“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't
have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make
your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of
grace. A soul generated by love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Four months down the road with the Dharma Project and so many visions being manifested into being. After searching and visiting at all the refugee children’s homes in the area, making multiple phone calls and defining where the help is needed the most, UCL project committed to visit in weekly basis at the SOS-
Children’s Village for underage refugees.
The Village had seven young boys from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the size of the group being under continuous change from 5 to 25. The Village is a sort of a halfway house for underage refugees that have arrived to country alone. Some of them have arrived straight from the conflict areas and some of them
have lived in Sweden or other European countries already for a longer time. In any case most of them have gone through some traumatizing experiences already at young age – “It is hard to know all that they have experienced as many of them simply don’t want to talk about it” said one of the social workers at the
house. Thus, it turned out to be very clear is that any local and kind company, activity and relaxation practices are more than welcome at this stage in their lives. “Nights are difficult for few of them… it is a time when they stop doing and they have time to remember their families and experiences.”
Wait a minute! I had to stop for a while when I realized the situation… I have previous experience of working with small children and girls and somehow I had been expecting to work with them with the project as well but suddenly I got a completely new kind of a challenge to take in: a group of 16-17 years old boys! I
don’t know how to be with them and what to offer to them were the first thoughts in my head. With trust of following the right thing but uncertain about how they would welcome my ideas, I gathered myself together to visit the Village and meet the boys.
Luckily, the meeting turned out to be completely something else that I was afraid of – I absolutely loved it! The boys welcomed me in immediately, started to joke about me right a way in a kind way and showed interest of doing things together. The immense presence and laughter of these boys amazed me, after all that they had experienced. The honesty of what they wanted in life, sharing their dreams and the simple willingness to live and keep going truly touched me. There were some boys who clearly needed some time to learn to trust to open up more and some who opened up their hearts right away.
In spite of their smiles all of them confessed that their new life in Finland was a huge struggle… My heart knew why I was there. Even for this short time I wanted to do my best to share the support of our loving community with these young warriors. With four different languages (Finnish, Swedish, English and
Iranian Pashto) we discussed about their social needs and brainstormed together what were the activities that they would like the most. We came up with a list of activities and dates to start with, some of the activities pushing the boys out of their comfort zones to encourage them to try new things and some of them being their favorite things to do. As I left the house, this beautiful home by the lake hidden in the forest, my heart was so grateful for this work… I just got a crew of little brothers. <3
As the first activity together we were blessed to have Merianna & Jaakko, street workout instructors, to hold a heating, challenging and funny workout session outside in the snow. It was a cold day but these kids are tough! Four of them showed up happy to get outside the house and meet local people. We had some warm ups, circuit workout, partner exercises as well as a circle where everyone got to kindle their creativity by making up a move for all of us. The boys laughed a lot and got excited to have a space to channel stored energy out. The social worker of the Village was observing on the side and shared in the end “I have not seen the boys smile so wide for a long time…Thank you!”
loud as they could!) The two more introvert kids where a lot more shy to use their voices and seemingly the noise was too much for them in the end. Singing, playing and beatboxing together was not so harmonious but at least they had a chance to try it out! In the end some of the kids sang and played Persian music
from their home cultures and taught me how to dance their traditional dances. Few of them also taught me some boxing and self-defense moves as they truly loved different forms of martial arts, maybe for a reason.
Another time I offered to teach a yoga and meditation class for the boys that they were not so excited about. But three of them joined me as well as the social worker of the Village. The staff said it was very important for them as well to learn more about relaxation techniques in this job. The session was very calming all of the participants finding it very relaxing. In general, I was so happy to see how good care these kids take of their bodies and also how healthy food they seem to eat.
Another week when I was in Kula training my friend, Juhani, who is a physical education teacher shared his time with the kids and played volleyball with them. I received a message from the Village that the boys absolutely loved it, as it seems to be their favorite activity anyway.
After connecting with my new little brothers I can tell that they have so many skills to share with society. They are strong but a bit lost, they have a lot of energy to use, they have desire to be with people and a longing to feel like home, a need to belong. They have so much to share and teach from their cultures but
nobody wants to see or hear it. These young warriors know how to carry their traditions in the form of music and incredible dance and we would have so much to learn from their religious customs as well. The kids not only cook great food at the house but also make delicious bread and introduce the traditional foods from
What makes people so blind to this kind of resourceful treasures that they carry? The Great Spirit literally sent these young warriors to this northern corner of the world – to teach something. Why don’t we open our hearts and minds to feel what they have to share, ears to hear what they have to say and eyes to see what
they are embodying in daily life. The young men face a lot of prejudice, some of it in the form of racism. I cannot deny that there is a reason for fear, especially because of a darker social side of Middle Eastern cultures that in some extend exists among the men. In one or another way, many of arriving refugees have
seen a model of a sexist and violent man growing up which makes people to judge anyone who comes from these countries.
Understanding both sides, it is time to uproot the old ways of thinking. I deeply thank for everyone who shares their precious time with these little warriors and hold space for them to face the challenges at hand helping them to integrate and feel belonging. Even one daily conversation, one present moment, one deep look into eyes and one hug is a meaningful gift for the young men who are on their way to their inner homes.
― Barack Obama
In addition to children home visits UCL project have been sharing holistic medicine also in the Multicultural Center Gloria. Gloria is a center for ALL the cultures to meet and integrate as one big family. There are lots of activities happening in daily basis at the center and UCL project fit in more than well. From the end of April on we have been offering a yoga & meditation class every Friday that is open for all the cultures and levels. The class has been held in Finnish and English and there have been 5-17 participants from all parts of the world and from all age groups. During the spring, from every donation 2€/person was gifted to Gloria center’s African “godchild” to support his education.
Furthermore, Vera Grace is introducing the project in a big yoga festival in Germany in August! She is giving a lecture of unconditional love and the project sharing how we create and embody it in our everyday lives. I want to give thanks and praise for all the beautiful souls who have attended the project and carried it forward with so much respect. Thank you for all the staff at SOS-Children Village to collaborate with us. Thank you Vera Grace for co- facilitating the project with me… your service for sharing love is eternal. And thank you for amazing instructors Merianna Rossi, Kaisu Peltoperä, Misha Aronson and Juhani Salo for sharing your medicine through yoga & meditation, street workout, music and volleyball. Below, there is a short introduction of three beautiful yoga teachers who has been working with the project multiple times sharing their gifts with those who are in need. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for creating a healthier world with us!
― Mahatma Gandhi
Multiculturalism and cultural sensitivity as well as nature-based lifestyle have been big part of Vera’s path during the past ten years. From child on she has always had a deep calling to heal the world. This is actually what ”woke her up” for the yogic path – She came to understand and experience the meaning of empowering the world and herself as well. Many years she has been observing and familiarizing herself with different cultures by living and doing voluntary work with native people of different countries. So, Vera’s yoga path rather started off the mat and then she came to understand the importance of asana practice as well. “Through a vital body we can experience strong roots in the life. Everything that we face on the mat is a mirror of our flow of life. Yoga on and off the mat. Yoga is my life style. “
Vera is also the one who has inspired me to serve unconditionally through non-action and to work with refugees and immigrants that she has devoted a big part of her heart for. She is a total world healer!
"When I heard about UCL-project I thought that participating to project activities would be a good way to practice real yoga. To me yoga means an alternative and safe path in the hectic and rootless world. I have found it important to share this path with others so when Vera asked me to share couple yoga practices in Gloria and we organized bodyweight training sessions to teenagers in need of support with Sanni, I felt grateful about these opportunities. It simply felt good to do good. Sharing and giving taught me that this is my way to walk in the path of the yoga."
“Hey! I am Kaisu, a teacher and a mother living at the countryside. I have an experience of several years of practicing yoga with many different teachers. I truly enjoy sharing my yoga practice at Gloria Multicultural Center because it is a place where it simply feels good to be. I hold it very important that everyone has an opportunity to join yoga classes regardless of their financial situation. For me yoga and meditation means especially accepting and loving oneself that is a key to experience inner peace, and accept and understanding others as well. It is also important to let go of anything that is not serving me anymore. Around these thoughts I built the yoga classes that I share through UCL project, not forgetting the multiple physical benefits of yoga!”
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”
― Mother Teresa
Forever in service,