Interview with Hala Kazim
One of the most interesting and inspiring moments of my life occurred on this September day, when I got to sit and get to know Hala Kazim, “aka mama Hala”, the founder of “Journey Through Change”. You can read about people all the time, but when you get to meet and know the person first hand, it’s different. It can be a hit or miss. Meeting with Kazim was like taking a breath of fresh air on a beautiful spring morning. I couldn’t help but feel motivated, inspired, and full of positive energy during our intimate lunch.Hala Kazim, an Emirati lady, mother of 5, is an artist and has her own label, “My Private Collection” since 1993. She has been creating collages and painting using Emirati jewelry and carpets. However, Kazim’s other passion was simply and humbly helping others to achieve positive change. She has taken brave steps in her life to find her true happiness and follow her passion for helping women all around her, who are searching for self-discovery, change, and guidance. She helps these women to feel special, to achieve their goals, and discover who they are and to work on who they want to become. You can say she’s like a psychologist, a life coach, a sister, friend, and even a mother (nicknamed Mama Hala) to the many women who have followed Kazim on the amazing “Journey Through Change.”
Q: In your work, whether it is your artwork, your business, your coaching, the creation of your adventure travel journeys, where do you draw your greatest inspiration?
A: I mostly I get it from my life experiences and that inspires me more to help people. It really pushes me. The idea of my company is really in every aspect, to help people, especially women.
Q: How have you built relationships and a family along the way?
A: Because I’m an artist and” Journey Through Change” is new, I’ve been through so many stages. I was very young when I married and had my family, along the way I did my art, and then looked for more fulfillments. Thus resulting in “ Journey Through Change”.
Q: How have you gotten to where you are, career-wise? Did you rely upon mentors and role models and if so, who and how?
A: Yes I think everyone has somebody I don’t think anybody can do it alone. My mentor is Ellen Kenny, a Canadian psychologist; she has been the one helping me through a lot of things. She believed in me. The main support I got was from my children, husband, and of course my friends. They are the army behind me.
Q: What have been some of the transition points and transformative moments in your life?
A: Having children was a big change; having my eldest son at 18 you learn to grow quickly, as well as experiencing divorce. Maybe also later getting married to a foreigner (a Scottish/Egyptian) was also another big transition. Even being a grandmother. Each has it’s own effect on me and has made me into a better person. I’ve learned so many things from life and have gotten to know “HALA”. That is the most precious thing. I walked very hard years.
Q: What obstacles have you overcome? Being an Emirati women, was it hard to break down the social stereotypes/barriers? Confronted criticisms?
A: Yes, but I think people have gotten used to me. They know if I want to do something, I’m going to do it anyway. You have to be realistic too.
I always tell the girls who come on my trips that I will always bring you back happy wives, daughters, and sisters.
Q: Is there anything you would do differently if you had it to do over again?
A: Yes of course I have regrets. I have many regrets. I don’t believe anybody doesn’t. One must have something like “ I wish I did this better” or “ I wish I said this and that” in them. I am not bitter about it, I’ve done my mistakes and yet I decided to turn my whole life around. That’s what I am proud of.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: I want to have a center for “Journey Through Change”. That is my wish, a center to offer counseling and have a base for the “Journey Through Change” adventure club, as well as for the book club and upcoming writing club. My goal is to go much further. When someone says I have really achieved, I don’t really see I’ve achieved much. My son always says, “ Successful people always say that they don’t believe they’ve done enough”. I really feel there is so much more I can do and I’m trying.
Q: What insights do you have on how to develop an authentic style –We would love to hear what you consider to be your core values, things you consider unchangeable, no matter what you do.
A: Being decent and sincere in what you do. It’s not just a job I’m doing; I’m doing something I love and I love-helping people. You always have to have a foundation of basic things. I really believe there are things non-changeable. No one can change everything. I think being honest and true to you are main principals in life. It shouldn’t change. What should change is the weakness in you. If you think you are good, then you need to be better. If I am honest, I want to be more honest, to me and to everyone.
Q: What advice do you have on how to develop a solid network of friends and colleagues and supports?
A: Be there. Show up. If you have a book club and just one-person comes, you be there. Even one person. It’s not just how many people you can talk to. It’s how many people you can change. Connect with people. It’s not because I want to show up, it’s because it comes naturally. Be around, in twitter, facebook etc.
One of the things we need to emphasize on is to feel empathy and be there for people. I think people don’t connect because they are judged.
A lot of people come to me to talk about their life experiences. I talk to them one to one. Once people know I’ve been through a lot it gives them more comfort and closeness to me. They know I can relate.
Q: Tell me about your book club
A: I am dyslexic. I had a big challenge growing up at school especially as a child being a young girl, they would think I’m stupid or not interested to study, and it, wasn’t that. Just nobody knew about dyslexia.
Growing up I had this dream to read as much as I can. I tried to overcome this with certain techniques. One evening I was talking to husband and I mentioned that I really wanted to have a book club, (before JTC) and he said, “Go ahead” and I was worried that no one would respond or come. He convinced me to go ahead and try so I posted it on my Blackberry status and from that it started. So many people became interested. We had our first meeting and I made a recommendation of a book. We meet once a month. I choose non-fiction and/or self-help books because I want people to relate. What we do in the book club is like a support group, after we discuss the book we talk about the many things women go through and what challenges we have, how negative things could affect us, and what stops us. Mash- Allah I now have a lot of members. It’s an amazing thing. Now I finish books!! Alhamdulillah.
Q: How do you know what to do next?
A: I plan. I don’t do 10-year plans, but I did plan a few of the current trips now. Next year hasn’t planned yet, but a lot of ideas on my mind.
My trips are only for Emirati women, it’s a startup, I want to do first for my community and give back. Mostly women travel to shop around, it’s not wrong; it just shouldn’t become the only thing to do while on vacation. I want to change the idea of ‘trips’ and I’m telling women u need to “detach” to be you. I tell them you have to think clear while on vacation. I have “JTC” trips and I have Hala trips. I have to have my “Hala trips” at least once year by myself. That’s Hala time. I go and sit with Hala, I talk to Hala, I discuss with Hala. I am my own friend. I learn to be at peace with myself. “JTC” is about helping women detach and allowing them to know themselves through walking and counseling. I coach while I walk. We go for hours, I go from women to women and give them their own time to talk and counsel. Afterwards we do a discussion group and talk about life and feelings. The trips are usually 5-6 days.
Q: What are the three (or five or seven) things that you have learned?
A: Never judge. Until we die we will judge, however the question is how MUCH we should judge? I don’t want to look perfect because I’m not perfect. People don’t relate to prefect. People relate to mistakes. I didn’t like me when I was judging long ago. I didn’t like Hala then. That’s not right. Who am I to judge? Why take Allah’s role in this earth? Leave people to be and you be whatever you want to be. Who am I to say this is wrong or right? Even if it’s wrong, it’s none of my business. When you come to me for advice it’s different, I don’t tell you what to do, I tell you this is what “I” think and then you choose. It’s a choice you make. Accept that some people will not like you and some will. All we are afraid of is disapproval. No one will approve or disapprove with you 100%, no matter how good or bad the thing is. So accept it and be comfortable with it. It’s fine!
I have learned to be your children’s friend. I wish every mother would be her daughter or son’s friend. I coach and see a lot. If your child can’t open to you, who will they open up to? For example, I have two choices when dealing with one of my sons upon certain subjects. Either I listen and don’t judge, or I shout and get angry and then he goes and does it anyway and talks to someone else. I have to support my son whether he’s wrong or right. You have to be there for your children.
I learned love and kindness is the language between all nations. When I go alone in villages in other countries, they don’t have a clue of what I’m saying, and yet they’re nice. They’re kind because you’re kind. Give them love they give love back. I really believe in this. One of my biggest role models is Maya Angelou. I believe it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Muslim, Jew, Christian, fat or poor, you’re human. Accept people the way they are. Be good to the simple people more because rich people will always have someone to help them. I tell my own children, “When you enter a shop, look at the security man in his eyes, and simply say good morning because many people pass and they don’t even see them.” These are small touches but I’ve learned that sometimes the small things are more important than the big things. We are blessed here in Dubai to have a good life, but it’s always good to go outside of your comfort zone.
Q: What would you say to a group of women in or just graduating from the University and starting their careers, in terms of what they should do for fulfilled lives and careers?
A: Have dreams but have realistic dreams. Go after your passion and you will be successful, love what you do and you will not have to work a day in your life. And don’t forget to smile.
Also, you are representing your country and your religion. Be a good example. When I go away, they don’t know who is Hala Kazim, but when they ask me where I’m from, I say Dubai. They will remember that. If I was messy or rude, they will label Dubaians that way. You have to be a good example because it counts. We don’t remember the peoples names we remember where they’re from. So it’s a must to always be a good example.
I couldn’t have agreed more with Hala Kazim. If you wish to join Hala on the “Journey Through Change” please visit www.halakazim.com or email her to email@example.com. She is also available on Twitter and Facebook.