Clean air and clean water are two of the main sustainers of life, yet millions of people around the world struggle daily to breathe clean air and find potable water. The United Nations estimates that 783 million people lack access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. But in our struggle to help people meet these basic needs, we often fail to adequately acknowledge the importance of tending and nurturing the human spirit when working to help those facing these challenging situations.
Last November, recognized Los Angeles based Yoga Instructor, Patti Quintero, who also happens to be my sister, was able to make a longtime dream of hers a reality. Working in Colombia, the country where we spent much of our childhood, Patti, along with Waves For Water, an NGO that provides clean water through simple filtration systems to communities in need around the world, was able to give back by not only providing clean drinking water for a very needy community, but doing so in a way that also tended to the human spirit.
Patti has been teaching Yoga and Meditation for the past 16 years. For nearly a decade, she has specialized in working with mothers and pregnant women as a teacher and now a doula. Throughout her career, she has recognized the importance of bringing these practices to women in need. Working with her childhood friend, Michelle Frohlich-Klinger, an experienced and committed philanthropist, they created SoulShine Colombia. SoulShine partnered with Waves For Water to provide clean drinking water to one of the most impoverished communities in Cartagena, Colombia while also introducing the healing practices of yoga and meditation empowering them to find their inner strength and bringing them a step closer to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Working with Fundacion JUANFE, an organization that provides education, support and job training to poor teenage mothers and their children, SoulShine brought basic Yoga, meditation and breath work and an opportunity to reconnect with themselves to the over 200 women that JUANFE serves. "Yoga gives us the tools to cultivate a more intimate relationship with ourselves", says Patti. "Through the landscape of postures and the attentiveness to breath, this meditative practice can give these young mothers a chance to recharge and reconnect to themselves and their babies. Though it may not seem like it, this is just as important as protecting their physical health since both are intertwined."
This marriage of mindfulness and aid might not seem the most natural at first glance, but anyone who has practiced yoga or taken the time to meditate can appreciate just how valuable that hour of stretching, finding calm, and reconnecting with yourself can truly be. I'm by far not a seasoned yogi or meditation expert, but I can say that in moments of severe stress, both of these have taught me how to give back to myself and find peace. While we can all agree that we need to fill people's basic needs of food, clean water and safe shelter to survive, the human spirit also needs to be fed in order to thrive. For the young women that SoulShine and Waves For Water targeted with this effort, thriving meant not only access to clean water, but connecting with themselves and finding peace in their often challenging lives.
Around the world, wonderful humanitarian efforts are carried out by selfless, caring, generous people who have dedicated their lives to making others' lives better. Their work is desperately needed. Efforts like this one, however, show us that finding ways to integrate relief efforts with simple meditative practices like yoga and meditation can add a whole new dimension to this work and to the definition of aid.
Click below to watch a video of Waves For Water and SoulShine's efforts in Colombia