A Reflection on Hope for Haiti

“I can choose not to fight but instead to listen and find common ground.” I Am Human, Susan Verde

When Hope for Haiti Country Director Willys Geffrard and his wife Suzette visited the Yoga Home community this past weekend, these were the words from a children’s yoga book that he chose to read aloud in speaking to our team about the current crisis in Haiti. They nodded their heads in agreement because this is the heart of our yoga practice – building community.

A year ago, on the night before we departed Haiti after a week working with Hope for Haiti as part of our From Home to Haiti collaboration at Yoga Home, CEO Skyler Badenoch led our team through a processing session about our experience. I found myself reflecting not on specific projects or partner organizations but rather the nature of the human spirit. I asked myself out loud to our group, “Would I be so generous?”

 Hope for Haiti and Yoga Home share core values of connection, community and collaboration. From our end, one of the things that has been most important in our efforts to create a sustainable partnership with Hope for Haiti is relationship building. And relationship building takes time. We wanted our teams to meet each other, make connections with other human beings, learn about Haiti from Haitians and develop a deeper understanding of our interconnection, especially amongst both perceived and real differences.

So, at the end of our time together in Haiti, this is what I found myself reflecting on the most and inviting our team to think about as well:

“Willys taught me (and translated for me) so much. It’s rare that in the immediate moment I’ve been able to recognize the impact a teacher is having on me and yet this is the case with Willys. He’s answered every single one of my questions (do you know me well? I ask a million questions). In addition to teaching me so much about Haiti, he taught me more than I’ve ever been taught about generosity. He taught me about generosity by being generous: the time he spent with our group impacted both his work and home life I know, he shared so much of his personal knowledge, his patience, his love of Haiti. It made me ask myself: would I be so generous? This is a HUGE question. Would I alter my own work schedule, my home life, would I be so patient, would I open my home to stranger of a different color, language and culture – would I be so generous? This may be the most important question I’ve ever asked myself. Ever.”

And so when Hope for Haiti reached out and asked if I (we) would be interested in hosting Willys and Suzette for a weekend, I jumped at the opportunity. I rallied our team that traveled to Haiti and offered other Yoga Home team members the opportunity to engage. We crafted a weekend that would give them insight into our community, participate in our culture and hopefully be able to extend even a fraction of the generosity we experienced while in Haiti. We practiced yoga together, prayed together, talked about the state of the world, learned more about Haiti’s history and shared many a meal with one another, including famous Philly cheesesteaks! Ultimately, we deepened our friendship. We spent time with each other. The invaluable resource of spending time together is what builds and sustains relationships.

Brene Brown says, “We are high lonesome and heartbroken as a culture. We live, worship, go to school and hang out with people who are just like us. We are the most sorted Americans in human history and lonelier than ever, too.” In the yoga community at large, there is a popular saying: ‘Connection is the cure.” True belonging is experienced in authentic human interaction. At Yoga Home we believe that nurturing relationships and being in community with others fosters a deeper sense of purpose and from this place we can be of service to one another. There is a sense of sacred reciprocity.

This is what we are committed to in our relationship with Hope for Haiti – to acknowledge the sacredness and interconnection of all things, to recognize and celebrate both our differences and sameness, and to listen and learn from one another. This is our yoga.

Maura Manzo
Co-founder, Yoga Home