Objective: To make fresh fruits & vegetables available to those who can’t afford to buy them.
Summary: I was thinking about what I could do for this project one day while doing my grocery shopping at my local supermarket, when I noticed some shelves at the end of the produce aisle stacked with less than perfect fruit & vegetables which had been repackaged & discounted. Just then, I remembered hearing a news story about how many of our nation’s senior citizens diets are seriously lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables because they can’t afford the high cost on their meager fixed incomes. So, I asked the Produce Manager what happens to the items on the shelves if no-one buys them today. He told me that they get thrown in the trash. During our discussion he also said that more often than not, he doesn’t have enough staff and/or the time & they don’t even make it to the resale shelves before they’re tossed in the dumpster & he estimated that his one store probably throws away close to $16,000.00 worth of produce a month!
When I thought about all those poor people out there going without, while all that healthy food was being wasted, it made me sick! Then, I remembered something else. My husband’s Grandmother lives in a church subsidized senior citizen apartment complex nearby. She once mentioned to me that when the market near her has broccoli rabe on sale she makes someone take her there for a special trip so she can buy some. This is her “treat”. I finally had a plan.
I went back to meet with the supermarket Produce Manager & the Store Manager and discuss my idea & they agreed to allot a weekly budget of leftovers that will be put aside for me each week. I’ll be getting started as soon as I get home from my teacher training next week, (8/20/08) When I’ll pickup whatever they have for me, bring it home, wash & prep it, then distribute it in small brown bags to the seniors in Grandma’s apartment complex. The Store Manager suggested that if I contact the other 3 stores in my area, I may be able to get them on board as well.
Where/Duration: The church also has at least 3 or 4 more senior complexes within a 45 minute drive of my home, I’m hoping to eventually expand the project to reach out to them as well & continue and grow this for as long as I can.
Update: I hooked up with my local senior center’s nutrition planner & have been alternating between Mt. Sinai & Shoreham each week. So far, we’re a big hit! Everyone loves their “goodie bags” & wants to know when I’m coming back. Plus, my kids are learning some pretty invaluable lessons.
Objective: To collect enough donated yoga mats to hold a yoga (asana) class for the children at the JoAnn Garcia After School Program, and to offer class at least once a week.
Summary: Somewhere around my 3rd week of volunteer work at the JoAnn Garcia After School Program, I decided to ask a bunch of the kids if they knew what yoga was. Most of them said no, and one of them said “I know!” and then simply touched her toes. They didn’t know, but they were interested so I started to explain and to show them some simple asana. We talked about breathing and how to look at one place on the carpet to help you balance on one foot, and then they asked to try some more of the poses. I asked them to spread out in the space and when I turned around after demonstrating down dog, I was looking through a down dog tunnel! They were shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with no space anywhere. I realized that they had absolutely no concept of what a mat was, or what it meant to “stay on your mat.” So I decided to go out and find some.
Over the next few weeks I brought in 3 old mats of my own that I no longer used. I asked the two local studios in Philadelphia where I had been practicing if they had any lying around and ended up with 7 more. And then I attended a workshop with Beryl at “The Center; Health*Yoga*Arts” studio in Pennsylvania, and they donated another 7 mats! A few more friends donated some and I soon reached a total of 20!
I began to teach every Wednesday afternoon (one class for boys and a separate one for girls), putting emphasis on breathing, respecting your body, having fun with the movements and poses, as well as how important it is to show kindness. One girl came to me a few weeks later and told me about the last time she heard her mother fighting with her boyfriend. She said that she tried to do the breathing I taught her and that it made her feel better.
That little girl and her experience made that whole project worth while.
Who: Children ages 6 to 12
Where: JoAnn Garcia After School Program, Camden NJ
When: Once weekly during the academic school year of 2010-2011
Duration: It is my understanding that the yoga program was carried on. There are one or two local yoga teachers who come to the community center to hold classes for the children, as well as for the senior citizens that live in the Northgate building.
Objective: To allow teachers the comfort and privilege of wearing Blue Jeans to school for Casual Fridays, while also establishing a fund for needy families.
Summary: Every year at my school we have a few families that struggle financially to buy food, holiday gifts for children, pay for medical services, or pay utility bills. Teachers donate $1 for the privilege of wearing blue jeans to school on Friday, and the money collected is used to assist families in need.
Conclusion: It has been a very rewarding experience for me to “Give Back” to our very own school families. Over the years we have purchased bicycles for students; holiday foods and gifts; paid utility bills; and helped a family who was struggling financially due to medical expenses.
What: Money collected is given back to school families with financial needs.
Where: Cunningham Creek Elementary
Duration: Ongoing yearly since 2002
Objective: Integrate a community project into my lifestyle & schedule that I can sustain indefinitely and that leverages my knowledge, skills & interest.
Summary: Combining my love of cooking and my commitment to nutrition was the genesis of my project. I contacted the Montgomery County (MD) Coalition for the Homeless to find out about their need for meals at area homeless shelters. Sure enough, demand is far greater than the donations they receive. To jump-start my project, I committed to making & delivering ten breakfast bags one day a week. The bags work best on weekday so the clients can “grab & go” to catch a bus to work or other commitments. With guidelines in hand, I set off shopping for my first week’s components. Because the nutrition value is important to me, I analyzed the carb, protein & fat ratio of the recommended components, also paying attention to the sugar levels from the combination of granola bars, fruit and juice. I modified the suggested contents by adding hard boiled eggs, a great source of protein & nutrition that can also be easily consumed “on the go”. Each week, I boiled, cracked & wrapped lots of eggs! The guidelines also encouraged including a personal note in each bag. So I researched quotes and involved my husband in choosing one each week that was neither “preachy” nor pretentious; just something that hopefully helped turn up the corners of the mouth! Mark Twain is a good source. On the note, I wrote a personal wish that they enjoy the contents within. The weekly breakfast bags have become a joyful addition to my routine. The clients warmed up to my weekly deliveries; after a few weeks, I’d get a shout out of “Have a nice day lady” as I walked back to my car. The cost however is not sustainable for me and a recent check with the shelter reveled their greatest need is dinner. So I am switching to preparing monthly dinners that will leverage my cooking skills and tap into my creative side as I plan & prepare meals that are equally nutritious and delicious. What fun!
What: Preparing meals for the local homeless shelters
Where: Rockville, MD
Hours: 15 to-date; estimated 4 hours each month in future
Volunteer to teach weekly yoga class to teens/preteens. Bringing yoga to children in communities who would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience it.
I was approached by two separate organizations who asked if I would be interested in doing this. One had the facility for the yoga to be taught in but no teacher and the other was a nonprofit organization called Children Creating Bridges which supports a yoga program open to all children. The interesting aspect about this is that I had begun my yoga teacher training with the objective to eventually teach children/teens so it’s amazing how this project found me.
Where: Chester City, PA rec center and West Chester, PA (location has not been determined yet) Start date: I am waiting for the rec center in Chester City to be completed- date unknown as of now. Then in January, I plan to begin teaching in the West Chester area.
When: I will teach one class a week at each location.
How long: As long as there is a need in the community.
My second project is a give back project in my community.
Objective: To raise awareness of how as a community we can all give back.
Summary: At the studio I teach at, I plan to offer once a month a give back class on a Saturday open to the community where we come together to do yoga and give back through yoga by donation. All donations collected at the class will be given to a designated charity chosen for that month. The charities will vary from local nonprofits to national nonprofits.
Where: Ocean, Earth, Wind and Fire Yoga Studio 122 Bridge Street,Phoenixville, PA
When: Third Saturday of the month beginning in December
How long: Once a month for as long as I can
As well as being a yoga practitioner, I own a nail salon where I spend a lot of time. One of my co-workers Kim Black mentioned to me how the area food banks were depleted of food. Kim is a driver for Rachel’s Table. Rachel’s Table is a food rescue program for the homeless and hungry of Western Ma. With this information in the back of my mind, I tried to figure out how I could help. It came to me to try to organize a food drive with the other area salons.
With the help of Kim, I contacted Debbie Rubenstein of Rachel’s Table which services 41 shelters, soup kitchens, and neighborhood pantries that serve our needy neighbors. I shared with Debbie, the head of this area’s chapter what I was looking to do. She then helped shape what I was looking to do. With her permission I organized a food drive with the area salons. Letters were delivered and the patrons were notified.
The plan was simple. The clients of the salons were to bring in non perishable food items(if they would like to) and when enough was accumulated for a pick up, a call was placed to Rachel’s Table. They would then send a driver to pick up the food. The driver would then bring the items to any one of the 41 agencies to be distributed. The food needed most was high in protein. Peanut butter, soups, stews, tuna and so on.
With the help of many of the areas salon and spa’s, the food drive was a huge success! A new light was shining on the problem at hand, and much food was picked up and delivered. I noticed that similar programs were popping up all over after people heard of this, and I was thrilled that more food was being gathered and delivered. I plan on making this a spring and fall event. This fall it ran from October through December. I’ll next get the event ready for the months’ of April, May and June. I think part of the success was that it was so easy for people to participate in. Bring the food in, drop it off. Then the salon owners stored it, and called a number to have it picked up. In February or March I plan on contacting radio stations, local T.V. stations, and papers to see if I can get this information to more people. Hopefully this will encourage more salons to join in and continue to make this program grow. In addition to the many new people I have met, it was nice knowing I was doing something to help others. This whole experience has been very rewarding to me.
Objectives: (a) To create rich experiences in the natural world with my nieces (9 and 11 years old) that bring alive the concept of giving back in a sustainable way to the environment in which we live; and (b) To make a connection between the self and the environment through yoga.
I recently retired from a 35 year career in public service to adults with mental disabilities. Retirement has given me the opportunity to consider how I want to serve people in this new phase of life and to realize that I have spent very little time giving back to children. Since my retirement, I have been able to spend more time with my nieces and to see that giving back on a small scale can really be very big. As my give back project, I have chosen to create a series of opportunities with my nieces to interact and connect with the natural world. In the process, we are exploring what it means to give back and make a difference in sustaining the environments in which we live. I am also teaching them yoga breathing, postures and relaxation to enhance self awareness and the connection between the self and our environment. Below is a description of some of our activities for the past year and some of our plans for the upcoming months:
What: Experiences connecting the self with the natural world and exploring ways to sustain our environment.
When: Every other weekend; 2 or more hours
Objective: Girly Bikes! is a MeetUp group for women cyclists. We’re style-over-speed riders, doing short city bike rides as a way to build confidence and experience in transportation cycling.
Summary: I am a passionate city cyclist and believe that transportation cycling is a huge solution to many of the problems of car culture. Targeting new or reluctant women riders to come on comfortable, slow-paced rides is something the city of Portland struggles with – I realized inexperienced women riders need a lot more opportunities to ride on the streets in the same types of situations they would encounter if they wanted to bike to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or downtown to their jobs. I created what I called “Tea and Cookies” rides – first we ride, then we drink tea and eat cookes – or vice versa if the weather is bad. Girly Bike is now nearly 200 members strong, and we have monthly rides, rain or shine. Our goal is to have fun biking, and create a supportive atmosphere for women new to city cycling or those returning to biking who want to brush up on basic skills.
Who: Adult women of all ages
Where: Portland, Oregon
When: Monthly rides – we also take part in car-free Sunday rides during the famous Portland Sunday Parkways events.
Objective: Conduct a Saturday Workshop on Yoga and Meditation for program participants of StepUP Ministry (StepUP-us.org), an interfaith, non-profit organization that partners with program participants in the shared goal of self-sufficiency. The goal of this workshop was to introduce methods for participants to relax and a secondary goal was to build trust with the participants.
Summary: I’ve been volunteering with StepUP Ministry since 2003. The past 3 years, I’ve been a “co-partner”, mentoring my participants through a phased-program to help them become self-sufficient and productive, with safe, affordable housing and stable, life-sustaining employment.
StepUP is a community program of three phases lasting nine months. Participants are generally single mothers, most often of African-American descent, with several school-age children. Other participants tend to be over 45 and single who are looking for a new start. Some have recently been released from prison or have had a string of bad luck and lost their homes and jobs. Very often, participants are former substance abusers as well. In order to become part of StepUP, a participant must be working at least 35 hours a week and must be “clean” for at least six months. If a former substance abuser, a participant must attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings as one of their requirements.
We meet every Tuesday night for nine months for supper and fellowship; then we split into small groups to review budgets and expenses. A large part of the time is spent addressing special needs which for this group of people are many: broken-down cars, issues with children and school, problems at work, problems getting to work
(transportation), numerous health issues and legal problems. A professional meets with the group on the particular focus for that phase (financial literacy, personal development and home ownership). A variety of professionals from our community lend their expertise and volunteer as co-partners, workshop leaders, or board members. Backgrounds include law, accounting, banking, social work, counseling, healthcare and other business areas. A strong component of this program is building trust and faith between the participant and the co-partner. This takes time and is not an insignificant aspect of the work.
What: Saturday Workshop.
Participants must attend a Saturday workshop once a month on topics that encourage self-development. This year, the series is focused on Health and Wellness.
The goal of this workshop was to introduce methods for participants to relax and a secondary goal was to build trust with the participants. As a take-away, I asked that they remember just one method of relaxation to use in their daily lives.
Workshop Topics: Introduction, How to Focus, Observation, Postures, Breathing exercises, Relaxation, Silent Walking Meditation, Guided Meditation/Imaging, Group Sharing, Wrap Up.
Next Steps: 1) conduct Saturday workshop once a quarter for StepUP participants. 2) develop a monthly session for StepUp staff based on Yoga, Relaxation & Meditation.
Objective: To raise funds for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, a local agency that responds to immediate and emergency hunger by distributing food to more than 400 local food pantries, meal sites, shelters, residential programs, and youth and elder care centers.
Summary: Last spring I developed and organized the first of what will become an annual “Florence Yoga Cleanse for a Cause” to benefit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Participants (Florence Yoga students and their friends/family) share in a 3-day group cleanse, collecting pledges from friends, family, and co-workers in support of their cleanse effort. My vision is to provide people an opportunity to give back to the community by consciously giving something up. There are two options for the cleanse, making it accessible to everyone. Option 1 is to “Get Rid of a Habit,” taking a current habit and removing it consciously from the daily routine for three days. Some examples are use of computers, texting, television, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, red meat, etc. (One person this past spring gave up negative thoughts for those three days – what a great idea that was!!!). Option 2 is to cleanse the body. We use a simple cleansing diet protocol that is gentle and appropriate for most everyone. We hold a pre-cleanse meeting at which time we discuss the options, protocol, and self-care practices that we recommend. People who have participated in previous cleanses share their experiences and new people have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns they may have. We establish an email network of support so people can stay in touch with one another during their cleanse.
Conclusion: Last spring our small group of cleansers raised over $1600 for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. What’s more, they all learned a lot about themselves during their cleanse experience. Many had never consciously tried to cleanse the body and/or mind of toxins, stress, and stagnation that build up, and they felt energized and found a new level of confidence and trust in themselves. They also felt expressed gratitude for the opportunity to give back to their community by collecting pledges for The Food Bank. Each expressed a desire to participate in the next cleanse.
What: Annual Cleanse for a Cause
Where: Florence Yoga, Florence, MA
Hours: It takes approx. 40 hours to develop materials, purchase herbal support kits, hold meetings, manage donations
Duration: Annually each Spring
The Second Annual Cleanse for a Cause at Florence Yoga was held Friday-Sunday, May 13-15, 2011. This year I invited the local yoga studios to join Florence Yoga in this fund-raising activity for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Although none of the studios responded to my invitation, we had a nice small group from Florence Yoga that participated in the three-day cleanse and fundraiser. We celebrated the end of the cleanse by holding a special Sunday class with a harp player accompanying us through our asana practice. It was really sweet. We accepted donations for The Food Bank all through the month of May, and we raised approximately $900.
Objective: Practice Karma yoga by connecting with a local environmental movement that is creating grassroots change!
As an environmentalist yogi and foodie, I have found great contentment and inspiration volunteering with a local organization in Boston that embodies sustainability and social change. The Food Project in Roxbury is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering sustainability through food. The Food Project’s central mission is to promote environmental and social harmony by helping to build a local sustainable food chain while fostering individual and social change within the community. Volunteering at The Food Project helps me to connect with the local community, environment, and food supply and to support an organization that serves as a model for a more sustainable way of feeding the world.
Summary: Every week during the growing or harvesting season (April through June, August through October) I spend a few hours a week in the early morning lending a hand on the farm plot in Roxbury. The Food Project depends on volunteers during the growing and harvesting season to manage the farm – we clean out beds, set up irrigation systems, plant, harvest, clean vegetables, bundle vegetables, and get things in order for the weekly farmers market. During the summer, local youth interns take over running the farm. The youth intern program helps to foster leadership, discipline and dependability: youth interns are in charge of running the farm and the farmers market over the summer. MORE….The Food Project sends 40% of its fresh organically grown produce to local soup kitchens, while the other 60% is sent to the local farmers market – the only source of fresh organic vegetables in an urban neighborhood populated with junk-filled corner stores.
Conclusion: Volunteering for an organization that highlights an alternative to the mainstream is an incredibly powerful way to take my practice of karma yoga into the world. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to connect with the earth and to help foster a more sustainable local food system by participating in the amazing work of The Food Project.
What: The Food Project
Where: Roxbury, MA
When: Fall & Spring Planting Seasons
Hours: 2 hours per week, 14 weeks per year
Duration: Until the cows come home!
Objective: To provide yoga for the staff and clients of Domestic Violence
Intervention Services Inc. (DVIS), a local non-profit that provides comprehensive
intervention and prevention services to men, women and children affected by
Summary: I knew I wanted to “give back” in some way, but had trouble focusing
on just one thing, there are so many ways to help the community. I started to get
overwhelmed. Thank goodness for a friend that wanted to start a yoga class for
staff and clients of DVIS. Since January of 2008, I meet with the staff of DVIS on
Thursdays, during their lunch break. Clients are invited and encouraged to
attend, and they do, sometimes, but mostly I am working with the counselors. I
guide them through poses to relieve tension and create healthy posture. The
staff spends a lot of their time at a desk, so once a month we do a “Desk Yoga”
class, where staff members that do not come to the class regularly, show up and
learn how to do a few stretches at their desk to relieve headaches, sore and stiff
shoulders, necks and backs.
Conclusion: I love being able to provide a peaceful break for such
compassionate and hard-workers. They look forward to our session and so do I.
What: Lunch Break Yoga
Where: Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc.
Hours: 1 hour per week
Duration: Ongoing since January 2008
Objective: My give back project is walking dogs for the local chapter of the Whatcom County Humane Society.
Summary: When I heard that I would be required to get involved with some sort of give back project as part of my yoga teacher accreditation I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do. I had been wanting to volunteer to walk dogs for some time, but I put it on the back burner and procrastinated telling myself it was something I would get around to when I had more time. The Give Back Project gave me the necessary motivation to pursue my idea. I wanted to get my friend to join me so I wouldn’t have to go by myself so I got her to sign up to be a volunteer too. Next thing I knew she had recruited her mom and husband, and then my mom decided to join us and volunteer too. Now the small Bakerview branch of the Whatcom County Humane Society has every day of the week just about covered for dogs walking. I go for an hour before work on Wednesdays and Friday afternoons with my mom. I love meeting and walking all the cute dogs, and most of all I love when I hear that one of them has found a new home.
What: Walking dogs at the Baker view Creek branch of the Whatcom County Humane Society
When: Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons
The company where I work has made multiple attempts at improving its ecological friendliness, but historically these attempts have stalled due to lack of persistence or shifting of priorities. One employee “benefit” the company provides is complimentary canned soda for the employees to consume during the workday. It is unfortunate that this is the case due to the fact that soda is not a healthy choice of beverage. However, it is even worse that a previous initiative to recycle the cans had stalled, and most employees had taken to simply throwing used aluminum cans in the trash. Due to the rate at which this company of fewer than 50 employees goes through canned soda (over half of the company’s employees are computer techies that thrive on refined sugar), a 30 gallon trash bag of cans was being added to our local landfills every week. Furthermore, the employees go through at least a case of paper towels every week, and produce an excess of used office paper that does not get recycled. At present, the paper towels and office paper are purchased in bulk with no consideration for ecological impact – including issues such as whether the products purchased are recycled, and what happens to them when they are thrown away.
The objective of this project is to improve the company’s environmental impact through the course of several phases. For phase I, the focus is the soda cans. Phase II will focus on the paper towels and office paper. The objective of each phase will be to initiate recycling of the waste products, and for Phase II to transition the company to considering ecological impact in its purchasing criteria (e.g., considering Seventh Generation recycled paper towels even if they are slightly more expensive than the current alternative).
Timeline and Activities
Phase I commenced in July, 2008. I personally took responsibility for collecting the cans from a recycling bin, which is now setup in the company break room – the same location where the soda is available for employee use. Because the company does not at present use a recycling service, I collect the cans on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and add them to the recyclable refuse that I take from my household to the local recycling center. This activity will continue indefinitely, but will hopefully change as Phase II progresses, into a company initiative that would continue even if I left the company.
Phase II will commence in early 2009. It will entail (a) the consideration of recycled products as candidates for purchasing of goods and supplies, (b) the introduction of office paper and paper towel recycling, and (c) the promotion of the possibility of engaging a recycling service to pick up the recyclables. This last activity (c) is planned to come last because it will only be seen as necessary once the volume of recyclables has grown due to activity (b).
The biggest challenge to introducing these changes is to shift the focus from a cost-only approach to an approach that considers both cost and environmental impact. The company has in the past paid “lip-service” to the concept, but has had trouble building sufficient momentum to sustain any real changes. As a result of taking the initiative to champion this cause, my goal is to bring about a change that can be maintained into the future.
What: Corporate recycling initiative
Where: ConnectShip, Inc.
When: Phase I – Beginning July 08 and continuing
Hours: 30 minutes per week
Objective: I volunteer regularly with the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I am beginning my second year on their Junior Board. As a member, I obtain silent and live auction items for various events, assist in the planning of two of the events that are under our charge, help setup & cleanup events & help at the office as needed.
Summary: I have been involved with CFF for about three years. I have become emotionally attached to the cause after having met CF patients & their families.
WHAT: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
WHERE: Tulsa OK
WHEN: Whenever I’m needed & available
HOURS: will vary—probably 50-100 per year with CF
Objective: I am teaching teen yoga classes that I call “Yoga with a Twist” and the twist is that the teens are not only doing something good for their bodies, minds and spirits by coming to class, but they are helping the world at the same time, by the class fee going to charities of their choosing. I hope that the donation of my time inspires them to give of their time in a way that is meaningful to them.
Summary: Since January 2009, I have been donating my time teaching middle school and high school students yoga once a week at the recreation center near my home. I wanted the class to empower them both physically and spiritually; experience the joy of yoga, while knowing that they were making a difference in the world by supporting the work of charitable organizations. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience for me. The kids are so enthusiastic and love learning the poses, and especially love savasana. Helping them learn how to let go and find peace in their busy, stressful lives makes me so happy. So far we have raised $1210 for a wide variety of non-profit organizations:
Who: Teens and tweens ages 11-18yrs old
Where: Rye Recreation Center, Rye, NY
When: January 2009-present, Thursdays, 4:45-6:30pm
Objective: Create an ongoing free, weekly yoga experience for adults and children in the community who have low income, substance abuse issues, or disadvantages.
Summary: Over the past few months, I’ve created and advertised a free Saturday community yoga class at Capital Jiu-Jitsu in Loudoun county. We have already had low-income individuals and individuals with substance abuse issues attend this class. Some attend on a regular basis, other drop in occasionally. All have commented on the positive returns they have received.
Who: Adults and children with low income, substance abuse issues, or disadvantages
Where: Loudoun, VA
When: Weekly, ongoing, year round
Objective: To raise money for the Give Back Yoga Foundation’s many projects helping underserved portions of our communities while simultaneously bringing together area yoga teachers & students of many different traditions for an evening of celebration, community, fun, effort, & service to others.
Who: My teacher Lex Fry & I, with help from volunteers Jennifer Pollard & Janet Rose, organized & ran the event.
What: We advertised the event through print & on-line newspapers, advertisements, & posters in area businesses; solicited from individuals, businesses, & yoga studios donations of money, a venue, flowers, live music, & food & drink; contacted area yoga studios, teachers, & students to encourage participation from yogis of many different traditions; & set up & ran the event to try to ensure that participants had a safe, fun, & rewarding experience.
When: June 21, 2010
Where: Chestertown, MD
How It Went: We had 54 participants & raised over $1,900 for the Give Back Yoga Foundation, a terrific result for a first-time event in a rural area. It was gratifying seeing so many different styles of Sun Salutations performed by students of different traditions & yogis modifying for their own needs, everyone working as individually appropriate yet sharing a communal energy & all in service to others. I’d like to continue to hold similar events several times per year to benefit GBYF again or other local needs & think we generated enough enthusiasm & good will in this first event do so successfully. There were many positive comments afterwards & exclamations of: “That was fun! When do we do it again?”
Objective: To lend my assistance to those in my own community who are dealing with the very real struggle of having enough food to feed themselves and their families. My community is a fairly well to do one, filled with specialty food markets, boutique bakeries, tea and coffee shops and fine dining. It can be difficult in this environment to realize that many in the community are unable to provide just the basics for themselves. While we have a number of non-profits in the area that are focused on providing food, I wanted to work in one that was in my immediate area (I can walk to it) and I wanted to work directly with the clients who need assistance in gathering their food and making healthy choices. The Northampton Survival Center was a perfect fit.
Summary: The Northampton Survival Center has been in existence for 35 years, and presently distributes on average about 2500 lbs of food each day (M-F), for a total of over 700,000 per year to over 4500 clients in Northampton and the surrounding towns. Clients must show evidence of their residency in the community, identification for all family members and verification of their household income in order to qualify.
The Pantry counter is the center of the Survival Center. Everything the Center does is geared toward making sure there is food to be distributed to clients every hour the pantry is open. It has been eye opening to see the generosity of the grocery stores, bakeries, specialty food shops, the local farms and members of the community when it comes to donating food. The willingness of members of the community to conduct food drives is heart warming.
All the food that comes in must weighed, recorded and processed through quality control insuring that it is viable for the clientele. It then must be stocked onto shelves, available for clients to choose. Depending on the size of their families, they are allotted a certain number of products from different categories – i.e. bread, produce, grains, dairy, protein, etc. As a Grocery Server, I work directly with clients helping them to make those choices based on the preferences and any medical conditions they may be dealing with. I pack the food, weigh it and assist them in packing it into their car, a taxi or onto the bus.
On Friday’s, at the shift’s end, we take all the remaining breads, sweets and produce and pack boxes for a couple of the shelters in town. I deliver a couple of boxes to one of the shelters in town housing battered women and their children. Conclusion:
Conclusion: This volunteer work has evoked a tremendous feeling of gratitude in me. While I have volunteered off and on all of my adult life, because of my profession I have tended to be on Boards and Advisory Committees sharing what knowledge I have in the legal and financial arenas. Because of my present situation I went in specifically asking for something that did not involve reading, calculating, etc. and would work directly with people. The pantry work was perfect for me. I am so grateful to be able to provide hands on assistance and the people I have met, both the other volunteers and the clients, have been wonderful. I enjoy being involved in this organization and feel I get back much more than I give
What: Spending time with members of my community who need assistance in gathering food for themselves and their families.
Who: The Northampton Survival Center
Where: Prospect St., Northampton
When: I am on the schedule for one shift and food delivery (Friday afternoons for 2-2.5 hr/week), and am able to fill in for other shifts when I’m available. I began at the beginning of April and I have no anticipated date of end.
Objective: Helping start up the Good Faith Community Garden.
Summary: Over the previous year I helped to create a children’s garden at my daughter’s school. I passionately believe in eating clean food and strive to show those around me how easy it is to eat well. When I heard that there was a group working to create an organic community garden I was very excited to continue working in my community to develop pathways to clean food. I contacted the group and attended the planning meetings, not really knowing how I could help, other than manual labor. A local church donated land for the garden, but the soil in south Texas is very rocky, so it was decided that raised beds would be the best long-term method for planting. The biggest obstacle then became was money. So at my studio I organized a class, Happy Hour Yoga, to raise money for the garden. Myself and a few other teachers taught each Friday evening for donations only. In four month we raised over $1000. We donated the money as we raised it, and in turn it paid for building materials, tools, seeds and soil. Construction and planting began as planned in Spring 2010. A few local families planted in the garden for their own consumption, but the majority of the garden produced hundreds of pounds of organic vegetables for the local food bank and soup kitchen, both of which had never before been able to offer fresh produce to those in need. I look forward to continuing to volunteer by working in the garden and helping to provide a source of clean food to those who would not otherwise be able to obtain it.
Who: Working with Transition Local, a group that was already loosely formed with the intent to build and sustain an organic community garden.
Where: Within the city limits of New Braunfels, TX.
When: Break ground by spring 2010.
Update 2010: I continue to volunteer at the Good Faith Community Garden. On the left are some new pictures from the end of the summer growing season. Hundreds of pounds of fresh organic produce have been grown and donated to the local food bank and soup kitchen. I love working on this project!
Objective: I really have 2 objectives for this project. The first was to find someway to give some of my time to be of help to others in the St. Augustine community. Second, I wanted to find something that would be a good after school activity for my son Finley. Finley has autism, and it is difficult to find extracurricular activities for him. Furthermore, I wanted to set an example for my children of volunteering in the local community.
Summary: Finley loves dogs. He also loves talking about dogs. A large part of Finley learning to communicate with others was in having conversations with people about their dogs. Unfortunately, he is not very good at interacting with dogs. He usually manages to pet a dog is such a way that the dog is usually trying to get away from him. If the dog actually growls at him or cries out, that only seems to act as encouragement for Finley. He likes the excitement.
I decided to look into volunteering at the St. Augustine Humane Society. Although the Humane Society requires kids with parents to be 12, they made an exception for my son. One day of the week after school we go for about an hour. Mostly we walk the dogs, but as the weather gets warmer we will also bathe them. We also take dogs into a fenced area and just play with the dogs. This has become our favorite thing to do. Especially when we find a dog that likes to play fetch. This activity allows Finley to interact with the dog without actually touching it.
In the beginning, Finley was very excited about volunteering, but then he started to complain about it. We stuck it out though and now he looks forward to going and is very disappointed if we can’t go for some reason.
Conclusion: We look forward every week seeing the new dogs at the Humane Society and are always very happy when one of our favorites is no longer there. Finley and I have found a great after school activity and will continue to volunteer for many years to come.
What: St. Augustine Humane Society
Where: 1665 Old Moultrie Road
When: Mondays after school
Hours: 1 hour per week
Duration: No end it sight
Objective: Helping small farms thrive in Vermont through volunteering with an organization which aids small-scale farmers, educates the public and lobbies the state to ammend/overturn laws that do not apply to small-scale farming.
Summary: This summer, the farmer who supplies me with yogurt from her happy, grass-fed cow, was shut down by the State of Vermont for not complying with state laws concerning milk processing. She has one cow. The state wants her to invest $100,000 in the proper equipment that would satisfy the state’s processing rules. This is a scenario that repeats itself across the state. We have a lot of small, family-owned farms in Vermont who are providing organic produce and high quality animal products from humanely raised animals. The problem that many are facing, especially those raising animals, is a regulatory system that was originally designed for industrial-scale farms and which inhibits small farms from making a decent living. My main interest is the raw milk lobby. Small-scale milk producers have been required to adhere to rules designed for industrial milk-producers (the $100,000 investment), making dairy farming an unprofitable occupation for anyone with fewer than 100 cows. Recently, through the efforts of RuralVermont.org, the state of Vermont passed new legislation allowing up to 50 quarts a day of raw milk to be sold to consumers directly from the farm. That is one cow’s worth of milk. The consumer must seek it out, as it is not legal to sell this milk at the farmer’s markets. The rules for pasteurization have a long history of their own and do not apply to milk produced by small farms raising cows on pasture. So limiting the sale of raw milk and making it difficult for the consumer to access is an injustice to local consumers as well as farmers. I have joined RuralVermont.org which is dedicated to lobbying the state to ammend or overturn any laws that should not apply to small-scale farming, allowing the family farm in Vermont to thrive once again.
Conclusion: My first project was an op-ed piece for the local newspaper explaining the health benefits of raw milk, the history of pasteurization, and why the laws need to changed. I thought it was a really good article, but they haven’t printed it! Maybe next week. My next project is rallying local artists to donate artwork that RuralVermont will use to print notecards. These notecards will be sold to raise money for RuralVermont.org to help support farmers. Later this fall I will be involved in lobbying the legislature to revisit the raw milk bill, to both increase the amount of milk that can be legally sold and to allow farmers to sell it from the marketplace.
Objective: To introduce the practice of yoga to supplement the current training regimen of the Chester River Rowing Club, while using the opportunity to plant seeds of peace, compassion and ego-less appreciation for ourselves and each other.
Summary: Rowing is a complex sport; not only strength and endurance, but balance, flexibility, and focus are all tremendously important aspects of good rowing. I believe an intro to the practice of yoga could help them improve flexibility, balance, breathing, focus, and injury prevention just to name a few.
Rowing tends to attract incredible intelligent community leaders, yet incredibly intense Type A personalities. Unfortunately, these intense personalities tend to lead to tempers that flare, hurt feelings and bottled up angst that comes out in the worst possible moments. I will use yoga to offer an alternative way of how we handle ourselves on and off the water. I will attempt to show how yoga teaches us about connection with ourselves and all living things. Through the discovery and realization of the connection that all living things have to each other, I hope an element of camaraderie, non-violence and peace can begin to shine through. So, no matter if we win or lose, we can be injury free, agile and live with a sense of appreciation for our competitors and a feeling of peace. In turn, these feelings can only lead us to all be even better community leaders!
When: An hour and half, once a week for six weeks.
Hours: 9 hours initially. Potentially more if demand is high.
Duration: As long as possible!.
Objective: To help out my small community in any way I can. I’m also learning to communicate with different people so this project is helping me with my people skills as well.
I believe my real give back project is with my friend Sara’s Grandmother. I help her with daily activates and even drive her to the stores or doctors appointments when she needs me to. I do feel good about the meals on wheels project and the new friends I have made. But I can’t say that that is the only way I learned to give back.
Summary: The give back project I chose sort of found me. I have tea with a friend’s grandmother every week. Her name is Jeanette and she’s 84 years young and lives on her own. When I go to visit her she often asks me to do odd job or run errands for her. She follows me to the door when I leave saying thank you so much you made my day.
Recently she told me of her friend Emily. She has known for years and she lives down the road from her alone as well. Emily keeps forgetting to eat and winds up in the hospital occasionally because of dehydration. I found out that her son arranged to have the meals on wheels program bring her food everyday but she doesn’t like to eat alone and sometime she just plain forgets that she skipped a meal. The reason for this is they believe she has the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.
So I enrolled in the meals on wheels program as a driver two days a week. I didn’t have a choice of routes but it just happened that I got the one in Emily’s town. I had Jeanette tell her who I was because the first day I went to deliver her meals, she gave me a big hug and kiss but rushed me out the door. The next visit I brought a sandwich, it was my lunch hour from work, and asked if I could eat my lunch with her. We now have lunch and tea two times a week. She loves to tell me stories of her life and I love the hugs she gives me.
I deliver food to two and sometimes three other people as well. Sometimes I bring them all flowers from my garden. One man named Jim told me one day with a big smile, “This is just what I needed today.” I love my lunch breaks on Monday and Friday now. It really does fill me up.
What: Meal in wheels.
Where: Greene County, Department for the aging. 411 Catskill N.Y 12414
When: Monday & Friday
Hours: One hour a day -sometime longer.
Duration: This project will continue as long as I’m needed.
To be of service to the shelter where I adopted three family pets
I contacted the Southside Animal Shelter in Indianapolis where two of our pets came from and offered to volunteer. My only fear was if I volunteered, I may adopt another pet. We definitely have enough pets. I went and worked at an animal adoption fair. We met at the shelter and took four kittens and a puppy to a pet store on the other side of town. I spent most of the afternoon there with the animals. Walking the puppy around the store got a lot of attention. Unfortunately none of them got adopted. We did get some donations for the center. Then we took the animals back to the center.
The center got a lot of exposure and many people stopped to pet and play with the animals
What: working an adoption fair at a pet store
Where: Moochie & Company at Castleton Square Mall
6020 E 82nd Street #1407
Indianapolis, Indiana 46250
Hours : 5.0
Duration to be done monthly on a weekend
Objective: To offer a gentle, six-weeks course of “Yoga for Seniors with Osteoarthritis” to seniors in East Harlem, New York City, in order to assess the impact of yoga classes on participants’ levels of pain and flexibility and quality of sleep.
Summary: Yoga classes were offered once a week over six weeks between mid September and late November to 23 senior citizens in four different senior institutions in East Harlem, New York City. Most were of Puerto Rican or Spanish speaking origins and all had low incomes and little knowledge of, or exposure to yoga. Most of the students (18/22) had been diagnosed with arthritis. Students evaluated the classes three times during the course, and the evaluations were positive in terms of 1) decrease in intensity of arthritis symptoms of pain, stiffness and sleeplessness; 2) reports of home practice of breathing and poses; and 3) largely positive written and spoken evaluation of individual classes and the six-week course.
Twenty three senior students took six weeks of yoga classes with fairly regular attendance. More seniors signed up for the classes than actually attended; those who attended were engaged, open hearted and eager men and women. It was a privilege to work with them. More than half of the students with arthritis reported improvement in their symptoms. All but one reported practicing some breathing and asana at home. All but one made positive assessments of individual classes and the six week course.
Among the next steps are the preparation of 2-3 standard yoga class sequences appropriate for classes that include students who practice from chairs as well as from mats; and clearer pre- and post- evaluation documents.
2009 a six-week “Yoga for Seniors with Arthritis” class will be offered to seniors in 1-3 Senior Centers in East Harlem, New York City
I have been teaching yoga for roughly four (4) years and I had recently taken a Kids Yoga Certification which I’ve been teaching for almost one (1) year. I personally love the way yoga makes me feel. I had been doing yoga with my own girls for about two (2) years and since they love it so I wanted to do something to help other children discover yoga too.
Summary: Since my girls have been doing yoga I had noticed several improvements. Their concentration had increased (they weren’t so easily distracted), their self-confidence had greatly improved as well as their coordination, and they just felt better about themselves. So I decided since I’ve been giving yoga class in my home studio to the adults in my rural community I decided to give something back to the people here who might not have the resources and/or knowledge to help their children discover their inner selves.
So I decided to make a flyer and post it at our town hall in the town of Blanchard, LA. So if you’re trying to reach a large number of people who live in town or in the outside parish you post a flyer on the bulletin board in the Town Hall. So that is exactly what I did. I hold a class on the second Saturday of each month a Kids Yoga class (Fit 4 Wings Kids Yoga/because my studio is Fit 4 Wings Yoga) at my home. That worked good to start with I had started with 4 children ages 5 – 10 and after roughly the third month I had to move my group to the Poke Salad Festival area (a large grassy area where Blanchard celebrates the Poke Salad Festival and has a large covered area). Now I have anywhere from 15 – 20 ages range from 5 – 12 so I had to split them into two separate classes to better accommodate the age range. Which worked out really well and some of the older children are helpers with the younger children which adds to their confidence as well. Several of the parents have come up to me and let me know about the changes they see in their children and they are so happy which makes me feel extremely blessed to pass on my knowledge and love of yoga.
Conclusion: Since the kids yoga went so well I’ve increased my classes to two Saturdays a month. I’ve also added an adult class for the parents after the kid’s class. So while the adults have an abbreviated class the kids play in the town school playground, and after class we all sit together and have a snack and just talk either about class or anything they like. My own personal observation is not only have they all made new friends, but they are more open to talking about problems with me and/or their parents so we can help them work through the tough years of growing up. Not to mention my girls who I often use as an example (for foot and/or hand placement/modification never anything like look at how well she can do this. Always done with compassion) have loved sharing what they know with the others.
What: Fit 4 Wings Kids Yoga
Where: Blanchard, LA (Poke Salad Festival Pavilion)
When: First & Third Saturday of each month
Hours: Kids classes (45 mins.), Adult classes (1 Hour)
Duration: February 2008 thru at least until Winter/Longer if I find a bigger area inside
Objective: To provide ongoing support to disabled outdoor athletes, wounded warriors, and other individuals seeking information on healthy living or who just need assistance getting through the day. I make an effort to privately “be there” on the other end of the phone when wounded warriors suffering through the symptoms of PTSD call; I don’t want them to ever feel alone. I get my inspiration from them. They are my teachers.
Summary: For about 2 years, I have been engaged in providing ongoing support, on my own, to disabled athletes and wounded warriors I have met at our programs at the Adaptive Sports Foundation. Currently, my communication is via email, text, phone and mail; I have also made out-of-town visits. I’m often in contact with warriors suffering through the symptoms of PTSD on a daily or weekly basis. I have also invited wounded warriors to my house for days to go hiking, practice healthy eating and exercise, engage in meditation and making music! It has evolved naturally and unintentionally. However, my goal is to add a blog and video-conferencing, and engage numerous experts in an on-line dialog on healthy living through outdoor activity, yoga and meditation, community and sustainability.
I have a diverse combination of health-related experience from perspectives as a yoga practitioner, as a personal trainer, as an outdoor educator, as a strength-based and adventure-based counselor, as a middle school health teacher, as a sports coach, as a student of nutrition, and as a sustainable design consultant who has designed numerous healthy homes for others. As an engineer, I have an affinity towards solving challenges! As an outdoor trip leader, I am happiest in the mountains sharing earth’s beauty with others.
Eventually, it is my hope to build a sustainably-designed retreat where disabled athletes and wounded warriors can learn sustainable-living skills, outdoor living skills, and relationship-building skills in a supportive and spiritually-focused natural setting. Yoga will be a natural component of the setting. Outdoor adventure will be another. This long-term goal will involve the creation of a new not-for-profit. For now, my immediate goal is just to develop one-on-one dialogue, build relationships and a community of like-minded supportive individuals who find the personal benefit of healing themselves while helping others.
Where: Helping others heal will be my life’s work. Helping others live in a healthy and mindful manner will be my life’s work. I am and will be based in Vermont with my wife, Jo Kirsch. For the immediate future, we will continue our work in New York at the Adaptive Sports Foundation, develop more of an online presence, and continue to take others on adventures to discover and appreciate the miracles of Earth, of our energetic and spiritual connections, and of the Divine within each of us.
Objective: Offer the experience of meditation to a population who might not otherwise be exposed to this practice.
Summary: I teach a yoga class at the senior center in my town (Rutland, VT) every Friday morning. I often read something to the class at the end of the practice – either a poem, or a piece from one of the translations of the Yoga Sutras, or a snippet of “words of wisdom” from any one of many of my favorite yoga/meditation books. Some of my students express interest in learning more about the more philosophical side of yoga, once they have seen that the practice is not all just about a physical exercise regimen. So I spoke with the director at the senior center, about volunteering to offer a weekly class in meditation, following the asana class, and at no charge to the participants. She thought it was a great idea. I proposed it to my students, and they seemed eager to start. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to reach out to some people who might not otherwise be exposed to such “esoteric” things as yoga and meditation. I’ll put some flyers around, and invite people to come to the meditation, regardless of whether they want to attend the yoga (asana) class.
What: Meditation, with an introduction to a variety of techniques/tools to focus the mind and increase awareness.
Where: Godnick Senior/Adult Center, 1 Deer St. Rutland, VT
When: Friday mornings, 11:30
Who: Open to the public
Objective: To teach aspects of the Duke Integrative Medicine pioneering program, “Yoga of Awareness for Cancer” to patients and survivors. The intention of this program is to convey essential elements of yoga in a context that helps decrease pain, fatigue, insomnia, stress, and negative emotional feelings and increase healing in areas of strength, acceptance, empowerment, and relaxation.
Summary: More than 10 million Americans today are survivors of cancer and more than a million new cases are diagnosed each year. According to the New York Times, yoga is offered as therapy in 93 percent of 755 integrative medical centers across the nation. Physicians are utilizing yoga therapy as an adjunct practice to modern medicine. “Yoga of Awareness for Cancer” has been shown in research studies at Duke University Medical Center to help decrease negative symptoms and increase stability amid life’s ever changing waves.
On July 1, 2010, I completed professional training at the Duke Integrative Medicine Center. The program was initiated by Jim and Kimberly Carson who
trained us through discussions, support skills when teaching yoga and lectures by Duke medical experts in oncology, psychiatry, behavioral science and physical therapy,
As an adjunct part of the professional training, we were requested to teach an introductory program in an oncology setting. In addition, I also incorporated working with a survivor individually.
As a Therapeutic Yoga Specialist, I had the opportunity to offer a two-hour introductory program to cancer survivors. The program, which I titled, Riding the Waves, was located at The Gathering Place, a facility whose mission is, “ to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer through programs and services provided free of charge. Seven women participated in the program. During the two-hours, I utilized a power point program, taught yoga asanas, instructed in mindfulness, and facilitated a discussion, which included awareness, acceptance, love, empowerment and relaxation. Through the introductory program it was hoped that participants begin to live mindfully, and healthfully, by discovering their physical and mental equilibrium.
Offering cancer patients and survivors a yoga program in a context that has been instituted by modern, evidence-based medicine, develops the hopes and beliefs of enduring a life long foundation.
What: Duke program for cancer patients and survivors.
Where: The Gathering Place, Beachwood, Ohio.
Objective: To help cleanup the Chesapeake Bay and the environment by working on restoration projects in the Bay watershed.
Summary: A watershed is the land surrounding a body of water that drains into the water, which in the case of the Chesapeake Bay includes six states surrounding it (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Delaware). 64,000 square miles and everything in every stream, storm drain and construction site ends up in the Bay at some point. So by keeping things clean in your local neighborhood you can also help cleanup a larger body of water, which in our case is the Chesapeake Bay. One of the Bay’s biggest problems believe it or not– is dirt or sediment. The sediment comes into the Bay and clouds the water so that plants cannot grow, thus causing a chain reaction on the food chain. To help water quality we need to stabilize sediment with natural filters like trees, so our project will include planting trees, planting native grasses and working on a sustainable agriculture farm. My plan is to have my kids come with me to teach them more about the environment and let them be part of the solution.
When: We will be working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation so we will be part of their volunteer program. When they need volunteers we will show up.
Duration: We will continue to volunteer for many years to come.
To raise money and awareness for a local drug and alcohol rehab center in Nashua New Hampshire while teaching Yoga. The class was a Power Vinyasa Asana and my Philosophy theme was the roots of Namaste and what the inner light means.
The Keystone Hall is an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center that serves southern New Hampshire. We incorporated the charity event with the grand opening of the new facility at New Hampshire Power Yoga. We sent out a press release that was covered by several local papers. A second class will be run on Christmas Day, morning.
My Namaste philosophy part of the class covered the idea that when we practice Asana we allow our minds to focus. Through this process we drop Samskara and discover our inner selves. I gave some cultural views on how it is used in India. I explained that the hands are held at heart center in Anjali Mudra to acknowledge the 4th chakra where love and compassion come from. I went through western philosophies on how we define our true selves, A priori and Empirical Logic. I talked about the meditation technique called Koham. I explained that we say Namaste at the end of practice because we are closest to our true self. Then we can have our inner light acknowledge the inner light of the others in class.
Conclusion: We raised $537 at the first class. We were able to have a story run in a New Hampshire Magazine and several papers ran the press release in their papers. 25 people attended the class. Several were members who prepay for the month or year.
Where: Merrimack New Hampshire
When: We plan to do two events every year.
Objectives: To teach middle school girls mindfulness and healthy habits through walking
Summary of Volunteer Experience: A few years back, my friend Vanessa and I started a nonprofit organization called GirlTrek. Our goal was to inspire and organize Black girls and women – whose communities are most at risk – to live healthier and more fulfilled lives.
In 2008, I led an inaugural walking or “trek” team of 25 middle school girls, teachers, mothers in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We walked nature trails, along rivers and through the streets of our neighborhood.
In 2009, GirlTrek helped 17 women become “active role models”. They set ambitious fitness goals, worked hard, and told their victory stories to girls through photos, videos and blogs!
By 2010, we launched a national walking campaign, hosted wellness retreats, and supported 25 trek teams – helping over 2000 women in 37 states to live healthier lives.This year, GirlTrek has grown to an active community of 50,000 women, and 40 teams, with a strong international following of military women.
The most rewarding part of volunteering has been leading local teams. This year, after my husband and I moved to New Jersey, I started a team of 21 girls and women in Newark. Two of the girls are featured in the picture walking around a local track.
The most challenging part of volunteering is finding time to do it. In addition to GirlTrek, I work and care for myself and my family. The mission keeps me going. Our long-term goal is to inspire girls to develop healthy habits. GirlTrek relies on ordinary women like me – our stories, photographs and overall leadership to propel that mission. Check us out at www.girltrek.org
When: Ongoing; 2008 to present
Duration: The “Trek Season” is 10 weeks, starting May 1st; We provide one off support and inspiration all year.
Hours: I volunteer 8 hours a week.
Inspiration: Harriet Tubman’s service and ultimate freedom walks, Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditations, girls and women in our families and neighborhoods.
Objective: My goal is to teach a free class approximately once a month for members of the community who might not otherwise have a chance to practice yoga and expose interested folks to the benefits of Astanga yoga and meditation.
Summary: Each month I lead a class free of charge at a neighborhood Church of Christ. This class is for anyone who might not have a chance to practice elsewhere or who can’t afford the cost of a class on a regular basis. Many folks could benefit but I see college students, those with scheduling issues, and folks with economic hardships as the primary participants. My hope is that I can share the benefits of yoga and meditation with the local community.
What: Community Free Yoga Class On-going
When: Monthly, on-going
Where: Greensboro, NC
To help artisans from different communities in Perú– in this occasion: Porcón, Cajamarca—make their work known so they will be able to have a constant income which will help improve their quality of life. Since yoga is not very well known neither massively practiced in Perú, there is very little or no market at all, regarding, for example, yoga mat bags. Our idea is that their knowledge, expertness and creativity in knitting, as well as the natural materials they use, can produce beautiful yoga mat bags.
There are around 20 women and 4 or 5 artisan men involved in this project. Most of them do not know how to read and /or write). The wool that they use in their textiles/ work is lamb wool, and there are several steps before the product (yoga mat bag) is finished: shear, wash, dye, sew, knit. The process of production goes through all these setps even though they only have one loom and very little –or no water or electricity
Porcón, Cajamarca. Perú
We begun working with them since 2007 and hopefully we will be able to continue helping and supporting, so they get known and may receive orders from abroad, and also from yoga practitioners in Perú, and continue working, not only with yoga bags but with a variety of products and designs.
Objective: To develop a therapeutic, educational program that provides an integrated system of yoga poses, conscious breathing techniques, and mindfulness. The curriculum is designed to promote the individual’s unification of mind and body. The main objective was to teach individuals with special needs how to support their personal intrinsic drive through self-development and empowerment. Participants are of all ages and abilities.
Over the past three and a half decades I had the honor to teach, learn and love individuals with special needs. As a certified Special Education teacher, Nationally Certified School Psychologist, and Therapeutic Yoga Specialist, I developed the YogaReach program. Since 2004, the program has provided classes and individualized instruction.
As the founder of YogaReach two group classes and private classes are offered once a week. During the 2010 –2011 school year a teen to young adult class and an adult class were available. The teen class had individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, emotional disturbance, down syndrome, and other health impairments. The average number of students was 10. The adult class consisted of 35 participants that lived in group homes all over the Cleveland, Ohio area. Participants utilized walkers, wheel chairs, canes and were identified with all types of disabilities.
Offering individuals with special needs a yoga program in professional context institutes successful and life long foundations in their educational, physical, mental and social capabilities.
To view the CureTalk blog/YouTube:
Objective: To raise $30K, the cost of one school, by the time of my departure for Nicaragua.
Summary: This fundraising project was (and still is) a very daunting endeavor- $30K is more money than I had in my bank account! I began by rounding up people and resources that I knew I had available to me. I first spoke withe the organization itself; I visited headquarters in Stamford CT, I spoke with their fundraising advisors to ask how its done, and even left with some promotional materials like business cards and posters. Next I figured out where I was most likely to be able to gather funds and came up with three basic areas:
Fundraising Events: With the help of some friends, family, and the yoga community I was able to put on two successful events. The first was in my hometown on July 27th at “The Bench Bar & Grill” in Stony Brook, NY. For the event we gathered raffle and auction items from local business, booked a great local band who played for free, and worked with the restaurant who offered food and drink specials to all of our guests and did not charge us any fees. We raised just over $7K that night. The next event was held on October 26th at a personal residence in Tribeca, NY., with a Karmic theme. Food and drinks were donated by the hostesses, a tarot reader and psychic were hired at a split cost, and a silent auction was held on products we had collected. We raised just under $5K that night.
Corporate Donations: With the help of my parents’ plumbing and heating company, we created a fundraising letter requesting donations to the cause and sent it out to 30 other business in the industry. That effort brought just over $8K.
Lots of small donations: With the help of facebook and email I was able to get about $2K in small donations from countless friends and family.
Outcome: I was only able to raise 2/3 of the money that I set out to raise, ending up with just over $20K. I still consider the project a success; the money will be put to great use. I also had the benefit of working through a very humbling experience, and greeting the challenge.
Objective: To build a school in Nicaragua with buildOn.
Summary: This give back project is a continuation of my last project: Fundraising to build a “buildOn” School in Nicaragua. I am currently working on the next phase of this endeavor which began with my arrival in Nicaragua on December 28th, 2011. I am spending time learning about the organization and their operations in country, as well as tackling the Spanish language so that I may be able to communicate more effectively when I visit the communities. My fundraising money has not yet been put to use. There has been discussion of collaboration with a group of college students in Oregon who have the goal of fundraising enough for half of a school, and then coming to Nicaragua on a Trek (see website below) this summer to help build it. If this works out, then my school- in partnership with some Oregonian university students- should be constructed by the end of Summer 2012.
OBJECTIVE: Removal of the invasive weed, Garlic Mustard, from Maybury State Park, Northville, MI
HISTORY: Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a member of the mustard family and is native to Europe. The leaves have a pungent garlic smell when crushed, hence its name. It is an invasive species in woodlots of the US and Canada. Garlic Mustard reproduces so prolifically that in a short period of time it will convert a diverse natural habitat into a monoculture consisting only of itself.
Garlic Mustard was brought into this country by the early European settlers. The plant was used for food and medicine in old world households. It is high in vitamins A and C and was very important to the diets of early settlers.
Garlic Mustard invades and replaces the native plant diversity and is not beneficial to wildlife. By out competing our native woodland wildflowers, large areas of Maybury State Park have been infested by this nuisance plant.
ACTION PLAN: There are several methods used to remove and control this pest. Application of herbicides is effective, but this is a non selective approach. Native flora is lost along with the Garlic Mustard. Burning has also proved effective but requires a major commitment of manpower and equipment to keep the fires under control. The most effective method has been to pull the plant and bag it for disposal in landfills. Composting is not an option as the temperatures in the compost pile are below the range required to kill this very tenacious plant.
It is our intent to organize and educate the user groups who frequent the park to commit to work parties to be held on Saturday mornings in April and May to pull and dispose of Garlic Mustard plants. These groups would include the Friends of Maybury State Park, Northville Road Runners, Maybury Trail Riders, Michigan Mountain Bikers, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the Beautiful Singles Hiking Group and the general public at large. By providing leadership and support to these stakeholders, we feel we can make a major contribution in controlling, if not eradicating, Garlic Mustard in Maybury State Park.
UPDATE (4/11): The first three photos on the side are from the 2010 pulling season. The first of these photos attached show that you are never to young to join in the effort to control this invasive plant. The second photo shows George with a group of cub scouts. Rain is no obstacle to keeping up the fight! The third photo shows June with adult volunteers from our local REI store, celebrating National Trails Day.
The fourth photo, taken April 9th, 2011, depicts the ‘kick off’ for this pulling season, George and a group of cub scouts from a neighboring community.
We have been successful in having a few photos and a lengthy interview in our local paper which has drawn interest and volunteers. We have also received support from the Stewardship Network in the form of printed educational material, disposable bags and gloves. As awareness of the problem has increased, we have had scout troops and others reach out to us for this 2011 season and we are in the process of scheduling more group pulls.
We schedule regular Saturday morning pulls during the ‘pulling’ season, April to June. Once the plant has gone to seed, it is best left in place rather than risking the formation of new colonies from ‘lost’ seeds.
We are committed to pulling two hours or more per week as well as organizing others to pull independently.
We will continue this effort for as long as we are physically able.
Objective: To raise funds for habitat protection of endangered species (World Wildlife Fund)
Summary: The students in my Yoga 11 class organized a school wide fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund. They publicized and sold tickets for the event, set up a theatre full of yoga mats, greeted and assisted students new to Yoga, set up an information booth on WWF’s work, contacted the regional office of the WWF and were featured on the national website for communities in action. Over 70 students participated in the event, practicing yoga for the benefit of animal welfare. It was a fun and educational event, and plans are already in place to repeat the Yoga Jam next year!
Conclusion: This was an empowering project for my students who designed and organized the event. They learned leadership skills and took responsibility for the planning of the project. I taught the yoga asana class, and they taught me about having compassion for animals that have no voice.
What? Yoga Jam
Where? Northumberland Regional High School, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada
When? May 9, 2011
Hours? One hour physical practice, lots of behind the scenes prep work
Project Duration: One-time yearly event