Attending a talk by the always inspirational, Jack Kornfield last week at Spirit Rock presented the serendipitous good luck to run into friends I had not seen in a long while. Sitting together with them taking in Jack’s message that we can retain our dignity and essential joy within human life’s messiness was a perfect moment…
We were all there to learn from this eminent, humble teacher and all of us in my little group were also involved with education: yoga teachers, meditation teachers, teacher trainers, authors, an elementary school teacher, mentors, one completing her dissertation for her PhD…all of us advancing, developing, sharing, improving ours and other lives through education at all stages of life…but there is more, so much more to do.
I reflected on this wonder of education, how it shapes a life, how so many do not have access to education— basic elementary education, academic opportunities, life skills, and more. We savvy sages are called upon to educate the next generation as part of our seva. Whether you are drawn to help educate youth, young yoga teachers, entrepreneurs, empower girls through education, reduce poverty through education, there are no shortage of opportunities for all of us to make a difference. No action is too small—maybe it’s volunteering to tutor, mentor a young person, write a book, article or op ed piece, perhaps it’s writing a big check to a worthy organization… We can all make a difference—one small action has that amazing ripple out effect.
There are so many ways to help improve access to education, so many good organizations to support that do this work. It immeasurably buoys my spirit to check in with some of the non-profits I do pro-bono and contract work for, fund raise for, or just generally champion – all education based, all working hard and effectively to make positive change. I am particularly committed to empowering young people’s access to education, educating to change global behavior around conservation, and of course championing the tools of yoga to bring substantive life changes for people in crisis! What areas are you passionate about?
I want to give them all a little space on the blog. The organizations range from local grass roots to global in scope — who knows maybe one of them will pique your interest to get involved:
Seeds of Learning www.seedsoflearning.org builds schools in poor communities in Central America. Volunteer groups of North American youth and adults travel to the works sites and work hard alongside community members to physically construct the schools. The benefit received is just as keen on the volunteer’s side as for the local people. The young people from the states we send down to these poor communities have a lesson of a lifetime in empathy, compassion, and cultural awareness and come back forever changed. I have been on the advisory board of this organization for 7 years and am always enthused by Seeds’ charismatic Executive Director, Annie Bacon. Seeds runs on a very tight budget with most all monies raised going directly to programs. Check them out; maybe you’ll be inspired to join a work group building schools in Nicaragua. I’m going this summer again….
Wild Aid www.wildaid.org seeks change on a global scale educating consumers to change buying behavior of animal products to save endangered species. Through international celebrity spokespeople and top flight media campaigns they are fundamentally changing the conversation on conservation to focus on changing the demand for products rather trying to safeguard individual animals. WildAid is the only organization focused on reducing the demand for these products, with the strong and simple message: when the buying stops, the killing can too. WOW!
Room to Read. www.roomtoread.org. What’s not to love about this amazing non-profit creating life changing educational initiatives around the globe from their San Francisco HQ? They raise scads of money and spend it to educate kids – improving literacy and working towards gender equality. They have special initiatives to educate girls in developing countries as they know that education is the single most important means of empowering girls with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Educating girls = improvement in family health, reduction of birth rates, and reduction of poverty.
Headstand www.headstand.org is an innovative non-profit organization that works to combat toxic stress in disadvantaged K–12 students through mindfulness, yoga, and character education. As a public school teacher, Headstand founder Katherine Priore, started practicing yoga as a way to relieve her own work-related stress and knew that yoga and mindfulness could help her young students. Her ideas took form in Headstand and she has grown this innovative nonprofit to a multi-school program that reaches more than 1200 students in inner-city schools in three cities. Headstand offers K–12 school programming, teacher training, and consulting on how to integrate social and emotional wellness strategies through mindfulness and yoga in school. To hear the students tell their stories of fundamental life changing experiences that would not have been possible without this program is truly inspiring.
The Art of Yoga. www.theartofyogaproject.org I have been an Ambassador for this Bay Area non-profit for 4 years, offering yoga events as fundraisers, and am always in awe of Mary Lynn Fitton and what she and her team do. The Art of Yoga Project focuses on early intervention to help at-risk and sexually exploited girls prepare for a positive future. AYP is revolutionizing the rehabilitation of girls by offering trauma-informed, strength-based, gender-responsive services. They are committed to leading teenage girls in the California juvenile justice system toward accountability to self, others, and community by providing practical tools to affect behavioral change. Created by nurse practitioner and yoga instructor Mary Lynn Fitton, the organization sends specially trained yoga teachers and art therapists into juvenile detention centers and rehabilitation facilities to teach a proprietary intervention program. They directly serve approximately 500 girls annually in northern California and they re mission driven to expand nationally! Go AYP!!!