Monday, May 16, 2011

The SEVA Project comes to a close

Yesterday I taught my final Seva yoga class. As some of you may know, as a part of earning my yoga teacher training certification I had to complete a community service project. The project involved four hours of planning and then 6 hours of teaching friends and family yoga classes in exchange for donations. The suggested charity (for people like me with no idea who to give back too) was The Gathering Place which is a drop in shelter for women and children. This shelter is 95% privately funded and so it obviously relies heavily on the general public to make donations to keep it going. I had decided after looking at their urgent needs list, that every week I would pick a different item off this list to have my friends donate. This was their "payment" for the class and an easy way for me to center class themes around the donations to let them know how much their participation meant.

Since April 17th I have been collecting donations from each class, soliciting everything from peanut butter to baby wipes. Obviously the bigger the class the bigger the donations and so week two won out with 13 people and a huge pile of toothbrushes and toothpaste. I feel very fortunate to have had such a great group of people attend all of my classes and every week it was a surprise as to who might walk through the door. I was able to see old friends I hadn't seen in ages as well as having friends come who had never taken a yoga class in their lives. Some people came every week which inspired me to have the courage to change up my flow and try something new.

Because I taught Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend I knew I probably wouldn't have a huge attendance in either class. It's just hard for people to attend two days out of the weekend, (nor did I expect them too) but I still had a great turn-out nonetheless. Saturday's donation was canned food:

and Sunday's was shampoo and conditioner:

While I was happy to have completed the hours of a project that ended up meaning so much to me, it was a bittersweet moment to know it was over. I hope I planted a seed or created a spark in many of my friend's lives so that they will continue to return to my classes. More than that, I hope I inspired them to think about others and what it means to give back. Each person may have only contributed a small item, but to the person on the receiving end these items mean the world.

And so today my husband and I loaded my car up and took the donations to The Gathering Place:

I still could not believe how many donations I received from all my generous friends. Walking into the shelter was a happy moment for me. Seeing the women's faces at the front desk light up as we brought in all these bags. They asked me if I needed a receipt, you know to write all this off on my taxes, and I said no. I don't think they believed me so they asked me again if I wasn't sure I needed one. I told them that these items came from so many people...I couldn't take all the credit for them.

On the way out I passed the women in the lobby who were receiving the benefits of the Gathering Place. I saw other women walking out with food and clothing. And I got that feeling inside, the feeling that only comes from giving to others without expecting anything in return. It was a powerful emotion.

This is only the beginning of my yoga journey. I still have to complete 9 more internship classes and then who knows what is in store. But I will always remember my first class I ever nervous I was. I will remember my second class and how many people came that I never thought would. I take with me, from this experience, the lesson that in life people will surprise you. They will amaze you with their kindness and capacity to be unselfish.

I could not have reached my goals if it wasn't for all of those who attended my classes. While I wanted to practice yoga and to teach others what I had main objective was to raise donations for the shelter. I measured my personal success in how many people I could get to care. And I believe with my whole heart I achieved this goal.

So thank you to my final Seva class. I wish I had taken a picture of every class but that just didn't happen. I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities in the future...

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