This article was published in the Evening Standard on Saturday 26 November
Ourmala: the philanthropic project helping refugees to rebuild their lives through yoga
The donation-run classes help to provide a therapeutic space for victims of torture, human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict zones
Europe is currently living through the largest humanitarian crisis since World War 2, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq in search of safety.
In response, one London-based charity project is helping refugees and asylum-seekers to rebuild their lives through fitness and meditation.
Ourmala runs weekly yoga classes with groups of women from some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world, many of which have experienced cruelty such as torture, human trafficking and sexual violence.
The project is run entirely on public donations, and its creator Emily Brett believes that therapeutic yoga classes are one of the most effective ways to recover from extreme trauma.
Yoga is free for all those that attend, and Ourmala also offers a children’s creche and a hot meal for every person through the door.
The purpose, the volunteers say, is to help registered refugees to lead happy, healthy, fulfilling and dignified lives, while equipping them with the confidence to settle into society.
“A lot of us don’t have families here and Ourmala is a beating heart for us, “ says Jacqueline, just one of the refugees that the charity has supported.
The project, which currently runs classes four times per week with groups of 16 people at any one time, is now hoping to expand its socially conscious yoga offering in the New Year.
It has launched a Crowdfunding page with the hopes of raising £20,000 – which will bring 20 yoga classes to the capital per week.
This means the team will be able to bring some breathing space to more than 300 refugees every week.
“We hope the public will join us in supporting Ourmala’s crowdfunder project so we can help more refugee women and children trying to make a fresh start here in London,” says Emily Brett.
“The crowdfunder closes on November 29, there are great rewards and every donation helps.”
You can donate to Ourmala here.