Urban Zen Connects & Collaborates to Bring Yoga to Haiti

In a beautiful example of the Urban Zen mission to connect, collaborate and communicate to create change, the women of Haiti now include yoga and breathing techniques in their daily lives thanks to a group of individuals and their non-profit organizations that came together to treat mothers and daughters of Haiti in mind, body and spirit with “The Art of Living”, a program to assist women to relieve stress in the midst of danger and devastation.

Hunter and Andrea Herz Payne, founders of Aid Still Required, formed a collaboration amongst The International Association of Human Values and We Advance to provide four, four-day sessions to the women in the Wharf Jeremie area of Cite Soleil, the poorest neighborhood in the western hemisphere. Initial concerns of a lack of interest due to heat, daily chores and childcare were immediately dismissed as 143 women attended yoga classes and 118 participated in all four days of instruction.

Aid Still Required, the visionaries of this collaboration, came to Haiti to implement it, and provided most of the funding. Co-founder Hunter Payne was surprised by the large turnout, “this is truly a minor miracle when we consider what these women have been through. All of them have suffered decades of the worst poverty, a horrific earthquake, and, many, sexual assault. The Art of Living course has shown great success in relieving stress in high-stress zones like Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, and now it has in the most challenging part of Haiti as well. Many of the women in the program feel their lives have utterly transformed and several have expressed interest in becoming trainers as well.”

The women of Wharf Jeremie will continue to be supported in the coming weeks and months with plans for a men’s program as well. Aid Still Required, co-founder Andrea Herz Payne speaks of the need of continued support to this community. “In the face of the very real physical hunger they feel every day, the people here are also hungering for spiritual nourishment. Given the tremendous response to this program, our Port-au-Prince team will follow up with bi-weekly meetings with the participants and is planning a course for the men who are now requesting it. We’re currently using temporary facilities and hope to collaborate with Urban Zen, We Advance and IAHV to provide a safe, permanent oasis where various healing practices can be offering on an on-going basis.”

The yoga sessions were based at Aleda Frishman & Maria Bello’s We Advance medical clinic where colleague Alison Thompson helps the women of Cite Soleil. Alison Thompson, co-founder and volunteer at We Advance as well as our Community Ambassador this summer, was thrilled to offer this community the opportunity to experience yoga and the calming influence each woman can master as they rebuild their homes and reclaim their lives. Clinton Global Initiative created the wellness center by providing the tent that allowed dozens of women to gather together to learn yoga and breathing.