Did you know that two-thirds of the 45 million blind people in the world are female, yet women receive less than half of eye care services?
The Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology in Moshi, Tanzania (KCCO), supported by the Seva Foundation, was to be the recipient of the money I was going to collect from each western participant in my Yoga Adventure in Africa in February. KCCO’s programs are improving eye care services throughout eastern Africa, a region with 210 million people in 18 countries spanning from Egypt to South Africa.
The cost of the retreat was $1,108.00 and I was taking $108 from each westerner for the Seva Foundation. It was hoped that the founders of the clinic, Dr. Paul Courtright and Dr. Susan Lewallen, would be able to give us a tour of the facility. I thought it was a win-win situation for everyone involved...yoga + meditation + buddhadharma + seva under the African sky.
But no one signed up.
At least no one from the West. I sent my announcement to over 100 people around the United States, advertised it on Facebook and Twitter, and put an ad in a Chicagoland yoga magazine that has a circulation of over 20,000. The Seva Foundation put an announcement on their website's home page. But not one person showed any interest in spite of the charitable component of the retreat. Fortunately my retreat was filled by Arusha yoga students within two days. I think it filled so quickly because they thought it would be filled by Americans because of my heavy advertising and they wouldn't be able to get in. But the donations were going to come from American yogis.
Seane Corn's organization Off the Mat and Into the World has a Global Seva Project in Uganda and Seane's seva challenge fundraiding total to date is $493,531.15. That's almost half a million dollars.
I would have been very happy to be able to donate a mere $1,080 if 10 Americans had signed up for my retreat. That amount would have meant a lot for the Moshi clinic. I tried taking my yoga off the mat and into the world, but I'm neither a famous yogini nor do I have celebrity endorsements. I guess that's what people pay attention to nowadays even in the yoga world. Hey, Paris and Lindsay! I have a yoga cause you can endorse!
I would be a liar if I said I was not disappointed with the lack of response. It was not the lack of registrants that disappointed me because believe me, I get it about not being able to afford something (I've curtailed my yoga spending this year in order to be away for two months), but the fact that not one person donated one thin dime.
So I am giving people one last chance up until December 31, 2009. My yoga sister Svasti suggested that I ask my global blog readers to donate. This is what she told me:
"There's a couple of reasons I've been thinking about this. First, the consumerism of Christmas always sickens me, even as I play my small part in the game. Second, I've been thinking about hobbits. Not sure if you've read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but hobbits have a tradition of giving presents to their friends for their birthday. Which I've always thought was kinda cool. Then finally, I just got my copy of Yoga of the Heart. I've only watched a little bit of it so far, but I've heard enough. Swami Satyananda talking about how if we can take care of the people who need it most, it will solve a lot of problems in society.
And there's no reason for anyone in the western world who can afford to house, clothe and feed themselves, not to support a charity that helps other people."
Maybe those of you who are thinking about buying those yoga pants that cost almost $100 could forego them and donate that money to the Moshi eye clinic. We're talking karma yoga here. Talking the talk and walking the walk.
Svasti is right. There is absolutely no reason in the world for any western yogi who can afford $100 for yoga pants not to support an organization that gives the gift of sight to an African.
This is how it will work:
There is a Paypal button in the sidebar. In the description you will type "KCCO Moshi, Tanzania" and donate an appropriate amount...let's say, the price of those hand painted yoga pants you've had your eye on. Then you will trust me enough to send all that money to the Seva Foundation before I leave on January 6. I will also take a photo of my check made out to the Seva Foundation and upload it to a blog post thanking you for your donations.
You can donate directly to the Seva Foundation. You will email Julie Nestingen, the Development Manager, at jnestingen AT seva DOT org, and tell her that you want your money to specifically go to the Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO). Tell her that in lieu of going on my yoga adventure, you are donating money instead. I am sure she will be happy to take your money and send you a receipt for your taxes.
It's called compassion in action. And it begins with you.
(NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT DONATE MONEY TO MY PAYPAL ACCOUNT AFTER DECEMBER 31 BECAUSE I WILL OUT OF THE COUNTRY FOR TWO MONTHS. PLEASE DONATE DIRECTLY TO THE SEVA FOUNDATION AFTER DECEMBER 31. THANK YOU!)
Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
(Thank you and metta to you! Also a big thanks to the yoga bloggers who helped advertise this retreat -- you know who you are!)