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September 17, 2021

50th Retreat in Georgia Withstands Hurricane Flooding

The Younique Foundation held its 50th retreat in Georgia the week of Aug. 30–Sept. 2, and it was definitely memorable thanks to Hurricane Ida.

Located in the picturesque foothills of the North Georgia Mountain range in Dawson County, Georgia, The Haven Retreat, a clinically informed four-day educational experience for female survivors of child sexual abuse, opened its doors in August 2019.

For Georgia’s 50th retreat, the curveballs began when its chef fell ill and the Utah retreat chef, Colby Hall, was flown out at a moment’s notice to handle the culinary needs. This last-minute change in staff would soon be followed by another unprecedented obstacle.

Senior Retreat Manager Saria Karhunen was monitoring updates regarding Hurricane Ida and the additional storms and flooding that might hit the area. On Tuesday, Aug. 31, she noticed that the stream that runs through the property was rising throughout the day. “At one point that evening it started spilling slightly over the bridge that allows us to enter and leave the property,” she said.

After consulting with The Younique Foundation executive director, the decision was made to evacuate the retreat as a safety precaution. By 9 p.m., the survivors and staff were packed and heading to a nearby hotel, Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge, for the night.

“They treated us extremely well and ended up giving us a significant discount for the rooms as well as free breakfast,” Karhunen said. “Our staff handled everything professionally and with compassion, all the while exhibiting great collaboration.”

After one night at the hotel, the group was able to return to the retreat on Wednesday after the rain had stopped and the water had receded. The first class of the morning was the Mindfulness Experience. “Participants took the opportunity to start the class by sharing how grateful they were that staff cared about their safety and how, despite everything, it had been an amazing experience for them,” Karhunen said. “From that point on retreat continued as normal and participants headed home reporting that it had been a great experience for them.”

Even with the severe weather conditions, the staff ensured The Haven Retreat was a space of community, safety, and healing. “We have welcomed hundreds of survivors that have found healing here over the last few years,” Karhunen said. “It’s moments like these that inspire all of us to overcome our challenges, whether large or small, and finding healing even in the midst of opposition.”