This is the first #sevasaturday post –check out the past post discussing seva from Nov. 21, 2015.
Last spring I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to volunteer with a Syrian organization and offer yoga to Syrians who had sought safety in Turkey (here’s an article about the project). Back home in Seattle, I’ve explored ways to continue supporting Syrian communities. Friends and colleagues have asked for information on how they can help too. Here are a few ways that I’ve found to be active in supporting Syrians.
1. Donate funds to grassroots organizations promoting peace
Several inspiring Syrian organizations are building a brighter future in their country by promoting civil society, human rights, and peace initiatives. Three great places to donate funds:
Winter is coming and refugee camps will be cold in Europe and the Middle East. Children need hats and sweaters to keep warm in the camps. Syrian women are also in need of reusable menstrual pads. A Seattle-based organization is coordinating the delivery of these items – see the post by the Salaam Cultural Museum.
3. Make your voice heard in supporting Syrian refugees
Sadly, in the wake of the attacks in Paris, many politicians and individuals are attempting to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. This response is based in fear and collectively punishes people who are fleeing the same violent groups that carried out those attacks. Here are a few ways to promote compassion:
4. Be a volunteer in programs for Syrian refugees in your community
The International Rescue Committee has offices and networks throughout the US that facilitate refugee resettlement. Check out their Volunteer Page to find opportunities to welcome Syrians locally.
Google other local organizations in your community. For example, World Relief in Seattle is gathering supplies to furnish homes for refugees, recruit English tutors, and organize events.
One of the aspects of yoga that I’m most drawn to is the concept of seva, a Sanskrit term that refers to selfless service. Seva is considered to be a core aspect of personal growth and transformation in the path of yoga. The ancient yoga gurus believed that practicing seva enables us to attain a deeper understanding of ourselves and, as a result, attain a higher level of consciousness.
Two pillars of seva are compassion and promoting collective wellbeing. There are dozens of ways that we can practice seva on a daily basis – everything from random acts of kindness to volunteering with a community organization, or spending quality time with your family. What is most important in selecting activities is that:
Anyone who has volunteered for a cause they are passionate about knows the power of giving your time and energy – it is inspiring, humbling, and often a lot of fun! To foster the exchange of ideas about practicing seva, I’m starting a series of #sevasaturday posts. Keep watch for ideas and share your seva activities to inspire more action.
It is a tremendous honor that my article on sharing yoga with Syrians won "Yoga Article of the Year" in Seattle Yoga News. Endless gratitude to everyone who was part of and supported this inspiring project.