When asked  how my trip was, I can't help but reply with, "One of the best experiences of my life." And that's far from an exaggeration. We spent the first half of our week at the Haitian American Caucus with a group of 15 school teachers. Our goal was to give them skills and tools to use right within their classrooms with their students. We designed a curriculum and broke the 3 day training into themes of Connection, Energy Building, and Relaxation - thinking of course, what would be the most beneficial approach to reaching children through yoga during their school day. 

And benefit they did! Not only did they enjoy the experience of yoga through play, but they were also able to connect in a way they may not have known they could reach – they were fullof life and able to let go, all within the same session. We left the group with breakdowns of poses to use with their children to help them find connection to themselves and their surroundings through breath and movement. We left them with yoga games to play, like Yoga Freeze Dance, Animal Asana and Pass the Pose. We left them with creative calming activities like Mind Jars, Eye Pillows and various meditations. We left them with ideas to either lead a mini kids class right within their classrooms or to simply take the much needed classroom yoga breaks. We even left them ideas and supplies (thanks to the generous amounts of donations collected) on how to build a Peace Corner within their cl

assroom - to have a safe space available for the child who may be in need of taking a break and finding some peace. And amongst the questions upon the closing of our training...when will you be back so we can learn even more!? My heart was full. 

I didn't think my heart could get any fuller, and then it did. When we arrived to Petionville, we met 20 beautiful young adults who had been in a year long yoga teacher training through Ayiti Yoga with Lizandra Vidal. They had an established yoga practice, amazing body awareness, and had already begun how to learn how to structure an adult yoga class. Our goal here was to teach a 4.5 hour workshop on how to structure a children's yoga class, since that is the population the majority of them would be teaching to. We reviewed the comparison of an adult class to a kid’s class...very similar, except we may be playing some games after our Sun Salutation, as well as mooing and meowing through Cat and Cow! After experiencing a fun-filled and heart warming kids class, we broke down the 5 Pillars of

 Children's Yoga, a comprehensive approach to teaching a kids class inspired by our own training with Little Flower Yoga - Connect, Breath, Move, Focus, Relax. Or as our Haitian friends may know it - Konekte, Resipre, Bouge, Fokus, Relanche. Following the workshop, we travelled through the streets of Haiti with mats on backs, to the local YWCA. Breaking down into small groups, they began to structure mini classes to teach the groups of girls there. 

Outside under a canopy of trees, I stood observing these young budding yoga teachers put into practice what we had just taught them. They had a bag of tricks to use with their kids and I had tears in my eyes, loving what I was seeing - not only had they grasped the beauty and lightness of bringing yoga to children, but you could also see a sense of love and lightness in themselves. It's something I strive for every time I teach or step on my mat to practice - to be able to put down whatever it is we carry - our stressors, our worries, our fears, our doubts - and to find freedom from that which weighs heavily on our shoulders. Sometimes it feels like we do, but no one person can carry the world. When we come together and share a common good, like the practice of yoga, we begin to unite, find support within the community built and ultimately let go. Watching these children practice yoga, in a part of the world that has been traumatized and devastated, fills me with hope and continues to open my eyes to the beauty and magic that fills every corner of this ever inspiring country. I’ve been home from Haiti for a little over 2 weeks now…and I can’t wait to go back! 

Confucius says, “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.” I feel as though I’ve left a piece of my heart with each of these groups and in return they have filled my heart with the strength and courage to continue on my own path. Yoga is union, connection, community. I definitely feel more connected then I’ve ever been and I thank Go Give Yoga and the community of yogis in Haiti for that. Much gratitude always.

 - Karen Gilmour, July 2014 Volunteer

“The first time we went to the orphanage was the hardest experience.  We weren’t prepared for what to expect and it was overwhelming to see all these kids with disabilities.  We ended up going back a second time.  It was so gratifying to see the kids faces light up as a result of the music, singing and playing games.  You could see the children’s faces change just from hearing their names. They were really excited and the connections we made led to many magical moments.”

~ Debbie Harbeck, March 2012 Volunteer Go Give Yoga

“At the orphanage, one little blind boy, about 3 or 4 years old, looked so miserable, walking around and seeming lost when we first came in. But he sat on my lap and soon his face lit up, too.  When we did the “om”, we must have sustained it for five minutes and  think the vibration he felt from my chest comforted him.”

“One day, the kids from Cite de Soleil came.  It is the worst slum in Port au Prince, dangerous and unsanitary with horrible living conditions. They arrived in a bus that could comfortably fit maybe 12, but they just kept streaming out --- 51 in all, including a husband and wife.  What was so remarkable was how well behaved the kids were. And so excited. Then they sang a welcome song and said a prayer for us in Creole.”

“Seeing the children’s pure delight in ‘playing yoga’, and going as a team with the other yoga teachers.”

~ Anita Haravon, March 2012 Volunteeer

“Meeting two extraordinary Haitian individuals who have made the needs of orphaned children in Haiti their life mission. First there was M. Gilbert Edumé who founded a school (First College Internationale de Southe) that serves 200 orphaned children. He was such a kind and gentle man and the children in his care were incredibly well mannered and welcoming, they even sang songs to welcome us the second time we visited. The second individual was a woman named Gertrude, a retired nun who was frustrated in seeing disabled children cast aside and isolated. She started her own orphanage which houses 41 children, about half of them disabled, in her home. It was an honor to meet and speak with these two incredible people who have improved the lives of so many Haitian children.”

~ Debbie Harbeck, March 2012 Volunteer

“Going to church with the friends we met was very special.”

“Visiting the orphanages was also a highlight.” 
~ Ada Dollevoet, Feb. 2012 Volunteer

Go Give Yoga“Some of the most beautiful moments were when we gave the kids sandwiches.  We brought a ton of peanut butter and bought local bread every day.  After yoga and savasana, in answer to the first chakra, we “gave food” – a peanut butter sandwich for each and some water. The kids showed their gratitude in their politeness and how they looked out for each other, making sure a brother or sister got a sandwich, too, before they ate.  I watched one little girl lick the peanut butter off of her sandwich and save the bread, I think to take back to her family”. 

~ Kim

“One night, before we went to sleep, we saw cockroaches and all broke up laughing. Not at all how we would have reacted at home. It was refreshing."

“The children and the people will remain in my heart forever.  The mediation was especially powerful and moving.  All of the children seemed to respond positively to mediation.  It was especially moving with the children at the orphanage.  We were limited in asana practice at the orphanage because the children were suffering from an array of physical, mental and emotional difficulties.  We ended up working primarily with breathing and modified asana practice sitting on our mats.  This caused each of us to be creative and was an intense personal challenge for me as a mother because the situation was very sad and, unlike the kids from the tent cities that have hope for a home someday, these kids did not seem to have hope.  But all of our efforts of spreading love and light were confirmed during the mediation at the orphanage more dramatically:  each of the children was at peace and the entire atmosphere of the group (close to 50 kids) had totally transformed from chaos to peaceful unity.  It was incredible!”

~ Pamela Waldorf Janson, Feb. 2012 Volunteer


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