About half a year ago, I started giving yoga classes at the Crisis Center for Human Trafficking in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The women who reside there are diverse, stemming from all corners of the globe and have been through traumatic experiences (mostly forced prostitution). During the first class, I was immediately touched by the harmony within the group. Most of them come from small villages and have never seen anyone from abroad. And then here they are, all together, supporting each other, and caring for one another.
At the crisis center, girls are brought in out of terrifying situations. Here, they are given time to recover before a solution is found for them. Some girls cannot go back to their countries due to too dangerous situations and are then transferred to other centers across Europe. All girls learn Dutch and some of them are able to start a life for themselves and can stay in the Netherlands. The people who are working at the center are doing marvelous work. They help these girls to be independent as soon as possible, so they will be able to stand on their own feet again. And they do this with much patience and care.
Seeing these girls doing yoga brings back the essence of what it is about. Sometimes doing just a few poses got their energy flowing again and it showed immediately that this made them feel good within themselves. Moving their body while focussing on their breath opened them to different areas of themselves that they either had not discovered or suppressed. Occasionally tears were shed but more often the ambience was peaceful and even joyful. We ended our yoga practice with a savasana and head massage followed by a short meditation. When I opened my eyes at the end, they were still in their meditation and I was moved by their peaceful faces. They mentioned that they were finally able to sleep again and some of them even found the courage to see a future for themselves. Something they had not done in a long time.
Over time, some girls shared their stories with me and I would more than once leave with a heavy heart. However, the feeling of seeing what yoga did for them overpowered the sadness of their history. To give them a positive boost, I decided to organize a fundraising so that these girls could spend a beautiful day out to the beach. Together with my friend Alexis (a great Yoga and Pilates instructor) we organized a yoga workshop to raise funds. Additionally, I set up a Facebook Fundraising group. The aim was to let as many people possible contribute a little bit (5€) and prove that if many individuals join, great things can be accomplished.
Thanks to so many wonderful people, we were able to give these girls a fantastic day. We left by train to the beach, where we did yoga, had a great picnic, and at the end of the day all the women received a gift: heart shaped post-it notepads. I told them that it is important to surround themselves with positive affirmations and that seeing those colorful hearts with positive texts would help them to move forward. A few months ago, I had given one of these notepads to one of the girls, Ella. Ella, who now has left the center, is a remarkable and inspirational young woman whose story I will share with you in another article. I had asked Ella to come along this day. She gave an incredibly beautiful speech that touched everybody. She was saying how they have all been through very hard times and that eventhough their situation is now still uncertain, there is a chance for them to rise from their sorrow and to create better lives for themselves. She told them how these post-it notes helped her to stay positive, believe in herself, and how they motivated her in creating a better life for herself.
I explained to these girls that the day was made possible by so many people who all contributed and that they are therefore not alone. There are people who are thinking of them and who care for them. All these girls from so many different corners of the world, different cultures, different religions, they all expressed their gratitude and applauded for all these individuals who joined and made this day possible. All the girls received a framed group picture to remember this extraordinary day.
A big THANK YOU to all of you who participated. Lets continue to join and support each other.
• Names in the article have been changed for discretion of girls
• In order to protect the privacy of the girls, no pictures can be published