There are many reasons to be passionate about sports charities. Everyday they are helping under-served youth and communities, while bringing people together through sports that are known across the world. It wasn’t too long ago when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il all because she brought along a signed Michael Jordan basketball. Kim Jong-il was a diehard basketball fan, who knew that would make the difference? Even at the highest level of government sports can be used to create peace around the world.
A charity that I am passionate about and see real change coming from is Project Air. Their mission is to use yoga to relieve some of the pain that comes with trauma in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The organization’s main focus is on HIV+ women and children, using yoga to help them seek a healthier and happier life. Yoga has mental healing effects unlike any other sport. It is not about winning in the slightest, but about one’s personal journey with body and soul.
I have grown up with a yoga-loving mother and have met amazing people through yoga classes and retreats with her. One experience that stood out was when my mother and I stayed at an ashram in Maryland for a week. With a few other yogis we woke up every morning for three hours of yoga preceded by meditation in the afternoon. One afternoon half way through the retreat our yoga group sat in a circle atop a hill on the ashram. We went around sharing with the group what our emotional and physical setbacks were, how we could move past the things that had plagued us in life so far. For one woman in her forties that was the relationship with her mother, for an older man it was his wife who passed away from cancer. Next we gave our attention to a young man in his twenties. He smiled before speaking of what held him back. He told us of his tours in Iraq as a soldier. The hurt and pain he and the rest of the soldiers had seen was enough trauma to change them. He believed that the yoga training he had before going to Iraq had given him a different perspective and peace that the other soldiers didn’t have and he wanted to help create a program that would show these other men and women how to deal with trauma during and after war. I hope he has found a place like Project Air.
Sports like yoga have made a real difference in the lives of those dealing with poverty and other forms of trauma. For this young man it was evident how powerful the practice of yoga was for him.