Microlending is one of the hottest and most exciting trends in the new world economy. Everyone from jazz musicians to Peruvian farmers to urban designers are using grass roots technology to raise money for their projects. I have received requests to fund the completion of a new artists’ first album, to produce the first line of fashionable rain boots, but this week an invitation arrived with an entirely different face.
And frankly I am thrilled whenever I see innovation in the healing arts, in terms of entrepreneurialship and service. Most yoga teachers and massage therapists see themselves more as healers than as business people, rebels than conformers, socialists rather than capitalists. I am generalizing but the values that lead people to lives in the healing arts can often be in direct conflict with the perceived values for earning money.
This week I received an e-mail from a friend and colleague, Sunny Klaber, a geologist and Outward Bound instructor turned Thai massage therapist and yoga teacher. She has been leading integrated cross-cultural, healing arts and service-oriented journeys throughout the world through her organization, Integral Travel.
Her latest brainchild is the Zia Project– named after the symbol of the sun for the Zia people of Northern Mexico. And I have to add here that you have never met a more aptly named woman than Sunny herself. Her smile is wide and radiant. Since she has been leading trips for several years to the south of Thailand, Sunny has witnessed first hand the devastating effects the tsunami has had on the local families and economy on the Andaman coast. So in February of 2012, the first official Zia project will begin by bringing together twenty women who are tsunami survivors from Muslim, Buddhist, and Moken villages, to learn Thai Yoga Massage.
Sunny explains that “for the last several years these women’s lives have been consumed by rebuilding their villages on safe ground and making sure that their family’s basic needs have been met. Now they are ready to rebuild their lives on a deeper level. For some it will be an opportunity to connect with themselves. For others it will be an opportunity to connect with their neighbors. For many it will be an opportunity to consider a career path other than prostitution.”
When the women have developed the skills necessary to safely and confidently practice Thai Yoga Massage, they will be assisted professionally and financially in launching a Thai Yoga Massage business that will successfully meet the needs of their communities. As part of their professional development they will become mentors and pass on their knowledge to the other women in their community who are interested in joining them on this path.
“Everywhere I look theses days I see images of people who are angry, frustrated, or just plain confused by a global economy that has failed due to greed and fear. Then I think about the ZIA PROJECT and I feel incredibly grateful to be in a position to be facilitating the growth of a sustainable trade that is based entirely on compassion, love, joy and equanimity.”
To read more about the Zia project and its mission, or better yet, to contribute, click here. There is a full project mission statement and budget breakdown. Future project communities include Bodhgaya, India and the Southwestern US.
This inaugural project will be will be documented through film by Adam Taub, a Colorado documentarian!
Sunny (friend her to keep abreast of the Zia project) posted this quote from Nigerian Nobel Prize Winner Leyman Gbowee today on Facebook:
“…the first thing I hope you do is look at the space you’re in and see the difference that you’re making now. See that as a great thing FIRST. Because people—especially women—tend to minimize what we do. We tend to see it as not contributing at all. Secondly, if you find yourself in a space where you have enormous power to make change and you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, I can’t do it, or it’s not within my reach to do it,” my challenge to you, after you put that book down, is to rise up. Whether it’s in your backyard, your front yard or your office: DO SOMETHING. Mighty be our power!”
ZIA project- http://www.indiegogo.com/ZIA-PROJECT
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