Visiting India to see change in action.
“Why is there no yoga class that gives back to India?” Eleven years ago, I asked this simple question of yoga teachers, studio owners, and yogi friends. There were many charity yoga classes for HIV patients, cancer survivors, animal rescues, and other worthy causes. But I didn’t see a class that focused on addressing the deep-rooted poverty issues of India, the Motherland of Yoga. This question was at the root of how Yoga Gives Back (YGB) was born.
“For the cost of one yoga class, you can change a life,” quickly became our mantra and continues to inspire yogis around the world to take action and give back. I never imagined that YGB’s mission would eventually reach out to yoga communities in 20 countries worldwide, enabling us to empower nearly 1,300 underserved mothers, youths and children with micro-loans and funds for education.
Worldwide, an estimated 300 million practicing yogis drive an $ 80 billion industry. YGB’s new goal is to engage #OneMillionYogis to take action, regardless of the size of one’s contribution.
Yoga Gives Back Team Visits India
With each visit to India, St Francis’ words, “By giving, you receive,” echo deep in my heart. I have been to India almost every year since YGB’s inception in 2007. Each time, I end my visit overwhelmed with gratitude as I learn more about our fund recipients’ tough lives and their incredible resilience, as well as the dedicated leaders and staff working at our NGO (Nonprofit Non-Governmental Organization) partners in Karnataka and West Bengal.
It has long been my wish to share this precious trip with more people. For the first 10 years, I kept the visiting team small while we were still growing our programs and partnerships. We were going into the homes of micro-loan recipients, hearing personal stories of hardship, and staying in the guest house of an orphanage learning about the tragic backgrounds of these abandoned children. So, as a documentary filmmaker, YGB FILMS became the perfect solution for sharing the truth with our worldwide supporters.
Over the years, YGB has connected me to the global family of compassionate and grateful souls. YGB connects us on a deep level because of the mission. Inspired by this, Julee Yew-Crijns, YGB Ambassador in the UK, proposed the idea of a YGB Seva Trip.
Yoga Gives Back Global Ambassadors Visit India
It was time. In January, 2018, I visited with a team of eight YGB Global Ambassadors and supporters who have been passionately involved in YGB’s programs for many years from all over the world, including Abu Dhabi, London, Los Angeles, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Thailand, and Tokyo. Eight of us convened in Bangalore: Anouk Prop (The Netherlands/Thailand), Beate Scholz (Los Angeles), Bonnie Ikemura (Los Angeles), Julee Yew Crijns (the U.K./Malaysia), Lauren Peterson (Los Angeles), Mina Lee (UAE/Korea), Sharda ten Hove (Bali/The Netherlands), and me.
For the next two weeks, we visited YGB programs in Bangalore, Chamarajanagar, Mysore, and rural Kolkata in West Bengal.
The group of us were from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds with yoga as a uniting force. In India, we shared an unforgettable two weeks learning about the people directly touched by YGB’s programs.
According to Anouk Prop, “During our YGB Seva visit, the girls that received a Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) prepared a deeply touching play for us on the manipulative process of trafficking, the play of power and control, and how girls and women are standing up against this in the villages of West Bengal.”
Lauren Peterson says, “I was impressed by the films made by the students at Deenabandhu that dealt with issues like combating the superstitions that restrict women and girls. It was heart-warming to see how grateful and generous the recipients are. They share what little they have and watch out for each other.”
Yogis Changing Lives
With the growing support for #OneMillionYogis campaign, YGB is empowering these lives in 2018:
- 25 young girls rescued to avoid becoming prostitutes will receive education and live in a group home.
- 30 children who have no families to depend on live in a loving home.
- 261 disadvantaged students received a five-year scholarship for higher education.
- 440 rural impoverished mothers enjoy their income earning work with micro loans.
- 462 rural young girls continue their primary education and avoid child labor or marriage.
When it comes to Yoga Gives Back, Beate Scholz says, “It is astounding to me how much very little money supporting education can change the life of children and how much micro-loans can help women to start their own businesses. We met many of those children and women, and we saw their pride and happiness. We could feel the change YGB donations have made in their lives.”
Sharda ten Hove says, “YGB programs have a huge impact on the future of these women and children. They are all eager to learn and to make something of their lives, something that can inspire us and our children. I would like my community to know that every dollar donated to YGB can help change the lives of this generation as well as future generations as they are all committed to creating better conditions for their villages.”
Support Yoga Gives Back
YGB’s 2019 Annual Fundraiser Gala is on Sunday, September 29 at Glo. For tickets and to offer support, visit: yogagivesback.org
Kayoko Mitsumatsu is a documentary filmmaker and avid yoga practitioner. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Yoga Gives Back: yogagivesback.org.