’tis the season for giving and karma yoga

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.


Seva Foundation banner

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!)

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5 thoughts on “’tis the season for giving and karma yoga

  1. Linda, this is a great idea. I would have LOVED to come on the yoga retreat in Africa – unfortunately, I can simply not afford to go all the way to Africa and all the cost involved in that travel right now. I suspect that is a lot of the reason for the lack of interest from the west – it's not a lack of interest in the retreat, or in donating or helping with the Eye Clinic. I suspect that many people, like me, have been affected by the recession and economic times and simply cannot afford to travel somewhere like Africa for a retreat right now. However, that said, I am THRILLED to donate something to this cause, and I'm sure that others will be too! Good luck and let me know if there's anything else I can do….


  2. Linda,

    Firstly, is there any idea why 2/3 of all blind people are female? I am very curious about that number.

    Secondly, I think you raise a hugely important point. I wonder what the impact of the economic 'crisis' of the world right now is on charities that rely on western money? As a Westerner living in a poor country I see every day just how many things are sustained by money that comes in through western NGOs and aid programmes (although often not in the ways that we think). Many westerners are now tightening their belts – but it's a good reminder not to tighten them in the wrong direction! A little can go a long, long way in places like these.


  3. La Gitane, I believe it has to do with access to care. In certain countries, men are helped first, bottom line.

    As for my trip, I totally understand how people tighten their belts, however, even in bad economy there are still people with disposable income. There is an organization called Metta Journeys…. http://www.mettajourneys.com/our-journeys/past-trips/index.html….where the REQUIRED donation was $1000 on top of the price of the price of the trip and people signed up. Seane Corn's organization does not lack for donations.

    So I was not disappointed that no one from the US signed up for my trip, not at all — as one of my friends said, “why teach to someone from your own backyard half way around the world?”

    it was always about the donations for me.


  4. p.s. Metta Journeys' next trip to Rwanda costs $6495 PLUS a required $1000 donation to their designated charity.

    This is why I say there is always disposable income for these yoga + charity trips.

    My trip would not have cost anywhere near that price and my donation was only $108.


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