Off The Mat, Into The World SF Bay Area Leader and Global Activist Lisa Rueff discusses her Haiti initiatives in this interview below.
Hey Lisa, thanks so much for making some time to connect with us and our community today. To get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey Dan. My pleasure. I am a big fan of Wanderlust, and am honored and excited to be sharing with you. I’ve been teaching yoga for about 10 years now, and love to infuse my classes with inspiration, gratitude, and groovy tunes. I love international travel, and my yoga company offers world travel in magical places with an emphasis on philanthropy and giving back to the communities we visit. Currently, my focus has been on Haiti. In the past year, I have ventured down to Haiti on 4 different trips to volunteer and work with children in tented cities, orphanages and schools. I am heading back down to Jacmel Haiti this June, in about 3 weeks, to begin construction of the Jacmel Children Center. I will be bringing down 20 of my yoga students to help excavate and break ground. We are building a 3,200 square foot permanent children’s home and community center for children who are still living in tents, orphaned after the earthquake. In the past year, I have poured my heart, soul and energy into making this dream of building the center a reality. You can learn more about our fundraising efforts at www.collectiveheartsyoga.com and www.jacmelchildren.org.
Wow Lisa, that sounds amazing. You are really taking your yoga off the mat and putting it to good use. Speaking of which, can you tell us a little bit about your involvement and experiences with official Wanderlust Festival non-profit partner Off the Mat, Into The World?
Absolutely. I’ve been active in the Off The Mat community for over a year now. I attended two of their leadership trainings, and am whole-heartedly inspired by their organization. I have deep respect and admiration for Seane, Hala and Suzanne, the Founders of Off The Mat. Through these leadership trainings I attended, as well as wonderful yoga events like Wanderlust, I have gotten to spend quality time with the Off The Mat community. Last year at Wanderlust, we had an Off The Mat house that we shared, and they make sure to include everyone in their community. Kerri Kelly, Global Catalyst for Off The Mat, has been instrumental in submitting our proposal to Off The Mat, after learning about our initiative to build the Jacmel Children Center. About a month ago, I had the pleasure of joining Suzanne in Haiti, as she ventured there on a scouting trip for the Haiti Seva Challenge in 2012. Since I have been spending so much time in Jacmel in the past year, I was excited to show her the property where we are building the Children Center and introduce her to Bonite Affriany, the inspiration behind our cause. Bonite is a Haitian woman and a true community leader. She has a daily feeding program, in which she provides a hearty, healthy meal for over 275 children. She does this feeding program everyday. Some of the children walk over an hour to receive this meal. Many of the children are still living in tents nearby, in challenging situations. Bonite also provides medical care, education and clothing to both the children and adults in her community and neighboring tented cities. After spending time with Bonite and witnessing the feeding program, and seeing our fundraising platform, Off The Mat has taken on our project as part of the Seva Challenge. We are thrilled, honored and excited to be part of the Seva Challenge for 2012.
As you know, we are offering the Wanderlust Yoga Aid Challenge, a special vinyasa class with Seane Corn and Michael Franti to raise money for OTM at both Wanderlust VT and CA. With your project being one of OTM’s global seva projects, is anything you would like to say to motivate people to participate in the challenge and raise for OTM via The Wanderlust Festival?
I am so excited about the special vinyasa class with Seane and Michael. They are both so inspiring, and this will surely be a highlight of Wanderlust. They held a yoga class together last year at the Fillmore, and it was one of the most meaningful and uplifting experiences. Between Seane’s empowering words, and Michael’s soulful music and storytelling, it was simply magical. Michael just went down to Haiti last week, and I have a feeling he will weave in some personal stories of his Haiti experiences that will make the class even more heartfelt. Besides being an incredibly fun and uplifting yoga session, all of the proceeds raised will benefit people all around the world. The more I combine yoga with service-work, I understand the authenticity and power of practicing yoga “off the mat”. Yoga helps us to strengthen, create more balance and flexibility within, so that we can lead a more fulfilling and purposeful life off of our mats. Both Michael and Seane are spiritual activists and leaders that are waking people up every day with their words and their actions to what is truly important in life. Living our life with integrity, compassion, and love. I have spent a significant amount of time in Haiti this past year. I have seen first-hand the challenges, heartaches and pain that the Haitians have encountered, and still continue to do so. Despite their challenges, the Haitians that I have worked with and will be building the Jacmel Children Center for exude faith, dedication, dignity and love. To know that we will be on our yoga mats making a difference for the people in Haiti is all the more reason to attend the Seane-Michael yoga extravaganza.
Totally, thank you so much for your inspiring work and heartfelt dedication Lisa, we look forward to seeing you at Wanderlust in Vermont and California. Is their anything you’d like to say to our audience to close?
Yes – I went to Haiti to “help” the Haitian people. Little did I know that by bearing witness to their hardships, and to their resilience with open hearts, I would be the one to change. My heart was cracked open to the strength of their faith and love of living. The Haitian people exemplify gratitude, strength, and perseverance. Even after the heart-wrenching tragedies that wreaked havoc on their country, they continue to sing, dance, pray, and embody faith. Amidst so much heartache, the Haitians that I met were choosing to celebrate life, hope, and love.
Lisa Rueff is a Bay Area yoga teacher popular for her ability to bring community together for fun and flowing yoga classes, as well as for fundraising events to benefit causes close to her heart. She started Yoga Ventures in order to take her life’s mission of community service to the next level. Through Yoga Ventures’ events she raises awareness and funds for local and international communities in need. As a vibrant and energetic teacher and community leader, she is passionate about inspiring, enriching, and nurturing others. Leading international yoga and service trips abroad, she encourages her students to discover the joys of philanthropy and volunteer work. She combines her love of international travel and yoga with short-term humanitarian trips, having a profound and sustainable impact on the global community.www.yogaventures.org
OTM Bay Area Leader and Global Activist, Lisa Rueff (participant in the Global Seva Challenge). Her project Jacmel Children’s Center is also being included in our on the ground Haiti efforts and will receive support (donation) from the Global Seva Challenge initaitive.