Activism: “Off the Mat, Into the World” Challenge 2011 for Haiti, by Ella Isakov
Last January, I embarked on one of the biggest challenges of my life. I joined the Off the Mat, Into the World Challenge to raise $20,000 for Haiti by December 15th of this year, and then travel to Haiti next February to aid in relief efforts there. It is scary to see how almost two years later, the people are still paying for the devastating earthquake that destroyed their land, infrastructure, and so many families.
“Off the Mat, Into the World” (OTM) was started four years ago by three remarkable women: Seane Corn, Suzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri. The organization unites yogis to take action for a country in dire need. The first three countries OTM focused on were were Cambodia, Uganda, and South Africa. Incredible work was done to aid in these countries (raising $524,000 for Cambodia in 2008; $577,000 for Uganda in 2009 and $550,000 for South Africa in 2010), and now it is time for Haiti to get the support it needs to clear the aftermath of the earthquake. So far, yogis have raised almost $200,000 for Haiti!
It has been a challenging year for me on all levels since I started the “Off the Mat, Into the World” challenge. As part of my healing journey, it has called me to open my heart and believe in myself and what I am capable of, and release my fears as I move out of my comfort zone and reach out for the greater good, and become a leader. It has also been a roller-coaster of emotions as I surrendered to grace when events didn’t turn out as I had wished, or support was not there and there was a sinking feeling within. I did not give up. I knew this was worth all the struggles. I released to an “attitude of gratitude”, to being grateful beyond words for the profound support that has come along and touched this remarkable journey that goes far beyond myself.
The money raised will go towards much-needed long-term solutions for Haiti, such as rubble removal, water/waste treatment, supporting an orphanage, and building a community center. We have learned that the Haitian people do not want handouts, but a way to create and continue a self-sufficient life for the future. So in addition to the efforts I’ve already mentioned, loans will be given to educate and build literacy skills, and to help start small businesses to create work in communities. After a recent trip to Haiti, Suzanne Sterling stated that it was “immediately clear that Haitians need jobs and financial stability.” You can read more about the other incredible projects that will be taken on next year here.
I have raised over $10,000 so far, and I am still in awe of all that I have done and achieved. I never imagined that I was capable of making such a big and profound impact, but by getting out there and reaching out, and the support of magical beings, I am getting closer to my goal. I WILL make it to Haiti in February. I will be part of an incredible group of people and organizations that will not only provide a means for Haitians to become self-sufficient and gain independence, but also rebuild their spirits and connect on a deeper level.
There are ways you can help! When you help, you are not just helping me get to my goal, but also allowing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere regain what all of humanity wishes for: health, independence, and the ability to sustain itself and create a future for its people.
Some of the ways you can help:
* donate directly to my fundraising efforts by visiting the seva page on my website and clicking on the “Donate Now” button.
* check out the schedule on my website to find out about upcoming events and other ways you can support this amazing cause.
Much love and gratitude,
Ella Isakov is a yogi, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, and humanitarian.
Ella feels that yoga found her, and is incredibly grateful for the beautiful gifts she continuously discovers on her journey, on and off the mat. Her passion and purpose in life has always been to teach and inspire others along their path. Ella’s goal is to provide a warm, safe and attentive environment, giving special attention to individual needs and educating students so they can grow in their understanding of the nature of the poses within their own body and discover their own inner wisdom.
Ella left her career as a school teacher, but continues to combine her two loves of yoga and children by teaching kids yoga through FUN, empowering, interactive and mindful yoga play. She is also a Phoenix Rising yoga therapist, working with clients using classic yoga postures and mind-body psychology to allow for a deeper connection to self.