On Friday last week, I attended a very inspiring talk given by Carly Weis from breathe. She had just returned from a two-week humanitarian trip to South Africa. While there, Carly worked with many people affected by HIV/AIDS. While she gave the talk, I was deeply moved by her compassion and the sincerity with which she spoke. Everyone there listened completely and the openness in the room was tangible.
Carly is the manager of yoga programs at breathe and is its licensed acupuncturist. She went to South Africa Feb. 5 through 20 as a participant in the Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM) Global SEVA Challenge. This year, the OTM SEVA Challenge was focused on supporting humanitarian efforts in South Africa, where more than 33 million people live with HIV/AIDS.
Before she left, she said, “In a way, going on this trip is like carrying a service-oriented torch that breathe lit few years ago,” said Carly. “I’m honored to represent breathe and to be a part of this community – one that cares so much about others both here and abroad and rallies to support programs like this that can truly make a difference in the lives of others.”
On the South Africa trip, the OTM SEVA team studied the history of the country, focusing on apartheid and its effect on the current culture and AIDS crisis in Africa. Then, working closely with Christel House South Africa (CHSA), Earthchild Project, the South African Whole Grain Bread Project (SAWGBP), GOLD Peer Education and Development Agency, Linawo Children’s Home and the Baphumelele Halfway House, the group helped create health and education programs that will assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
To date, more than $550,000 has been raised through the total South Africa OTM SEVA Challenge effort. This money will be used to help eradicate the tremendous financial and health crises that exist in Africa, and help create sustainable solutions for communities in crisis. Says OTM on its Web site: “Through this effort, participants see themselves as leaders who have the ability to find, support and manifest a dream.”
This is the third year that breathe has participated in an OTM SEVA Challenge, raising more than $20,000 each year for a different OTM global cause. Each person participating in an OTM SEVA Challenge who raises the goal amount of $20,000 is invited on that year’s humanitarian trip, where they can actively participate in putting their money to use. Renowned yoga instructor Seane Corn began OTM with two other inspired practitioners, determined to use yoga for a greater good by helping people take the good feeling they get “on the yoga mat” and giving it to the world in terms of service, compassion and outreach.
In 2009, Abby Weis, who helps run the day-to-day business and retail operations at breathe, joined the OTM SEVA team in Cambodia and worked with poverty-stricken children there. Last year, breathe’s owner, Cyndi Weis, went to Uganda with the OTM SEVA team and helped build a birthing center there along with other service-oriented activities.
To date, breathe has raised more than $60,000 for OTM’s humanitarian programs, more than $20,000 for local charities and several thousand dollars for Haiti. To raise money, breathe holds monthly DJ’ed benefit yoga classes as well as benefit yoga classes on holidays. In addition, breathe has hosted other fund-raising events and programs to contribute toward this global good. breathe is already committed to raising another $20,000 in 2011 for the next OTM SEVA Challenge, this time to benefit earthquake relief in Haiti.
For more information on the OTM SEVA Challenge, visit http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/global-seva-challenge.html. For more on breathe, visit www.breatheyoga.com or call 585.248.9070.
Side bar: So affected by her own 2009 OTM SEVA experience in Cambodia and by her mother’s and sister’s commitments to service, Abby is going to Uganda on her own later this spring to support the work that was done by her mother and others there last year. Although this effort is not officially associated with OTM, Abby will be working with the same organizations with whom OTM partnered, including New Hope, Building Tomorrow and the Acholi Quarter. Abby is fulfilling the intention of all OTM SEVA programs: to pay it forward.
breathe is a family business that offers a wide variety of yoga classes; a boutique with an abundance of casual and yoga wear, jewelry and more; holistic spa treatments, acupuncture services and great food. It features a juice bar and whole, local, organic foods that can be enjoyed on premises or taken home. Local chefs and breathe’s own registered dietitians also teach regular cooking and nutrition monthly classes. Since first opening in 2002, breathe has become a hub for healthful, joyful living. Its flagship center is located at 19 South Main St. in Pittsford and its newest location is at 980 Ridge Rd. in the Webster Plaza. For more information, visit www.breatheyoga.com or call (585) 248-9070.
# # #