Bob Walked; Everyone Grew

Saturday mornings almost always find me doing my long run. I have run several times through the trails at Lake Lafayette. A few weeks ago, my schedule changed and I was able to participate in a Move Tallahassee walk through the same area. Walking the trail took three times as long as running it would have, but since I ended up among bird lovers and conservationists, things were brought to my attention that I would have missed before: uncommon juvenile birds nestled in the aquatic plants; trash that had been left by walkers prior to us; invasive and predatory vegetation. I left the day with a heightened appreciation for the advantages of slowing down.

When I read an article memorializing Bob Hentzen, President and Co-Founder of Unbound, after his death on October 8, I learned that when he decided to relocate from Kansas City to Guatemala in 1996, he walked. That’s right: 4,000 miles!

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes...

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes…

I can only imagine the human rights issues Bob saw on his walk (and continued to see when he settled in Guatemala).

Did he encounter racism before he left the United States? Did he see citizens of his home country withholding jobs, the ability to rent homes, common courtesy from each other based on which racial group they belonged to?

As he headed south, did he encounter citizens of Mexico, struggling for the right to health protection amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis?

When he arrived in Guatemala, did he immediately see the challenges faced by indigenous people in danger of losing their land and/or livelihood? Undoubtedly he saw what he already knew: that women and girls were in danger of being victims of violence and the inability to get educated.

I know from spending a week on a Mission Awareness Trip in Guatemala with Bob in July 2011 that he cared deeply about the women and girls of Guatemala who needed help to learn skills that would earn them a living; who needed support to get education beyond the initial early grades; who needed protection when spouses succumbed to substance abuse or simply left.

Bob with Guatemalan children

Bob with Guatemalan children

I have so many memories of Bob that have come flooding back since I learned of his death earlier this week.

  • How a few of the kids in the group (and, ahem, perhaps some of the adults) thought it was “quaint” when he walked in for the first time with his guitar. It’s possible a few eyes even rolled. By the end of the week, we were done with that though. I’d give a lot of quetzales (Guatemalan money) to hear Bob sing again.
  • His reference to a song he heard a Guatemalan child sing (paraphrasing here….) “we sing to drown out the sounds of the guns.”
  • The way he interacted with every single Guatemalan family along the way during our week. His little notepad, where he wrote down specific needs and facts. How despite taking notes in his little notepad, those families had his full attention. I remember him asking one teenager if she went to school. She said “no.” There was no judgment coming back from him. But I think a seed may have been planted in that girl’s head. It was clear that no one in Guatemala wanted to disappoint “Don Roberto and Doña Cristina (his wife).”
  • The way he interacted with his staff. I know how short tempered I have been with staff when I supervised. When you’re all crammed together in a mini bus for a week, there’s not a lot of privacy. I listened to him give directions to the Unbound staff and had a sense of abiding, quiet, humble leadership.
  • Despite all that abiding, quiet, humble part, I know that Bob would not brook any nonsense when it came to Unbound. When he talked about charity clearinghouses and auditors questioning how he allocated funds, he was resolute in making sure as much money (and resources) got directly to families as possible while retaining the necessary cushion of financial solidity for Unbound.

Back to walking and human rights. I doubt any of us reading this plan any 4000 mile walks in our lifetimes. What we can do, however, is slow down and walk through our town, our country, or another country and observe the human rights challenges, with an eye to doing something about them.

To extend that example to Tallahassee and my home state of Florida, human slavery steals the rights of women (and some men). In the United States, pick any of a number of issues.

As for other countries, if you have an opportunity to visit and see for yourself, do it. In the meantime, there are plentiful ways to improve your awareness and make a difference.  (One of my favorites is Half the Sky.) In memory of Bob, I also encourage you to visit the Unbound site and consider sponsoring a child, giving a monetary gift, or even simply spreading awareness by sharing Unbound’s message on social media (or face to face!).

One of Bob Hentzen’s most repeated quotes is:  “Society has told them [the poor] all along that they are not capable. We are here to tell them they are quite capable. You are not alone. We are walking with you.” When it comes to the topic of human rights, I encourage you to take a page out of Bob’s book and walk …. blazing a path of awareness and compassion.

Bob and Sponsored Children

Bob and Sponsored Children

(Each year, Blog Action Day “brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day.  Past topics have included Water, Climate Change, Poverty,  Food and the Power of We, with over 25,000 blogs taking part since 2007.” This year’s theme is human rights.)

 

Happy Sixth Birthday, Journeys In Yoga

Journeys in Yoga turned six yesterday. In typical generous fashion, Suzanne offered a day of free yoga topped off by a champagne toast and birthday cake. I wasn’t able to attend, but would like to offer this post as my birthday “thank you” to Journeys.

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Six Gifts Journeys Has Given Me

Flexibility Of course it is not unexpected that a yoga practice will increase flexibility! Journeys has helped me improve my physical flexibility, and time and again has helped my tight hamstrings and other running-related muscles and tendons become more pliable. But it is a flexibility that goes beyond the physical; it is a flexibility that encourages me to stretch my mind and heart in new ways.

Strength The first class I went to at Journeys was a core yoga class. I have written before about how I think core strength is indispensable to runners. At Journeys I became stronger, in my abs and in my confidence.

Peace of Mind I started going to Journeys at a time when I was injured and could not run. My husband had just lost his job and our family faced an uncertain road financially. The injury did not go away magically; the family situation did not repair itself spontaneously. But Journeys gave me a place to take a respite from all of that, one savasana at a time.

Friendship I have made friends at Journeys who broaden my life and support me. By sharing yoga time with people I know from other areas of my life, friendships have been deepened and extended. I needed this.

Focus Staring at a driste trying to balance does help us (usually) keep from tumbling over during a yoga session, but learning to look ahead at a steady point is a lesson I needed to learn (still need to learn) for reaching my goals in life. Journeys gave me a place to internalize this.

Abundance Abundance is Journeys’s theme of the month for March. It is fitting. Journeys has helped remind me of the abundance surrounding me, the tangible and non-tangible. In involving me in helping to publicize various donation yoga campaigns (such as One Million Bones and the Human Trafficking Prevention efforts), Journeys helped me feel that I had something to give, no matter my yoga abilities.

Lastly, Journeys is my “yoga home” — although I am early on in my yoga journey, I have had the opportunity to do yoga in several other states, to do yoga outdoors, to do yoga in front of a computer screen. No matter where I am, I am reminded that yoga shouldn’t hurt, that I should feel comfortable speaking up about what I need, that I should know deep inside that yoga is for everyone. These are all principles that Journeys has taught me.

I do not know if “gratitude” will end up being one of Journeys’s 2013 “Transformation Themes,” but whether it is on a list as a monthly theme or not, it is something I feel for this place every day of every year.

compressed namaste


 

Help Victims of Human Trafficking, One Vinyasa at a Time

Journeys in Yoga has a commitment to SEVA (Community Service). Every Sunday, a “donation” class is held at noon; the students give whatever they want to give financially, and Journeys donates 100% of the proceeds to a selected charity. (Teachers vary Sunday to Sunday; you are welcomed whether you are a beginner, experienced, or somewhere in between.)

For the next five weeks, Journeys is donating proceeds from the Sunday noon class to the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which provides free legal services to victims of human trafficking. In addition to legal services, the Center has found itself providing for other needs of trafficking victims, including helping them find work and housing, and facilitating reunification with their children.  Survivors of trafficking (at least those who cooperate with law enforcement) are entitled to permanent residency in the United States, but this road to residency is VERY expensive. Survivors must provide official translations of their birth certificates and other documents, obtain thorough medical examinations, and pay court fees.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is “the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others. Against their will, millions of people around the world are forced to work for the profit of others, for example by begging, prostitution, involuntary servitude, working in sweatshops – even becoming child soldiers.” (This definition is from this resource.) The United Nations has estimated that more than 2.4 million people are currently being exploited as victims of human trafficking (Read more from the UN here.) In Tallahassee, the survivors being helped by the Center were trafficked for sex and work.

In order to give you just a hint of the typical mindset of a trafficking victim, I have adapted material from The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking to present it from the perspective of a victim:

You are a young woman from Russia, the Ukraine, or Central Europe, promised marriage, a good job to be able to send money back home, and a better life, only to learn once you are in a foreign country, completely cut off from your support system and your family, that none of it is true.

You find yourself trapped in the sex industry, the service industry, in sweatshops or in agricultural fields – living daily with inhumane treatment, physical and mental abuse, and threats to yourself or your family back home.  You may not know what city or country you are in because you are moved frequently to escape detection. 

You fear or distrust the government and police because you are afraid of being deported or because you come from a country where law enforcement is corrupt and feared.  You may feel that it is your fault that you are in this situation. As a coping or survival skill, you may even develop loyalties and positive feelings toward your trafficker or try to protect them from authorities.

(For comprehensive information about Slavery, visit this website.)

Image Source: www.dosomething.org

Consider joining us at Journeys in Yoga Sundays at noon through the month of May to experience the peace that yoga brings while helping provide peace of mind to these women who are trying to rebuild their lives after trials that we can barely imagine.

If you can’t come to the donation class but would still like to donate, please contact Vania Llovera, Assistant Director of the Center, at vllovera@admin.fsu.edu or 850/644-4551.

Journeys in Yoga is located at 111 South Magnolia Drive Suite 34 | Tallahassee, Florida 32311 and the phone number is  850.228.2223  
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