October 26, 2013

Yogi Warriors for Change. ~ Cassie Willcocks

The yoga community seems to have gone bonkers.

Why on earth would anyone want to try and do yoga in a school dress!?

This month Australian charity One Girl launched it’s Do It In A Dress campaign, which challenges people to wear a school dress, complete a challenge and raise much needed funds for educational projects in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

With the campaign now in full swing, yogis are undoubtedly some of Do It In A Dress’ most dedicated participants; hundreds of people around the world are wearing school dresses and getting into their favourite pose to help give girls in Sierra Leone access to education, through schoalrships, school rehabilitation projects and access to sanitary pads.


Around the world there are 60 million girls not in school, and only one in six girls in Sierra Leone get to go at all.

In fact, Sierra Leone is one of the worst places in the world to be born a girl. Here’s a shocking statistic to stew over: girls born there are more likely to be sexually assaulted, than they are to attend high school. It’s almost too hard to imagine the challenges you’d face just trying to be in school like any other kid across the world.

“It only costs $300 to send a girl in Sierra Leone to school for a whole year. With the support of our passionate community across Australia and around the world, we hope to empower more than 5,000 girls to become educated girls, women and mothers,” says Chantelle Baxter, a keen yogini herself who co-founded One Girl and created Do It In A Dress.

“The impact of sending just one girl to school is undeniable: she will marry later, have a smaller and healthier family, and for every year a girl stays in school she’ll increase her income by at least 10 percent, investing 90 percent of it back into her family,” says Chantelle.

That’s why passionate yogis like Madeleine and Emma and Robyn are harnessing their love of yoga to help make a change in the lives of those less fortunate. And the power of the yoga community to come together for a great cause is completely inspiring.

Last year, Madeleine Suzanne was able to raise over $3,000 to help send girls to school in Sierra Leone by convincing studios and yogis all over Melbourne to do yoga in a school dress, including Pure Hot Yoga in north east Melbourne, who raised over $800 and gave away $500 in raffle prizes by running a two hour Do It In A Dress yoga class.

Madeleine said, “we even had a number of men attend in dresses, which reminded me just how much yoga helps people leave their egos at the door!”

This year Madeleine will be running donation-based yoga and meditation classes in people’s homes, schools, studios, offices and spaces with all money going directly to Do It In A Dress.

Pure Hot Yoga have been inspired by the success of last year to get back in their school dresses again and raise another thousand dollars as they believe everyone, no matter what race or creed, should have an equal opportunity in life, and will be running a community yoga event in late October.

In the west of Melbourne, Emma Moulday and husband Gabor Bukovinsky, co-directors of Yoga Flame Studio, hosted a yoga class to support the campaign, with over 30 of their community members turning out for the class, swapping their usual yoga attire for school dresses.

Emma explained her motivations, saying, “Many times you wonder what you can do to help: we believe the One Girl movement has found a meaningful way to transform lives in a joyful and celebratory way.”

The yoga class was a great success, and brought the community together for a fun—and impactful—day.

Through donations and community support, Yoga Flame rasied $1,200 for the cause, enough to send 4 girls in Sierra Leone to school for an entire year.

”We were inspired to support this cause as it is a great way to connect and strengthen communities – both our yoga community and also the communities in Sierra Leone,” says Emma.

Robyn Sawatzky from Perth, Western Australia is running yoga classes wearing a school dress every Sunday for the month of October. Robyn wants to inspire her students to see yoga as a way of creating positive change.

“I want to teach my students about karma, selfless service, the yoga of action and how the fruits of our actions can help others in need,” says Robyn.

This is Robyn’s second year participating in the Do It In A Dress campaign; last year she partnered with four other yoga instructors to teach a class of 85 people, raising over $2,400 along the way. This year Robyn and her Yoga October team, comprising of multiple Perth yoga studios, plan to run weekly classes in their school dresses, and have already raised enough to send two girls back to school for a year.

It’s not just Australians doing sun salutations in their school dresses, state-side in Rhode Island. Dave Ursillo arranged a special Vinyasa Flow class with himself, teacher Debbie Valois and studio owner Lori Mancini at Laughing Elephant Yoga. They’ve taken something they loved doing and got their community together to help girls in need, having an amazing time along the way.

Over 50 yogis participated, some even doing the downward dog in a tutu, with hilarious results, and an amazing $1,000 raised.

Yoga and benevolence undoubtedly go hand in hand.

It’s inspiring to see a community stand up together to help change the lives of others through what they love.

So what will you do to help?

Do It In A Dress runs for the month of October, but participants are encouraged to continue the movement well beyond. Do It In A Dress is an initiative of One Girl, the Melbourne-based non-profit working in Sierra Leone, West Africa to educate and empower women and girls.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

{Photos: One Girl.}

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