Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.
— Yogi Bhajan

April - June 2019

Athens, Greece:

Every class leaves a powerful imprint on my heart but today's women's healing circle was deeper than the most.

Today I posed a question to the group: If you could speak to your younger self, what would you tell her? Here is a glimpse into some of their responses: Stop worrying so much and enjoy the present moment. Know your worth. Enjoy life and don't try to be a grown up, BE a child. I'd insist my father to send me to school. Enjoy the journey and don't be so focused on the destination.

From there the women engaged in dialogue and shed some tears as they shared a little backstory into their responses. One of them stated that it was her first time saying these thoughts aloud. We were off to a pretty powerful start, but then it led to even deeper places.

One of them asked me "How can we stop this cycle? How can stop passing on our worries to our children, so their lives don't pass them by in such a heightened state of stress, worry, and regrets? --- There was a moment of pause as I acknowledged the depth and power of her question. Then one of the older women of the group responded with a long and heartfelt explanation around why they don't have to worry about that anymore. *Please, keep in mind that I'm paraphrasing AND translating from Farsi. **continued in comments ** .
#humanitarianaid #resilience #refugees #refugeeswelcome 
#volunteers #crisisaidworkers #refugeecrisis #greece #refugeerelief #NGO #respect #dignity #compassion #liveyourpassion #cicleofhope
#AlchemyofTrauma #humanitarianaidtraining #refugeeempowerment #traumainformedtraining

In partnership with the NGO Refugym , at an open refugee camp in Malakasa, Athens. It is home to 1,800 refugees, a majority of whom are from Afghanistan. A fundamental objective of Refugym’s is to empower refugees to run the exercise programming themselves, creating a community-led initiative within the camp and therefore a sustainable project. Refugym currently has 11 refugees running their programming! With an incredibly varied timetable, from self-defense and Taikwondo to football, Kung-Fu and swimming.

To create a better future we must find ways to hold safe spaces which address the mental health challenges that evolve from the complex trauma of the refugee experience.

I've been sharing a lot on social media about the benefits of healing trauma through Yoga so I wanted to shift my attention to therapy because it's been on my mind a lot more since I have had a glimpse of the refugee experience at this camp. In one of my last healing circles at the camp we discussed this at length. Interestingly enough, the women brought up the topic and we engaged in conversation around the taboo of seeking psych services that go beyond crisis intervention. Some of them have been living at the camp for years and will only be seen by a psychologist in a major crisis. They shared that being a part of the healing circle had made them realize the power of speaking your truth to someone you trust. Overall, the consensus among the women was that they would undoubtedly participate in weekly therapy sessions if it were easily accessible and if the therapist spoke their language.

My eyes have been opened in many ways and many questions have been raisee - How can refine psychological aid in refugee camps and create inviting safe spaces while engaging in culturally aware, trauma sensitive, and consistent mental health services within these communities? More specifically, aid that goes beyond crisis services. My aim is to continue to step out of the confines of what 'therapy' looks like in the Western world while collaborating with intercultural mental health experts to create spaces that mimic the dynamic that emerges from the therapist-client relationship. Ongoing therapy gives us time to transition from crisis aid to mental health and wellness. Eventually shifting toward experiencing critical self-inquiry and challenge the stories we've been told while being rooted in radical self-compassion and self-acceptance. The stability and consistency of this dyad offers unique pathways to inner work.

Therapy is a privilege and my hope is to contribute to the ongoing global movement that is expanding its reach because it is a basic human right and should be treated as such.

The Circle of Hope was facilitated in farsi, twice a week within the Refugym building. The healing circle became a space for women to gather, share stories, and connect with one another in a safe space outside of their home.

Community leadership Outcome: A local resident was inspired to take on the role of continuing to hold space for the healing circle. Since July of 2019, with the assistance of a volunteer yoga teacher, she has been leading the circles for women to gather, engage in self-inquiry and share stories, followed by a yoga practice.

Aid Worker Resiliency:
Listening Circles: A space for aid workers to gather, share and practice self-compassion and community strengthening.

Humanitarian Aid Resiliency Training (H.A.R.T): 1-day training addressing secondary trauma & self-care; attendees were from various NGO’s working with the refugee and displaced populations in the city of Athens.

Sept-Oct 2019

…more to come