Christ’s Haven Alumni Reflects on Impact and Gives Back

Throughout Karina Nascimiento’s childhood, she lived in a lot of places with a lot of different people. From her native Brazil to Texas, many years included abuse and neglect. It was when she came to Christ’s Haven in 1989 that she finally felt safe.

She was in survival mode, many of her early years filled with fear and anxiety. So when she came to Christ’s Haven, the immediate sense of family and acceptance was life changing.

Karina lived at Christ’s Haven for three years until she was 17 years old. As she navigated the teen years, her houseparents, Judy & Ron Parish, helped create opportunities for her by encouraging her to try out for cheerleader, run on the track team, and find a part-time job she enjoyed. That would later prove to be a turning point in her life.

“They gave me stability, security, and love,” Karina said.

At her part-time job at the local YMCA, her supervisor said she could use the exercise room to work out if she wanted. Exercising became a refuge for Karina. She knows now that exercise played a significant role in helping her body deal with trauma, depression, and anxiety.

“Judy would take me to the gym and wait in the parking lot for me to do my workout. The gym became a big part of my life. It gave me a sense of security and power that I never had before,” Karina said.

That initial introduction to exercise would take her down a path of lifelong fitness and wellness. And even more unique and impressive, a path of competitive bodybuilding where she would go on to win numerous prestigious awards and titles from the International Fitness and Body Federation.

In 2022 she was married, retired, living in Florida, mom to three teenagers of her own, and approaching her 50th birthday. She wanted to celebrate how far she had come in her life and do something big. She brought her friends and family together to celebrate and raise funds for Christ’s Haven. 47 friends collectively raised $10,390.

“I know Christ’s Haven gave me something special. What I took with me all of those years ago when I left Christ’s Haven was that I was loved. I was worthy. I’m so glad I can give back in some way to the children living there now.”

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