This summer, Centered Within Yoga will be celebrating its 6th year of operation, and as we reflect back on our humble beginnings in Jim and Erin’s back yard, we feel so grateful to have found, built, and been given the opportunities and friendships that have brought us to where we are today.
Recently, the CWY team has been engaging in one of our favorite past times: discussing our plans for the future. We have been batting around some ideas for a while now, and thought that it may be a good time to reach out to all our members and update you on what we have been considering.
As many of you know, we have been trying in the recent past to get into charitable outreach work in our communities. One of our eventual goals will be to help facilitate outreach collaborations to fill a few pockets of need in our communities. We feel that our community, with its diverse but complimentary team of collaborators, is particularly well suited for outreach work. In 2014 we applied for a grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation to launch an educational program for teens and young adults on the theme of early education for the prevention of violence against women. We were immediately shut down by the fact that we didn’t qualify for the grant. Since setting up an NPO sounded like a daunting and time consuming task, we put our efforts instead to finding a non-profit partner who was eligible and wrote the program and the application on their behalf. Sadly, we did not win the grant, but we had a good time creating the program nonetheless and were encouraged to see how many complimentary businesses and educators in our community were willing to get involved. This year, we have applied for a “Violence-Free BC” grant to launch a longer term program aimed at the prevention of exploitation of at-risk girls and women. Again, we were thwarted by not being eligible. Again, we found non-profit partners to work through. And again, the support from our collaborators and partners has been overwhelmingly positive. This application is still pending, but competition is plentiful. If we are awarded it, we will host a program through the Cythera Transition House with our truly awesome team of collaborators.
Our most recent opportunity to step into the world of outreach has come from an unexpected direction. As many of you know, CWY instructor and Team-Jacob member, Amber Jacob, has been living in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the past year to pursue her education. She has recently been presented with the opportunity to do just the kind of work that we want to get into. Local non-profit groups in Copenhagen have offered Amber the opportunity to work with refugee women who are seeking asylum in Denmark. These women form part of a large number of asylum seekers in Denmark, who have fled the ravages of war, oppression, and in some cases human trafficking. They have not been granted refugee status, but have not been deported on humanitarian grounds. Nevertheless, their situation is precarious and anxious as they could (and some sadly will) be sent back to their former situations. The asylum centers oversees their treatment, be it accommodation, provisions, counseling, etc. CIVC (one of the non-profits we are working with) coordinates volunteers for additional programs. However, there is currently no recreational or physical wellness programs being offered for these centers. And this is the niche that they hope Amber will be able to fill.
When Amber contacted the team, we all enthusiastically leapt on board. Our creative juices started pumping, and pretty soon, we had a plan which involved: creating a restorative yoga program specifically designed to address post traumatic stress; a call for volunteers and supplies that went out to the Copenhagen yoga community; full teacher training resources created for instructors who do not have restorative or therapeutic training but want to help; and a fund-raiser idea that could fund all the costs of the program. The non-profit groups we are working with have responded very favorably to the program, and we have collected some promising volunteers in Copenhagen to help teach and assist the classes. Erin has written an excellent program complete with extensive instructor training materials, geared specifically towards teaching yoga in an environment where language barriers and cultural differences abound. Amber has put in many hours cultivating her calm-and-soothing-opening-meditation-voice (as anyone who has attended Amber’s karate classes can imagine, this does not come all that naturally to her!) and is ready to take on the instructing challenge! Everything was looking so good, until…
Our fundraising plan got stopped dead in its tracks. Not because there is no one to organize it. And certainly not because there is no one to support it. But because our Danish partners do not have the means of issuing the tax receipts internationally that would be required to be able to take donations for the fundraiser. Seriously. That is what is stopping us! We have tried different ways of getting around it, but ultimately we find ourselves in that very same wall that has thwarted us for the last two years: we shake our fists and think “if only we had our own non-profit organization!” Then we would be set up to fundraise on a large scale, apply for grants ourselves, fund exciting outreach programs, make a difference in the world! But grrrrr! We’re stuck.
Now, perhaps we should have realized when we ran into this wall the first time that some renovating is in order. But I guess we had to smash into that wall a few more times before we realized that we really need to build that door already! So, we have decided to start putting our efforts towards launching a non-profit organization whose purpose it is to facilitate the kinds of outreach programs we have in mind.
It will not be a quick process, and there are a few major hurtles, the chief amongst which: none of us know anything about the legal side! We have students, instructors, therapists, counselors, nutritionists, administrators, accountants, builders, plumbers, electricians, technicians, advisors, artists, philosophers, friends… but no legal advice or help!
So here is what we’ve come up with as the first step towards our future outreach plans:
We would like to launch a smaller scale fundraiser within our studio only, for which we will need everyone to understand that we will not be able to issue tax receipts. The money we raise will be used in the first instance to purchase the equipment (yoga mats, blankets, blocks,etc) that Amber needs to get the refugee outreach program started in Copenhagen. Sadly, we will not be able to raise enough money to cover transportation, making the program inaccessible to some centers. However, our non-profit friends in Denmark will continue to search for other ways to arrange this, and we can certainly get Amber what she needs to make a difference. Some yoga schools in Copenhagen have offered to donate old mats, and CWY sweetheart, Sandi Temple, has collected and mailed a bundle of men’s ties to Amber to use as yoga straps. We believe we can raise more than enough in just our school to cover the rest of the costs, and CWY has already sent a base donation to get the program rolling.
Any extra funds that we raise will be put aside in a fund which we will use to further our outreach efforts after get a non-profit organization off the ground. Alternately, if anyone knows (or is) a lawyer who is able and willing to help us draft our bylaws pro-bono, we will be all that much farther ahead and super happy and grateful (and we would then put the excess funds towards our NPO’s first incentive!). We know this is not all that likely to happen, but we just thought we’d put it out there! Until then, Erin will be familiarizing herself with the legal side of the Society Act.
The details of our CWY-for-outreach fundraiser will be posted on the website soon. Until then, we welcome everyone into this conversation on the direction of our school and our community. If you have ideas, questions, concerns, comments, we’d love to hear them. And if anyone thinks they might like to get involved in a more official capacity with the NPO, we would love to include you. Or maybe you have a great idea for the name of our organization (current attempts have been hilarious, but ultimately unfruitful), we’d love to hear it! (And feel free to send us hilarious ones too – it’s becoming kind of a thing!).
We thank you all for taking the time to read this lengthy update. And we thank you all for being such a huge part of the path that has brought us to where we are today. We have made it this far together, and it has been a blast! We look forward to more growing and building and travelling and smiling with all of you for many years to come.
Be well, and see you soon.
Centered Within Yoga