Why Community Matters in Westport: Find Out How Lara Kalayjian is Staying Inspired and Connected

Local creativity is overflowing in communities as moms, dads, small business owners, nonprofit leaders and volunteers are finding new ways to communicate in this new world of social isolation. Their coping strategies and ingenuity are beyond inspiring! 

We are proud to introduce you to these innovators in “Why CommunityMatters”, a series made possible by LIFEWTR.

Meet Westport resident Lara Kalayjian, founder of The Brave Agency

With the new norm of practicing social distancing, how are you finding creative ways to connect with family and friends?

7-Day Vocabulary Challenge with my 4-year-old nephew John Samuel 

My mom and I live in Westport, CT and my sister and her family live on Long Island. We haven't been able to see each other except over FaceTime and Zoom and I wanted to think of fun ways that we could be involved in the kids' development during this time away from each other. Both my mom and I have an obsession with stickers (our collections are insane!) and love how much they can visually communicate. We are using them as a reward and wanted to help make learning new words fun for my four year old nephew, John Samuel. We created 7 cards with funny and challenging words. Each day my sister and my nephew would FaceTime us and my nephew would pick a card out of a hat. My sister would read the definition. John Samuel would then have to use the word in a sentence and his mom would write it down on the card. Every time John Samuel used the word on his own throughout the day he received a gold star sticker. 

John Samuel's sister, Lillian, is 2 years old and wanted in on the fun. Anything her brothers do she wants to do! We made her cards to help teach her colors since up to this point everything was "blue." We made these color cards to help teach her different colors and what objects she can find to associate with each color. She didn't have as much patience as John Samuel and took them all out of the hat the day she got them. No bonus stars for Lilly but she did get a prize of a new princess costume! 

Family Zoom Interviews

One day on a whim, my nephew John Samuel and I were sitting in the kitchen and I decided to start interviewing him using a pen as the microphone, I thought it would be a fun way to get to know him and to allow him to express his ideas and point of view on things (especially Sonic The Hedgehog). Seeing that he loved talking about his interests (and himself...ha!) we planned a family Zoom where we all dressed up in costume and had to ask John Samuel questions while he answered in character. John Samuel was Sonic The Hedgehog and his sister Lillian dressed up as her Grandpa aka "Papa Chuck." Grandma was a cat and I was a construction worker and host.

Mantra Masks

As a die-hard germaphobe, I became very obsessed with wearing a mask. As a New Yorker, I needed it to look stylish. And as someone who loves connecting with my peeps, I wanted to somehow rally my social network to get them involved. I wanted to create something that would keep me connected, having fun, and keep my creative juices flowing but I didn't want it to be a project that took advantage of our situation. So, I decided to create Mantra Masks where 100% of the proceeds would go to the Connecticut Food Bank. I tapped into my social network on Facebook and Instagram and asked everyone to submit their favorite mantra or saying - it could be inspirational or humorous. I received 35 submissions and had everyone vote on their top choices on Instagram. I then took the 3 Mantras that had the most votes and designed iron-on labels online. The three winners were: "it is what it is," "this too shall pass," and "i'm smiling right now." I ordered a handful of masks made in the US and have been making masks for the last few weeks! So far, I have raised $2,000 which will provide 1,000 meals to those in need. I had so much fun receiving everyone’s ideas, announcing the winners, designing the masks and creating fun packaging to (safely) ship and deliver the masks to folks in over 10 states!

Sound Meditation Sessions

When the virus became scary and quarantining became a reality, I felt intense anxiety and fear and was feeling and hearing the same from my loved ones. I wanted to provide those in my community and beyond with the opportunity to pause, relax and take a moment to find peace in their day even if only for 15-minutes. My mom is an incredible healer and has used Crystal Sound Bowls and the Didgeridoo as sound healing in her sessions with clients. The beauty with sound healing is that you don't have to be a master meditator, or even enjoy mediation for that matter, to feel the healing benefits of sound. So one morning over coffee, I asked my mom if she would be willing to host free, live sound sessions on my Instagram Live. We got a fantastic response and we now host a session once a week (usually on late Sunday afternoons). People have reached out to us to host private Sound Healing Sessions on Zoom for their employees who are working hard from home and need a break in their day. It's been such a cool way to connect to those near and far and for my mom and me to bond. 

Can you tell us if you or any of your colleagues are doing creative things at home to find joy and inspiration?

My best friend, Alyson Luck, of Westport, CT, is the Director of One River art school in Westport. She has been working around the clock to keep her art classes going online and keeping her students engaged and involved in creative projects. When the virus hit and businesses closed, she drove around town dropping off her students’ art projects so that they could enjoy them at home and feel proud to display them. 

My best childhood friend Sasha Bernstein of Greenwich, CT, has partnered with some amazing chefs through her non-profit organization, The Cooking Project, to offer children free online cooking courses using simple and easy to find ingredients. 

My client and friend, Felice Marcy, of Greenwich, CT is the owner of CST50 in Westport and Darien. She has been hosting complimentary workouts on IG Live and Zoom for the last 2 months for anyone who is interested in joining and has never once charged participants. She did a fundraiser and was able to donate 30 meals to Bridgeport hospital!

Community matters - now more than ever. We are thankful to LIFEWTR for helping us to connect and stay strong.

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HamletHub or LIFEWTR. 



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