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Post–natural disaster, as Haiti’s redevelopment begins to take root, yoga is here to stay.
After a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, causing widespread destruction and leaving a reported 200,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless, the island nation is starting to regain its footing, thanks in part to aid organizations that rushed in for emergency relief and stayed to rebuild. Though Haiti still has a way to go, most people have moved out of tent cities to more-permanent housing, debris has been cleared, new jobs programs launched, and the government is investing in developments to attract tourism. Among the first responders to Haiti’s crisis were yoga teachers who came to share the practice’s healing benefits with the displaced and traumatized. Now, many of these organizations, including those featured here, are continuing this work, supporting at-risk youth, women, and families, and training a future generation of yoga teachers.
Ayiti Yoga/Ayiti Yoga Outreach
Founder Lizandra Vidal started traveling to Haiti after the earthquake hit, teaching yoga to aid workers. In 2o13, she moved to Port-au-Prince permanently and founded Ayiti Yoga, offering weekly classes, monthly workshops, and retreats. Ayiti Yoga Outreach, the organization’s service arm, trains young adults who, in turn, teach yoga to 15o–2oo Haitian children weekly. Yoga fills a deep need for healing here, says Vidal. “The practice creates strong confidence and awareness, and that is important in dealing with trauma,” she says.
How to Help Attend a retreat—part of the fee sponsors a young Haitian to join—or volunteer (AyitiYoga.com).
Devoted 2 Children
In 2012, yoga instructors Kristin O’Connell and Amber Charne raised $13,000 in 30 days to start Devoted 2 Children, an organization dedicated to addressing Haiti’s orphan crisis. The group runs a family-style home that provides orphans with meals, medical care, schooling, and yoga practice. They also support the community through annual seva trips, when participants volunteer to help with community rebuilding projects and with yoga classes in local schools.
How To Help Join a seva trip, sponsor a child, or fund a community project (Devoted2Children.com).
Go Give Yoga – Haiti
After the earthquake, kids’ yoga nonprofit Go Give Yoga (founded by Marsha Wenig of YogaKids) started offering kids’ yoga teacher trainings to several Haitian aid organizations, including one that works with schoolteachers. They also give kids’ classes three times a week at a community center (plus a meal and arts-and-crafts session). To date, they’ve trained 555 teachers and taught 880 classes to nearly 15,000 kids.
How To Help Donate, sponsor a volunteer, or join a service trip to Haiti (GoGiveYoga.org).
See AlsoYogis Working for a Better World
Women in Haiti face a high rate of violence, heightened by insecure living conditions in temporary housing. Boston-based yoga teacher Suzanne Jones, founder of the organization YogaHOPE, partnered with an NGO in Port-au-Prince to bring her yoga-based trauma-recovery techniques to Haitian women. Trainees bring these techniques to the recovery groups they run, reaching some 1,200 women.
How To Help Take a training or donate ( YogaHope.org).