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A former World Bank official helps yoga nonprofits grow.
Rob Schware, Phd, head of the Give Back Yoga Foundation and an advisor with the Yoga Service Council—both of which promote charitable projects—found his way to seva work in an unconventional way. His career took a surprising pivot when he was 54 years old. “I’d been working at the World Bank Group for nearly 20 years, overseeing a portfolio of hundreds of millions of dollars in projects, and was planning an early retirement,” says Schware. For more than a decade, he’d also been an avid student of yoga.
Halfway through an Ashtanga Yoga teacher training in 2006, Schware had a eureka moment: “I realized I wasn’t going to be a yoga teacher. Instead, I wanted to apply yoga to social issues.” Schware knew he was good at networking, raising money, and managing projects. So he called his first yoga teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, to brainstorm.
Bender Birch had required graduates of her teacher trainings at The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute to develop give-back programs in their own communities. In the space of that phone call, he and Bender Birch decided to take the notion of her requirement and turn it into a nonprofit organization that would benefit yoga teachers and the community alike—the Give Back Yoga Foundation.
The foundation’s four main programs support the use of yoga for: long-term recovery from disordered eating, healing for veterans, rehabilitation in prisons, enhancing conventional 12-step programs for addiction, and improving recovery of cancer patients and survivors. Schware now mentors yoga teachers wanting to start yoga-outreach organizations or expand the scale and scope of their programs. “I want to give back to the yoga teachers who had done so much for me during my career at the World Bank,” Schware says. “I will not rest until tens of thousands of yoga teachers are bringing their skills off the mat ‘of privilege,’ and into the trenches of need in the world.”