background, yet I did it.  That interview is on my website lettinggoagain.com, a site for my book, “Letting Go Again”.  I would go on to do fifteen more interviews and slowly I got better at it. I even found myself enjoying the interaction with the interviewer which, to me, was testimony to how much I was growing. I was sharing my deepest, darkest secrets with the world and I was still standing!

I feel deeply for people like me.  People who feel or have felt that there is no place or community for them.  I want to be authentic with others.  And I want to help create space for people to find introspection and expression.  Stillness and movement.  I want to create a place where our community can gather, heal, find our true selves, return to our innate authenticity, and leave what’s not serving us behind.  It is my belief that we are capable of so much more when we remember who we really are.                                                             

Learn more about The Hanai Foundation, here.

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