Following our wonderful visit to the Vidyanikethan School, my 4 friends from Yoga Gives Back (YGB) and I traveled to the Bangalore suburb of Chennapatna to meet with Grameen Koota (GK) micro loan recipient Jayashree. Before sharing more about her story, here’s a bit about Yoga Gives Back:
Founded by documentary filmmaker Kayoko Mitsumatsu and yoga/Sanskrit teacher Joel Bender in 2007, YGB strives to give back to the country that gave us the incredible practice of yoga.
Did you know that 76 percent of the Indian population (about 800 million) lives at or below the poverty level of $2.50 a day? Or, that 40 percent of Indians live below the world poverty line of $1.25 a day? YGB is working to mobilize the global yoga community to empower poverty-stricken women in India to build sustainable livelihoods.
Currently, they raise money to fund microloans. Since 2000, GK’s loans, which can be taken without collateral, have helped about 400,000 of India’s impoverished families in Karnataka, Maharasthra, and Tamil Nadu.
YGB’s quest began in America, where about six billion dollars are spent on yoga annually! Just the cost of one class can help change a life. As YGB told me, “With as little as a $25 loan, women in rural India can start and run profitable businesses, freed from the shackles of moneylenders who would keep them in an unending cycle of debt. If a fraction of what we spend on yoga in the U.S. can help the poor in India, we can make a difference. We can affect change.”
This is a major reason why I am so impressed with YGB. They understand how enormous the cumulative power of small positive gestures can be.
Our visit to Channapatna was truly inspirational. Jayashree is a beautiful, open hearted, 35-year-old woman. Her friendly husband, Ramo, is a rickshaw driver. They have two sons—Govopsad, who is 20 years old and in his 2nd year of medical school, and Hoysala, an adorable 4-year-old. Both Jayashree and Ramo have faced financial struggle their entire lives. The microloans have transformed their lives and reshaped the futures of their children.
Yoga Gives Back has been documenting this transformation since 2007, when Jayashree received her first loan of 7,000 rs (about $155.00). This money allowed them to purchase her husband’s once rented auto rickshaw, largely increasing their income.
After repaying this loan (with an interest rate of about 30%), they were granted a second loan of 15,000, which Jayashree used to purchase a sewing machine. She currently earns about 100 ($2.22) rupees a day stitching and aspires to opening a small garment factory behind her house. Her 3rd loan also went towards their rickshaw, which brings about 500 ($11.10) rupees a day. Her husband is only able to work 15-20 days a month, however, due to a physical condition.
Jayashree was so happy that her 4th loan could go towards her top priority: her older son’s education. Far too often, children are tragically restricted from higher education due to their family’s financial status. Yoga Gives Back had an incredible surprise for Jayashree, which will help her repay the 4th loan and receive the 5th one more readily. Through yoga classes, they raised $600 towards the son's medical education. Jayashree and Ramo could hardly believe the news!
I hope my photographs and their captions will tell you more about this inspirational story. Please learn more about Yoga Gives Back, including ways to volunteer or donate, at www.yogagivesback.org. And, stay tuned! YGB is currently diversifying their projects beyond microloans. I’m also thrilled to say that I’m now a YGB member!
Remember, small things can really add up.
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at http://sophieherbert.com.