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Between 15 September and 15 December 2010 I raised US$20,000 for the Off the Mat, Into the World Global Seva Challenge for South Africa. The money will go to a range of projects supporting people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. It was a huge journey, which brought me to my own edge and then stretched me a bit further.
I didn’t raise the money alone, I had help from some amazing friends, and the money we raised is a testimony to the power of online collaboration. So, why did I do it, how did I do it, what happens now and what did I learn?
The HIV/AIDs epidemic is the leading cause of death in Africa. The statistics are staggering….
The number of premature deaths due to HIV/AIDS has risen significantly over the last decade from 39% to 75% in 2010. The burden upon family members, particularly children and older people caring for terminally ill adults, and the trauma of bereavement and orphanhood compromises the physical and mental well-being of entire households. This all happens in a society where the majority of children live in poverty and 23.2% of the economically active population is unemployed. (Statistics supplied by OTM)
Major natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan are putting huge pressure on the international development community. Between this and the ongoing cost of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a risk that the AIDS epidemic will be overlooked and really impressive local initiatives, initiatives that are already working, will miss out on the resources they need to keep going.
When Off the Mat, Into the World announced that their Global Seva Challenge in 2010 would be raising money for HIV/AIDS projects in South Africa my heart started nudging me to join in.
I resisted for a long time. $20,000 is a lot of money to raise, and I have a strong connection to Afghanistan, where there is also an ongoing desperate need for resources. But this project wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought about it at night, and woke up thinking about it in the morning. So finally I signed up.
Because I dragged my feet I ended up with only three months to raise $20,000, instead of a year. But I had already seen the generosity of the online community, and I believed we could raise it.
Off the Mat explains that “HIV/AIDS is not a singular issue and requires and multi-dimensional response. As yogis, we believe in whole wellness of the body, mind and soul. Our approach in SA reflects this philosophy. We are working with unique local organizations who are going beyond the issue to address the broader impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and developing creative solutions to bring about whole and long lasting change.” That, my friends, is a yogic approach to change. It’s also known as good development practice.
All funds will go directly to the Engage Network (the parent organization and 501(c)(3) of Off the Mat), which will then allocate funds to their affiliated partners.
Follow these links for more information about the partners and projects that will be supported through the Global Seva Challenge South Africa, and exactly how the money will be used:
The breakdown of funds and where they go (supplied by Off the Mat):
Direct Community Support: up to 80% of the funds raised will support creation and sustainability of partner projects in South Africa.
Seva Participant Travel for Tour: 5% support for air and ground travel, accommodations and trip facilitation for two weeks for each Bare Witness Tour participant.
OTM Administrative and Urban Seva Support: remaining funds support continued expansion and sustainability of the Urban Seva Project, as well as administrative support for all OTM programs and projects.
When I met the goal, I was invited to join Off the Mat, Into the World founders Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling on the the Bare Witness Humanitarian Tour in South Africa.
Now, I’ve worked in development and humanitarian work long enough to be deeply sceptical about ‘humanitarian tours’, so why would I want to be part of this one?
Well, firstly I know that Seane and Suzanne have taken great care to ensure that the tour, and this entire project, is grounded in sound development and humanitarian principles. Secondly, as the Regional Leader for Off the Mat in New Zealand and Australia, I wanted to see how the organisation runs these tours. I wanted to feel confident myself that they do in fact respect humanitarian principles, and – most importantly – add value to the work of the partners we are supporting. I wanted to bear witness.
I raised $15,000 of the money through a very special Karma edition of my regular online course: 30 days of yoga. In October 2010 I offered the course on a pay-what-you-can basis so people could choose what they wanted to pay – and all the money donated went directly to the Seva challenge.
The remaining $5000 were raised through direct donations, generous gifts from friends and readers, special fundraising sales of books, workshops and fund-raising products.
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