It was wonderful to reunite with my friend and co-founder of Yoga Gives Back, Kayoko Mitsumatsu, in Bangalore after an adventurous 6-hour train journey from Chamarajanagar. (The train was unreserved, so I was in the company of many, many friendly Karnataka natives who were enthusiastic about my limited knowledge of their Kannada language.)
I also had the chance of meeting YGB team members Steven Woodruff and Jason Chang from California, and Anand Varadaraj from Bangalore. Anand, who has a strong background in social work and renewable energy and sustainability, has been an invaluable addition to Yoga Give Back’s team.
My friends from Yoga Gives Back, from left to right: Jason Chang, Kayoko Mitsumatsu, Anand Varadaraj, and Steven Woodruff at Vidyanikethan School.
I arrived quite late (after 9:30pm), so Steven, Kayoko and I had a quick bite before heading to bed. The three of us woke up bright and early to attend a 6:30 Mysore Ashtanga practice with Sharmila, the granddaughter of Sri Pattabhi Jois. I am so thankful to have had this rare opportunity! The practiced also prepped us for the busy day ahead.
Our first stop was the Vidyanikethan School for over 200 children from lower income families (households that earn an average of 3,000 rupees, or $66.00, per month). Far too often, children from these strata are forced to leave school to help make ends meet. Vidyanikethan aims to provide free or very affordable education without a sacrifice in quality. I was very impressed by the facilities and presentation of the students. You can see from these photos how much progressive work is being accomplished!
Vidyanikethan’s mission extends far beyond this well-managed school. The organization, which was founded in 1988, does a number social development projects, including programs for women’s empowerment, health projects, and natural resource management. I was particularly moved by their efforts to help rehabilitate former sex workers and provide housing to about 50 of their children. Sadly, a number of these women and children have contradicted HIV. The few children with the virus are sent to a government organization with specialized care.
Please read more about Vidyanikethan’s incredible work on their website. They also have a child sponsorship program for just $120 a year.
Our next stop was a suburb of Bangalore where Yoga Gives Back-Grameen Koota Micro Loan recipient Jayashree lives. Read about our visit and YGB’s surprise for Jayashree on Thursday!
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 SophieHerbert.com.
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