West Cork yoga teachers Claire Osborne and Bella Hancock will be returning to the Middle East with the Yoga Mandela Project in March, where they will be offering yoga classes and yoga therapy in refugee communities.
The Yoga Mandela Project is a non-profit organisation that provides psycho-social support and wellbeing through the physical and mental health benefits of yoga to those displaced by war and conflict.
As well as volunteering as yoga teachers within refugee communities, working in partnership with local community organisations in the Middle East, Europe and Ireland, Claire and Bella are also working to establish sustainable volunteer programmes with teachers in each locality, by providing training for teachers and community support workers in trauma informed yoga practice, teaching and protocol.
In March, the yoga teachers will be working directly with people affected by war and conflict, visiting Zaartri and Asraq camps.
“On my last visit, a woman who works with the UN and International Red Cross sat in on one my classes,” says Claire. “She just suddenly started crying. After a time, she was able to explain that in all her experience working with refugees around the world, she had never seen a group of traumatised people so peaceful, as in that class.”
Based on their experience working with refugees over the last three years, Claire and Bella and another experienced yoga teacher and project member Susan Bainter-Baghdadi will be running training workshops for yoga teachers and healthcare professionals who wish to develop an understanding of trauma, it’s psycho-social implications and how yoga can be used to help manage and minimise its effects.
“The training is based on our experience bringing yoga and TRE (trauma release exercise) to Refugees in Amman, Jordan through the Collateral Repair Project, and in Greece through Lifting Hands International,” says Claire.
“This will be a valuable experience for those who have worked with refugees and have experienced secondary trauma and wish to have tools to help manage their own experience, as well as learning skills to bring into the field.”
The Yoga Mandela Project is in the process of registering as a charity and has started a fundraising campaign to help with the set up costs, as well as developing sustainable training programmes in Jordan and Palestine, delivering one-to-one yoga therapy to individual refugees in Amman; and also setting up links with groups providing psycho-social support in refugee camps in Jordan, with a view to delivering training programmes in self care to their volunteers, as well as simple holistic health care programmes for refugees.
“We have seen and been amazed by the positive impact our work has had so far. Whether it is by supporting volunteers, or working with the refugee community, people have been profoundly and positively impacted by the tools we offer.”
If you would like to make a donation to the Yoga Mandela Project go to www.generosity.com/volunteer-fundraising/yoga-for-refugees-in-jordan.
To follow the group’s progress, go to Yoga Peace Mandala – supporting refugees with Yoga on Facebook.
Pictured above: The Yoga Mandela Project is a non-profit organisation that provides psycho-social support and wellbeing through the physical and mental health benefits of yoga to those displaced by war and conflict.