As I already had a longer Unconditional Love project running in Finland, I decided to deepen it with Kula 300h YTT project request and give a bit more of my time for it for the last two months. As I sat down to meditate upon it I did receive an impression to organize something around gratitude as well as free expression and dance. I suggested my ideas for the Multicultural Center that we are collaborating with and they welcomed it with open heart.
Dance and breath are truly cross-cultural languages, connecting people from different backgrounds. In many cultures dance and music has a strong role to bring people together and remind us of belonging to own tribe as well as all of life. When one immigrates into a foreign country, she is often taken apart from a tribal and cultural way of moving and is facing the need to learn the new etiquette of moving the body and making sounds. Also in Finland often times, movement and sound are covered behind definitions of “how good I am”, “I can’t dance or sing”, “what might others think” etc. These external expectations and internal insecurity aspects are a call for more loving and accepting space to express ourselves just the way we are. This accepting and empowering space is what the dharma project day wanted to offer for.
The Moment of Free Dance took place in Gloria welcoming all and everyone to practice free expression through sound and movement: learn more here. Eight amazing woman came, from Finland, Estonia and Lithuania. The session started with dropping into a space and creating safe container moving into guided dance meditation (a “seed dance”) and recognizing the natural elements in the body. The practice led us to experience the union of movement, breath and tribal sounds individually, in pairs and as a group. The session was extremely freeing and liberating allowing all the participants to dive deep into their creations, process their emotions and mental stories, open up with radical acceptance, and of course love and mush each others in the end. “Where can we do more of this?”, “I am SO happy that I came!”, “This was exactly what I needed!”, “ I had no idea what to expect but this was so beautiful and liberating “, embraced the ladies, which made also my heart to jump up and down of pure joy! We, the nine women from different countries, had just experienced together a unifying, unconditionally loving, cross-cultural experience. Om! Aho! Amen!
SOS- Children’s Home that we visited in weekly basis got closed in mid-August, that is a good news as it means that all the kids that had needed a permanent home and permission to live in the country had received it. Honestly, I was a bit sad about it as I really admired the spirit of each young man that I got to meet there. Nevertheless, the Children’s Home was extremely grateful for the volunteer work that we carried there and the boys seemed to really like it. I also have seen some of the boys in town after then and been happy to say that we can connect purely from our hearts when we meet.
After a summer break we started to offer a two-hour yoga and meditation sessions at Multicultural Center Gloria again every Friday in August and September. Part of the income was donated for the education of the center’s godson in Africa. This weekly session has been such a beautiful hub of different cultures gathering around peace. Every time, both Finnish and foreign people joined us, which I found very fruitful in terms of our project goals.
The Dharma Project, Unconditional Love Project, has now come to an end of the six-month period that I and we devoted for it. If you’d like to know about the project results, read more below!
HOW DID WE DO?
This was the first project of a kind that I have organized and I feel that I learned a lot! The planning process with Kula Dharma Template was a very important part of the project and that’s what I used a lot of my time for in the beginning.
The project vision: To empower a group of locals & refugees & immigrants to integrate as a community and experience unconditional love in practice in daily life within and without.
The Project Question: How might I share simple and practical tools to experience unconditional love individually and collectively and empower participating locals, refugees and immigrants to integrate as a community?
The solution for bringing the vision into being: In interaction with local community responding to the needs of young new immigrants and refugees in a reception center to feel more welcomed, loved and empowered. This happens by sharing simple individual and collective integrative activities and exercises with refugees, immigrants and locals.
HOW DID WE MEET THE SUCCESS CRITERIA AND FOLLOWED THE TIMELINE & ACTION PLAN?
Action taken in Feb-March:
- As scheduled, I contacted each underage refugee centers and children's homes (six) in area and determined which ones has the biggest need for social integrative activity → I visited in few centers and talked to staff. The SOS- Children Home was the last one to visit but it was immediately clear both for the staff and me that it was the place where the project would take place. I also contacted Multicultural Center Gloria for young immigrants' events and agreed for collaboration throughout the project.
- I researched where the young refugees of Children’s Home came from and if there would be any cultural barrier or a language barrier between us. We ended up speaking in four different languages during our sessions (Finnish, English, Swedish and Dari Persian).
- We first sat down to talk with the social workers of the Children’s Home about the (traumatic) experiences and needs of young refugees. On the second meeting, I met the young (16-18 years old) boys themselves and discussed with them what they would like to do on their free time. We came across an action plan of different social activities that took place every week on the same day and time starting in March (two weeks later than I had scheduled in timeline).
- I created an event page for the project on Facebook under the Seeds of Light community page that I maintain with a friend and added it on our website. The website is no longer in use but find Facebook page here.
- We created an UCL (Unconditional Love)- project day at our community home for locals sharing information about the project and telling the story behind Abundant Love-project that was part of our project. We shared dharma & karma yoga talk, some individual & group & pair exercises to receive and give unconditionally and experiences & ideas of what UCL can be in practice in daily life. We shared tools to embody it encouraging people to share their gifts with refugee community and attend the project long-term whenever they’d have time for it. In the end of the day I had a list of volunteers who I would contact over six months when ever there was a good opportunity to join the project events, such as playing volleyball with the refugee kids or painting the stones for Abundant Love project (see previous blog post for this) etc.
- During the Week Against Racism we created a booth for the project at Multicultural Center Gloria where immigrants, refugees as well as locals visited.
- We held a yoga class for immigrant women who for religious reasons cannot join the classes if there are men in the same room.
- On 22nd of March there was a Nowruz celebration, known also as Persian New Year, and it was celebrated with big event at Gloria Multicultural Center. One of the project devotees, Vera, felt guided to perform there a piece of dance that turned out to be an incredible expression of unconditional love. She literally summed up both the collective and individual need to express unconditional giving and receiving within and without. Thank you Vera for expressing the essence of the project and including also the painted stones into it!
Action taken in April:
- Group activities at SOS- Children’s Home once a week: Street Workout, Boxing & Beatboxing, Yoga & Meditation.
- I collected stones for painting compassionate messages in them (Abundant Love-project, the practice of unconditional giving and receiving). I shared a moment with immigrant & local kids and their parents painting the stones and encouraged them to take the stone with a simple message (such as “You are loved.”) to nature for someone else to find.
- Weekly yoga & meditation classes at Multicultural Center Gloria.
Action taken in May:
- Group activities at SOS- Children’s Home once a week: Yoga & Meditation, Volleyball.
- Weekly yoga & meditation classes at Multicultural Center Gloria.
- I was off at Kula training between mid-May and end of June. Other volunteers continued project events in May but June-July was a time off as also the centers that we work with were closed during that time.
Action taken in August-September:
- Weekly yoga & meditation classes at Multicultural Center Gloria.
- Ayurveda workshops
- The moment of Free Dance
- Attending on other multicultural events to talk about the project and sharing it with people
- A workshop about the project and Unconditional Love in daily life in a Xperience yoga festival in Germany (Yoga Vidya Bad Meinberg). Vera’s short report about the workshop: “The Xperience Festival was a big gathering of Loving Kindness – Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu described the amazing spirit of the festival. The workshop about Yoga & immigration on the festival was a small and intense moment full of love through singing, discussing and doing exercises with the participants.”
CHALLENGES & OBSERVATIONS:
The centers in the beginning were more protected that I had thought and not easily contacted and visited. Also I was not allowed to take or publish that many photos of the participants. Often when I asked if I could take a photo of they usually just looked away or pulled a shirt on their faces. It truly surprised me how much there is still racism and required protection around the young refugees!
There were couple of ideas of group activities (such as cooking together and doing a plant walk) that didn’t manifest into being but they were all replaced by activities that were in tune with what refugees & immigrants actually needed and wanted (such as Volleyball & Street Workout).
Language barrier was not a problem during our activities as the kids spoke so many languages. Cultural barrier showed off few times and I needed to pay attention especially to refugees’ understanding of relationships between a local woman and them (as some of them have grown up in a very sexist environment). I never had issues with the boys and they felt like little brothers to me but for example the name of the project, Unconditional Love Project, needed to be changed into a Social Activity Project at Children’s Home so that it was not misunderstood.
I was not let too close to kids as some of them were very traumatized and I was just a volunteer and not a social worker. On one hand it was nice to just have fun with them but on the other, I would’ve loved to spend more time with them also outside the center!
The SOS-Children’s Home got closed before the project was finished but I used that time to visit in Multicultural Center Gloria’s events to share the project where I reached the young immigrants and refugees as for many it is the main place where they come to hang out on their free time.
CONCLUSION & FEEDBACK:
Overall, I was many times positively surprised about different actions that took place during the project. There were a lot of volunteers who were truly interested to help and I feel that we met all the main goals and the success criteria that I had set. SOS- Children’s Home deeply thanked for all the effort and care that we shared with the kids. When I asked for feedback after the sessions and events, people always told that they felt happy about their experience and many of them recognized that they would leave with awareness of different tools of how to embody unconditional love in daily life. “I learned things about my self that I just haven’t thought about before but it all makes so much sense!”, was one feedback.
We were able to collect all refugees, immigrants and locals together around the same theme. I found it difficult officially to measure if refugees & immigrants would have more local friends (and other way around) after project but at least according to feedback people had met new people to spend time with!
To sum up, I am extremely happy that this project was manifested into being just the way it was and I witnessed people’s positive response to it, many of them asking if it would continue. It made me feel that it was very needed. I have been hoping for it to continue in one or another form but I am not sure if someone will take a catch of it as I am not around in Finland anymore this fall. If someone will, I have offered to help with whatever they need the support and help with!
With gratitude, unconditional love, light and healing balance I deeply bow for the Kula Collective to empower and encourage me to create this and at the same time support my yoga path. I am forever grateful for SOS-Children’s Home, Multicultural Center Gloria and all the people who attended the project in any way. It has been a great honor for me to manifest and channel my values into being through the project. We are We!
Always as One,