The idea came about last year when Claudia and her husband were visiting the SOS Children’s Villages in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, as part of a yoga retreat.
A curious boy asked her and her husband, Thomas, where they were staying during their visit. They told the boy they were staying at an ecolodge called Selva Negra, a well-known resort in the country that is run by Claudia’s family. The boy said he had heard of it but never been. Other children at the SOS Village said the same.
That’s when the couple decided that, during their next visit, they would take all of the children at the SOS Village on a field trip to the ecolodge. They returned to their yoga studio in Austin, Texas, and fundraised enough money among their fellow yogis to take all 100 children at the SOS Village to the Selva Negra ecolodge the next year. Just last month, Claudia returned from her visit.
“We all desire to make a difference in someone else’s life, and this is a beautiful and tender way to give of ourselves,” said Claudia, whose family is from Matagalpa.
At the ecolodge, which is nestled deep in the rainforest, the children from the nearby SOS Village rode horses, played soccer, went hiking and even had a chance to whack a piñata. There were 14 other yogis who accompanied Claudia and her husband on this trip, their fifth consecutive visit to the SOS Village.
Claudia and Thomas in front of the SOS Village in Matagalpa with children who live at the Village.
“Through these five years, we have been able to watch many of these children grow and leave the [SOS] village as fully capable and resilient human beings,” she said. “I have enjoyed seeing how the [SOS] moms help bring out the talents of the children and pair them up with activities to help them grow and make their skills blossom.”
Part of Claudia’s motivation for visiting the SOS Village in Matagalpa stems from a Hindu principle called “seva,” a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service.” And in an effort to demonstrate the value of service to the children, Claudia took a number of them to volunteer at a nearby nursing home.
“It was really special to see them serve and help a community close to them,” Claudia said.
The director of the SOS Village, Erwin Rocha, said that the yogis’ annual visit benefits everyone at the SOS Village, not just the children. The SOS Mothers, he said, have incorporated into their lives some of the meditation and yoga practices they learned from Claudia and her friends. In turn, they’ve been able to be even better mothers to the children.
Mr. Rocha is particularly grateful for the support Claudia provides for the children. Between Claudia and her husband, her yoga studio, and 10 members of her yoga studio, 22 children at the SOS Village in Matagalpa have committed supporters sponsoring them. Some of them have joined Claudia on her visits.
Beyond the financial support, Mr. Rocha also recognizes the significance of the personal bonds that Claudia and her yogis have created with these children.
“For the children, these visits have opened more doors to new friendships and new, fun experiences,” he said.
Next year, Claudia plans to make it to all six SOS Villages in Nicaragua, the oldest of which was built in 1973. Today, there are about 500 children and youth growing up across the six SOS Villages in Nicaragua. There are an additional 1,700 families, including families in Matagalpa, who are enrolled in SOS Family-Strengthening Programs.
If you want more information about the yoga service retreat run by Claudia, visit www.yogasevaretreat.com.
Sponsor a Child
Help make sure every child can grow up in a loving, stable family.