It is incredible. One challenging, inspiring, successful year of fundraising later, we are once again on an airplane, flying to our destination of Uganda from all parts of the US and Canada, in preparation for what will no doubt be a life changing, two week adventure into the heart of sacred service. Last year as we put out a call to the yoga community to raise significant funds for the very first Seva Challenge, we had no idea how powerfully the community would respond, raising over $537,000 for the Cambodian Children’s Fund and offering the 20 women (who raised 20k each through outreach and community building), an opportunity to experience first hand, the devastating effects of genocide, poverty, disease and domestic violence on an entire population as well as how one person (or many) can take action and bring help and healing to the children of that population in the form of basic needs, education, and a loving and safe environment in which to grow. There were days where each of us was confronted with the absolute worst atrocities that humans can inflict upon one another, days where we could feel the palpable emotion as the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal began (30 years after the initial genocide), but perhaps the most memorable parts of the trip were the days when we visited the children at the facilities and sang and danced and practiced yoga with them. These laughing, playful, joyful spirits so full of life will no doubt grow up to become a powerful and well educated part of Cambodian society and knowing that we were, in some small way, a part of that joy and that future was the greatest gift that each of us could receive. Many of us on that journey became deeply aware that in offering our service in this way, we received far more than we could ever possibly give. This is the heart of sacred service.
This year, we again put out the call to the yoga community. We again asked people to use their creativity and ingenuity to find new ways to activate and motivate their own local communites. Again many yogis rallied, creating auctions, donation classes, products for sale, arts events, yogathons, and more and pushing themselves beyond perceived limits to stay inspired and continue to give voice to their visions and goals. But this was no ordinary year. Seva Challenge participants were faced this year with a stressed economy and a fiscal environment in which many service and non profit initiatives were shut down due to lack of adequate funding. However, despite these challenges, we collectively raised $574K and we will soon be arriving in Uganda to meet up with the 21 women who reached the goal of 20K each with the help of hundreds of yogis at home. We will be visiting a country that has known only war, genocide and violence for over 20 years. We will be immersing ourselves in a population in which 1 in 5 persons has been infected with HIV/AIDS. We will be walking the sacred red earth of a country where the oldest human fossils have been found…a place called the motherland.
This year, in partnership with Shanti Uganda, we will be building an eco – birthing center for women with HIV/AIDS and helping to support the education and training of the midwives and nurses there…creating a place for women (who might otherwise die in unassisted childbirth) to have a loving and safe environment to bring their babies into the world. We will be collaborating with Building Tomorrow and, along side the members of a local community, building an entire school brick by brick and providing a place for some 150 – 400 children to have access to safe and sound schooling. We will be learning about the specifics of HIV/AIDS prevention, education and the latest advances in treatment from YouthAids. We will visit the offices of Invisible Children and hear about the 350.000 child soldiers abducted in Uganda as well as how some of those children are being lovingly rehabilitated and reunited with their long lost families.
And again, our task as sacred activists, is to practice the presence of love and compassion, even as we work for change. Even as we encounter children and families without even the basics needed for survival and facing the devastating long term effects of the pandemic of AIDS, we are charged with the task of staying present in our breath and in our bodies, witnessing honestly and profoundly, using all the tools that we have aquired in our yoga practice on the mat, and simply showing up with respect and a willingness to connect. Connecting to the land, to every woman, man and child that we meet, connecting to each other and connecting to the truths that keep us inspired to meet all that we encounter with fierce compassion and a strong heart. And we will be changed. There is no doubt.
We are profoundly grateful to be a part of this growing community that is innovating the concept and reality of sacred activism and we are thankful for the vibrant creativity, leadership and love that has been called into action in such a powerful way at a time when it is so crucial and necessary to our global evolution and awakening. We look forward to sharing our stories and inspirations with you over the next two weeks.
With Love Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling