I am coming up to my one-year anniversary volunteering with the Parvati Foundation. In April 2019, I read on social media about the foundation. I learned about their beloved Darcy Belanger, Director of Strategic Initiatives, who was on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight that had crashed in March. As I dove into the articles, videos, and interviews, I was sparked by Darcy’s dedication and passion for the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). It was clear that he and the whole foundation were deeply committed to loving, non-partisan action for global peace, and that they worked with fierce dedication to achieve global education for MAPS.
By realizing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, all life would be protected. I learned that declaring the Arctic Ocean off limits to oil exploration, seismic testing, commercial fishing and other forms of exploitation would not only benefit the struggling Arctic wildlife. It would also protect the people living off the land and ocean resources. Since MAPS would place Arctic seabed oil and gas permanently off limits, it would compel a shift off fossil fuels. And by keeping destructive ships out of the Arctic Ocean, it would give the melting ice a chance to reform. This would help stabilize global weather patterns and protect food and water resources for people all over the world. Everything is interconnected—from the Arctic Ocean to the deserts in Africa, the tides in Asia to the Cook Islands, the California coast to Toronto beaches. To me, MAPS simply made sense. Feeling interconnected, for me, is the awareness of life as a whole, rather than as the sum of separate parts.
Volunteering with Dedicated People to Make a Difference
I grew up in Toronto, and have made it my permanent home for decades. I have navigated this city volunteering my time with various causes. I have liked the hands-on action in soup kitchens and food banks. I stayed active, running to raise funds for specific illnesses, marching for elephants, and doing walkathons. More recently, I have campaigned for women’s shelters across Canada, yoga for youth at risk, and more. Environmental organizations have always been considered in my monthly donations, and my lifestyle has been focused on reduce/reuse/recycle principles. My diet has moved from vegetarian to all plant-based. Over 20 years my yoga practice has grown from achieving stable asanas to glimpses of inner peace in quiet meditation. But upon finding MAPS, I knew in my heart that this was one single, unified cause I could get behind. It felt like something landed with me. I see it acting as an environmental and humanitarian umbrella, holding and protecting everything under it.
MAPS originated in Toronto, and I realized that I had first met the Parvati Foundation many years prior. In 2015 I crossed paths with Parvati and Rishi at the Fort York World Peace Flag ceremony I organized. Parvati gave a special guest performance, contributing to our World Healing efforts, raising the vibrations musically.
Last April, however, is when I learned everything I could about MAPS. I learned how Parvati had performed at the top of the world, met elders, and returned with a dire message for the south. I learned how her foundation had exposed and stopped expired oil drilling permits. And I discovered how she had grown a small group of dedicated people into an international team committed to a peaceful world. I wanted to connect with them immediately, so I jumped online and filled out the volunteer form the same day.
With my background in yoga (YTT 200) and my teaching profession at Centennial College, I agreed my fit would be working on the Yogis Unite campaign. On this campaign, designed to invoke the hearts and raise the voices of millions of yogis worldwide, I have had first-hand experience teaching people about MAPS at local yoga studios, and at summertime festivals in the park. Currently, the Yogis Unite team is hard at work organizing MAPS presence at large scale yoga events like the OM Yoga Show in London and Manchester, Yoga Festival Dubai, Bhakti Festival USA, and the New Zealand International Yoga Festival.
It’s just as Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Karen Soper is a Yoga Alliance RYT 200 yoga teacher with 13 years of experience teaching health, nutrition and coaching. Karen holds a Bachelor of Science from Trent University, is a graduate of the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, and has taught workplace wellness at Centennial College. Karen is the Yogis Unite Lead at Parvati Foundation.
Click here to learn more about the dedicated people worldwide volunteering for MAPS.