The Story of AWA Oasia
by founder: Nadine Casanova
In 2009 while studying environmental biology and sustainable living in college, I became very upset about how much our general education systems lack awareness in the areas of healthy lifestyles, sustainable energy systems, cultural challenges and planet sustainability. How could there be so many solutions for taking better care of ourselves, each other and the planet at large, but most don't know about them.
I knew I needed to step up and take action, so when I heard about a Native American movement called The Longest Walk, a journey across the country (from San Francisco to Washington DC) to raise awareness for environmental issues and social equality, I joined the effort. It was on this life changing adventure that I discovered several disturbing truths of what so many people face in the world and in our own beautiful state of California. I witnessed extreme poverty, lack of access to healthy food, minimal spaces for community, loss of culture, corporate greed polluting the land and people, drug/alcohol abuse, an epidemic of illness, depression and an overall lack of consciousness.
I cried many nights alone in my tent while walking across the country, feeling the weight of world issues, feeling the pain I saw in the eyes of most that crossed my path. How could so many be suffering, when solutions exist? What can I do?
Near the end of my journey, I had become very close with the leader of the movement, Dennis Banks (one of the founders of AIM). He took me in and showed me the indigenous way, taught me how to reach the people, to be strong in the face of great challenge. It was him that lead me to the chief of chiefs, an encounter that still gives me chills to this day. I sat in front of this wise elder and he shared the value of living in gratitude, honoring all life as sacred. He shared about the prophecy, a time coming when people of all colors would be unified. I poured tears in awe of the beauty of this perspective, it resonated so deeply with me, and I knew that I was stepping into my purpose.
I then ran into the desert, dropped to me knees, sunk my hands into the earth and gave her my tears. “Show me the way great spirit, use me, I am here to serve”. Later that night, I sat in a TP meeting with several elders from neighboring tribes. It was here that I realized the greatest way I could serve and received blessings for my mission to help heal the earth.
People need connection, access to tools for transformation, education and places to gather where they can build community and initiatives for peace. People need the opportunity to go from surviving to thriving. The concept of holistic community centers worldwide was born. This realization was the answer to my prayers, the fuel that has kept me inspired and moving forward with passion for over 11 years now.
In 2010 I began working with my father James on a community healing center in the Los Angeles Arts District, developing the first expression of the vision. We spent 5+ years developing wellness retail, a membership program, a practitioner program, community events, and supporting local 501c3 organizations. We were quite successful! We let go of the space in 2012 and ventured to find a larger space that could hold the more complete vision. In 2018 we finally found it, a 13,800 sq/f oasis where we developed AWA for 3.5 years until 2022 when we released the venue.
During our 3.5 action packed years building AWA, we encountered many miracles supporting us to develop our a dynamic business model. We were certainly guided by a higher power that allowed us to grow organically and catalyze this opportunity for humanity, building infrastructure in the most influential place in the world, to ultimately empower community spaces around the world and help to usher in a new age of awareness.
In the first 1.5 years of operation, we focused first on building the events division of the company, to build community and find our allies for the full model. Right before the pandemic, we had done 150+ events, built a team of 20, had 3 investors signing on (2 of which were our restaurant and med spa parters), and nearly half a million in bookings for 2020. My job for April 2020 was to make a sound healing album, produce a wellness lounge for a VIP resort at Coachella and help oversee a full venue art installation addressing the UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals... I thought we had made it. Covid changed everything... as a community space, we took a massive hit. Fortunately we at AWA believe that everything happens for a reason and we stayed focused.
We spent much of the pandemic, building and solidifying our viable model stronger than ever before. We took the time to grow an incredible team of aligned visionaries who want to expand globally with us. We updated our deck, business plan and financials to reflect this and worked diligently to raise funding to preserve our beautiful oasis and continue to build the blueprint for the heartbeat of culture and community.
We ended up needing to let go of our space when we didn't get the expected 400K we qualified for from the EIDL. It was a tragic loss for the community and all we built, but we moved on with grace and continue to see how AWA can be of service! We look forward to the day when we can reopen sacred space in Los Angeles or elsewhere. We love opportunities to align with those who share our vision of a better world and resonate with building a model that addresses health and vitality from every angle and creates an opportunity for all to have access to tools for personal and collective transformation. Join our movement as we expand and bring communities together worldwide.