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francine2

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EXPANDING LIVES
June 29, 2010

I've taught a weekly yoga class to the young women from Niger for 2 years and in that time I have been amazed at how a simple gift of time and energy can have profound & far-reaching effects. At I really wasn't sure how much could be accomplished in 5 classes, and I don't speak French so I didn't know how much they would understand of the teaching. I was surprised at how much they absorbed, not only for themselves, but in terms of the big picture - how the tools could benefit their communities when they went home. They studied yoga with me and read books about it when not with me. They asked to try specific yoga poses when they came to class. Of course some wanted to try the exciting looking stuff, but they also appreciated the stress relieving effects of the breathing and relaxation practices. In the last of our 5 sessions each girl had the opportunity to teach a part of the class - in English. They took this very seriously and even the most shy of the group demonstrated courage and was supported by the others to succeed. The girls make the connection that what they learn in class can have benefits for their community and are creative in using the tools they learn. I found out that one of the girls, upon her return home, uses yoga as a draw to attract other young women to come to meetings where she also discusses healthcare and other issues relevant to their lives. Expanding Lives offers an experience that is life-changing for both the volunteers and the young women who are the focus of the program. These young women are becoming leaders in their communities. As such, they will have to take on the heavy responsibility that comes with that role. They will need tools not only to support their communities, but to support their own physical and emotional wellbeing. I am humbled to be able to help them to gain these tools, and I deeply respect Expanding Lives for having the insight to recognize these needs.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing the young women become more comfortable with the tools of yoga and understanding the benefits to themselves and their communities. Also hearing about how they are planning to use and actually using what they have learned to benefit others at home.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

expand it to more countries and make it an exchange program so that young women from the US travel to their countries after working with the girls here.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

working with the girls! We had so much fun in class and they were so interested in learning & willing to explore something new.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

wonderful people. The organizers have first-hand experience of the culture and a deep respect for the girls and the possibilities that can exist for them. This respect and understanding filters through to the local volunteers as well.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand! Global understanding & mutual respect is essential to a peaceful planet. This type of personal contact and sharing of knowledge and culture is what facilitates global understanding & mutual respect.

Ways to make it better...

I spoke French - but that would just be for my comfort level, not for the benefit of the girls. Overall both years have been a great experience.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

probably financial - the challenge of most not-for-profits. I think it is also a challenge each year to find host families. More years in existence will mean more exposure and greater interest of host families.

One thing I'd also say is that...

with this organization I have never had the sense of the girls as "Other." They are from a different country, culture and language, but our shared humanity is always a given. I hope to work with Expanding Lives for many years to come!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About once a year

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & Teach yoga to the young women from Niger.