Copenhagen International Yoga Outreach Program
A One planet, One People Initiative
We are very excited to announce the launch of an amazing new yoga outreach program that we are honored to be a part of. Centered Within Yoga is working as part of an international collaboration to offer a Restorative Yoga Program for female refugees and asylum seekers who are fleeing life threatening situations such as war, persecution, and sex trafficking in the Middle East and Africa. These women are incredible survivors and many of them face uncertain futures. It is the goal of this program to bring together the support of the International Yoga Community to help these women experience the grounding and healing benefits of yoga that so many of us are grateful for in our own lives.
The launch of this international program will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Centered Within Yoga is working with the Copenhagen based non-profit group CIVC (Copenhagen International Volunteer Club), and it is through CIVC's existing Refugee Work Issues Group that we are able to offer this amazing new yoga outreach program. CIVC has been working with asylum seekers and refugees in Danish asylum centers since the group was founded in 2011.
CIVC's Refugee Issues Work Group is focused on providing skills and training to asylum seekers based on two assumptions:
1) The best case scenario: they will be granted asylum, and become residents of Denmark, or
2) The worst case scenario: they will be deported back to their countries of origin, which are either war zones, areas stressed by post conflict realities, and/or soon to be war again zones.
CIVC offers a variety of programs that help these women develop essential skills which are applicable in both situations. To learn more about CIVC and their many volunteer programs please click here: http://www.meetup.com/Copenhagen-International-Volunteer-Club/pages/Background_Information%3A_CIVC
How Can We Help?
Centered Within Yoga is proud to be championing the initial steps to help CIVC launch a new yoga outreach program that will further enhance services offered to this group of women. The effects of the relaxation benefits of yoga are no secret, and it is our hope to offer a safe space where survivors of the horrible realities of these conflict zones can find a peaceful place to release their tension and work towards finding a sense of grounding, balance and stability in the face of an uncertain future.
We have already received an incredible amount of support in the form of local yoga teachers from Copenhagen who are willing to donate their time and efforts to teach Restorative Yoga Classes to these women. We are very proud to have Centered Within Yoga's own, Amber Jacob, in Copenhagen to see the first phase of this program get off the ground! If you are a yoga teacher, and would like to join this teaching effort, please let us know! Scroll down to meet the yoga teachers who are on the front line of this project.
If you are not local to Copenhagen, we would still love your support! The largest obstacle we have in launching a program like this is the funding to purchase yoga mats, straps, blocks, blankets, and to help cover the cost of transporting these from their various asylum centers to our yoga center. As yoga practitioners we all know that magic happens on our mat! These women do not even have the luxury of having a mat, let alone the peace and relaxation that comes with it! A donation of even $10.00 will fund the purchase of a yoga mat for a woman in need.
Asylum Centres in Denmark
Our main work is with the Danish Red Cross, asylum division, which operates asylum centres for the Government of Denmark. In recent years the funding for these centres has diminished significantly while at the same time there has been a dramatic increase in flow of refugees to the country. The system now only provides the bare necessities: food, shelter and clothing while before the cut-backs there were a range of educational and other activities offered to asylum seekers. Denmark does not allow asylum seekers to work while waiting for their cases to be processed, and many asylum seekers end up living in centres such as Sandholm for years before being granted asylum. Or, are never granted asylum but cannot be sent back to their home countries due to ongoing conflict, a lack of repatriation agreements between Denmark and the country in question, or illness on the part of the asylum seeker. The result: thousands of people are stuck in a system with no way out. With the various cut-backs that have been made, the role of volunteer organizations and other community-based organizations has become larger.
Asylum Seekers in Denmark
The residents of these asylum centers are from various countries and situations. The largest group is from Syria but there are also quite a few from Eritria, Somalia and other part of Africa. Many arrived in Denmark via North Africa, typically by means of rickety boats sailing across the Mediterranean. Others have come overland via Turkey, Greece and eastern Europe. The demographic of the asylum centres is overwhelmingly male, although women are an increasingly large part of the latest flow of refugees. Perhaps most dramatic is the rise of underage girls among the unaccompanied minors. While there are more girls, the average age of these children has also dropped from as young as 12 to now 7. Many of these women and girls have been through horrific situations. Some have been trafficked, others have been exploited in other ways. Their lives here are characterized by uncertainty and insecurity since they are not sure if they will receive asylum or not. An exception would be Syrian refugees who receive asylum almost immediately, but asylum which the government claims to be only good for one year in contravention of existing international standards on refugees and asylum seekers. As a result, even Syrians with the fast processing of their cases face an uncertain future when their asylum status comes up for review.
As a result of the uncertainty that all asylum seekers in Denmark face, we strive to offer services and training programs which will be applicable no matter what the future brings them. The yoga course, and eventual self-defence course, is an important step in the direction of health and well-being programming which we hope to elaborate and expand upon in the coming months. To date we have focused on skills-based training, now a more health oriented approach seems possible to take and we look forward to developing this new area in the future.
Meet our Volunteers:
Centered Within Yoga:
Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
Taking the lead to set up the initial logistics of this volunteer program are the dynamic sisters Erin Jacob, Amber Jacob, Rachel Jacob, and Kristina Jacob. Centered Within Yoga was founded with love in 2008. We have been involved in a variety of different volunteer and community projects designed to help improve the lives of those in need. We are all incredibly grateful for the many gifts that yoga has brought into our lives, and it is our intention to pass that gift forward to others. We would like to ask you all to join us in helping to pass this incredible gift along to these survivors who have overcome incredible odds to reach these asylum centers in Denmark. Please know that your donations will not be used to pay wages, administration, or new laptops for any of the volunteers who are participating in this project. All donations will be used to benefit the lives of these women!
Stay tuned to find out more about the Copenhagen Yoga Volunteers and their schools. We will get their information posted as it becomes available!