Congo is experiencing one of the deadliest conflicts on earth; four million people have been killed in the war there. What can we do about it?
Yoga for Congo Women is a not-for-profit that helps women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was started by Ann Richmond, who read an article in Yoga Journal about a woman who had traveled to Rwanda with Women for Women International, an organization that helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.
She went to the website and learned about the violence in Congo. "I was stunned, and felt ripped open inside. I had to do something," she recalls. Soon after she participated in a Run for Congo Women, inspiration struck: "I could see how yoga could interweave with knowledge and empowerment in a truly unique and beautiful way. On that day, Yoga for Congo Women was born."
Last July, Ann became an official Women for Women ambassador, which means that she represents and advocates for the organization's programs, holds benefits, raises awareness, and works as a media liaison.
The organization had its first event last year in Denver: A one-hour yoga session for all levels, where people could donate, raise money, or choose to sponsor a "sister" through Women for Women. Sponsorship directly helps women in Congo thrive: They enter a one-year program through Women for Women International, which includes rights awareness training, literacy and skills training, food, medicine, and clothing, as well as emotional assistance to recover and heal from the atrocities they have experienced. After the training, they receive seed money to begin their own small businesses.
The group has held eight events over the past year, with many more planned for the future. "I have been humbled at how it has grown already, thanks to the love of many people around the country (most of whom are not yogis in any way), and I truly hope to continue to see the Yoga for Congo Women movement grow and grow," says RIchmond.