HAITI, by foot.

“What are you running from?” was a question that the seven members of Team Tassy heard repeatedly as they ran 230 miles across Haiti over the course of nine days. The team was not running from anything, but rather for Haiti. In fact, the race took place this past February during the 5th anniversary of the earthquake that decimated the country in 2010. Dubbed Run Across Haiti, the route was equivalent to running nine marathons and was an effort to raise $75,000 for non-profit Team Tassy for placing individuals in poverty into jobs and to simultaneously raise awareness of the post-earthquake devastation in Haiti.

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Josh Elkes, FOND Group’s Head of NonProfits

 

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The team ran across a variety of terrain.

In 2010, Ian Rosenberger created Team Tassy, a non-profit focused on unleashing the inherent power in every person by training and placing individuals in poverty into sustainable jobs so that they can pull themselves out of poverty forever. After learning about the widespread destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ian grabbed his camera and flew to the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. It was during this trip that he met Tassy, a young man who was dying of a facial tumor and asked Ian to help him. Back in Pittsburgh, PA Ian and his friends found a doctor willing to do the surgery for free and raised funds to fly Tassy into the States and then back home once he recovered. When Ian and his friends flew back to Haiti with Tassy after his surgery, they quickly realized that they needed to stay with him until he did not need their help. And this sparked the question, “What does it mean for a poor person not to need you anymore?” The answer they came to was by empowering the poor with jobs.

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At times, running well into the night.

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Running through villages of curious onlookers.

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Provisions often came from unexpected places.

The Run Across Haiti team kicked off their adventure on February 21st in the northernmost Cap Haitien and ended in Jacmel, the southern tip of Haiti on March 1st. Among the team was FOND Group’s Josh Elkes, who overseas non-profit relations and partnerships. Josh is a New York native and raced in his fist marathon in 2011 during the NY Marathon, and has since continued to progress his runs. In November of this past fall, Ethan Zohn, the founder of non-profit Grassroot Soccer, reached out to Josh to introduce him to Ian, who happened to be a close friend of his from when they both appeared on the TV show Survivor. Josh and Ian met in late December while Ian was forming the team for Run Across. Just two months later Josh was in Haiti on the run.

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Josh Elkes receives encouragement on his 9 day run from local passers by.

The fundraiser blended two of Josh’s passions, long-distance running and supporting non-profits, and after interviewing him just two-weeks after returning from the trip, the experience was clearly both powerful and transformative, “Seeing a whole new country and getting to see something new with every step I took was incredible. It was all brand new and incredibly fascinating.” Josh felt particularly motivated to join Run Across Haiti because of Team Tassy’s focus on personal empowerment, “They don’t just hand out money, they take the approach, “Teach a man to fish, feed him for life” and that really resonates with me.”

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By Alison E. Berman, founder of Anchor and Leap 

All photos by taylorfreesolo 

To donate to Team Tassy you can visit the Run Across Haiti crowdrise page.

Surfing in India?

Beyond the Surface is an explosion of color and calm, a documentary film, travelogue, and contemplative call to action on issues involving women’s empowerment, helping disadvantaged kids, spirituality and the fragility of the environment.

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The women of Beyond the Surface.

It’s a journey powered by the waves of India’s massive coastline, and riding – in part – on the surfboard of 25-year-old Ishita Malaviya, who describes herself as the first woman to pursue surfing professionally in India, one in a small community of total surfers there. “What I love about surfing is that in a country like India where people are divided in terms of caste, creed or economic status,” says Malaviya, “the ocean has been a great equalizer and united us all together.”

The Film's Star: Ishita Malayiva

The Film’s Star: Ishita Malayiva

The film, shot in the spring of 2013 by cinematographer Dave Homcy, was launched the year before when his wife, Hawaii-based surfer and environmentalist Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, contacted Malaviya about meeting during a trip to India. At a local chai shop, Thornburg-Homcy introduced herself and another fellow surfer, Emi Koch, founder of Beyond the Surface International (BTSI). Koch’s non-profit – founded when the now 25-year-old was still at Georgetown University – uses surfing – and a network of surfing groups in different countries – as a means of self-expression and support for underprivileged children in marginalized communities. Koch, who sums up the BTSI mission as “using the power of play for social change,” had hoped to to film and feature young wave riders from the Kovalam Surf Club in southern India.

Dave and Crystal-Thornburg Homcy at work.

Dave and Crystal-Thornburg Homcy at work (left).

With a film as shared goal, Koch and Thornburg-Homcy partnered on the project that would ultimately bear the BTSI name – and asked Malaviya if she’d join them for the ride. “It had always been a dream of mine to meet with other female surfers and surf with them in my own country,” recalls Malaviya, who (with boyfriend Tushar Pathiyan) co-founded and runs a surf school, The Shaka Surf Club, on India’s western coast. Malaviya says she felt “truly honored to be asked to be a part of this project and excited about the possibility of going on a month-long surf adventure!”

Malaviya catches a wave.

Malaviya catches a wave.

That adventure, captured in Beyond The Surface, follows Malaviya, Thornburg-Homcy, Koch and three others (Liz Clark, Lauren Hill and Kate Baldwin) as they travel along India’s southern coast and take to the waves, engaging with the surf club youth and the women they meet en route. The film’s band of surfers, activists and adventurers encourage the women they encounter to join them in the surf, to rediscover their uninhibited selves and feel more connected to the water. “In spite of coming from completely different worlds, we were able to connect with each other over something as simple and profound as the joy of riding a wave, says Malaviya, who’s also “seen how surfing is having a tremendously positive impact in local communities where people are discovering the joys of being in the ocean.” That discovery, in turn, is part of the film’s message of protecting the environment.

Beyond the Surface also documents the travelers’ self-discovery along the way – in yoga practice, surfing and conversation – and the travelers share their experiences, to the accompaniment of a memorable soundtrack and scenery.

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As a female surfer, Malaviya is aware of her outlier image and the message it sends to women in India.

“As a woman, I feel that growing up in India toughens you and in many way forces you to grow up a little too soon. I love that surfing not only made me a stronger woman but also reintroduced an element of play back into my life,” she says. “More than anything it has been a great spiritual influence in my life and made me realize the importance of living my life now.” In facing big waves, “I learned to embrace challenges and face my fears head on.”

Malaviya – and her fellow Beyond the Surface surfers – have many goals for the film. One is forging a sense of connectivity. “This is a very pure project,” she says. “I hope that people will be inspired to travel, experience new cultures, connect with others through a common love for the ocean, and develop compassion for our fellow human beings and Mother Nature.”

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Koch sees the finished film, which blends many perspectives, as “a work of art … like a living museum” and evidence of her conviction that “everyone has a story.” To that end, her non-profit’s newest project, Coast 2 Coast  links young people in disparate communities to use their voices to tell and share their stories.

For women, Malaviya says the film’s message transcends borders and cultures.” I hope that these magical moments captured on film will make all women feel like a part of a sisterhood and inspire them to pursue their passion and experience that same sense of liberation in whatever they do.”

 

For more information:

Beyondthesurfacefilm.com

Beyondthesurfaceinternational.org

 

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By Moira Bailey

The Healing Initiative|Travel + Leisure’s Jimmy Farren Hickey

“So much of the news media today is fear based. When I watch it I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so hopeless.”

So starts the unlikely but entirely salient mission statement of The Healing Initiative, an online project from Jimmy Farren Hickey, the Digital Creative Services Director at Travel + Leisure. After many years of doing both design and wholeness work, Jimmy found that there wasn’t an outlet within our 24-hour news cycle that spoke to him in an engaging and positive way. News coverage, as we all know, tends to focus on only the bad, pushing human-interest stories to the backburner, often turning them into silly puff pieces. With Jimmy at the helm, The Healing Initiative flips the script. As he states, “I wanted to celebrate the goodness and divinity in people.” And he does.

TheHealingInitiative

The Healing Initiative is a visual catalog showcasing the works of healers, literary and anti-bullying activists, teachers, mediums, and more. Updated bi-monthly, The Healing Initiative is a digital domain of actionable optimism. The well-designed site reads less like a feed and more like a coffee table book. Visit.

Hillary Kaylor: What was your a-ha moment to start your project?

Jimmy Farren Hickey: Sometimes it seems as though the world is full of fear and hatred. When I watch the news I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so bleak. But I’ve met some amazing people in this lifetime, people who are making a difference in my life and the lives of countless others. I am so grateful to be in the world with these men and woman, and grateful for the impact they have in healing the planet.

At the beginning of this year I felt a calling to do something. I too wanted to be a part of this healing movement. So I went to the dictionary and looked up the word “heal” and found this definition: “to restore to wholeness”, which somehow seemed like an easier job than mending bones or curing cancer. When using this definition I immediately understood that inside of me I had the potential to heal. Then this summer while traveling through Ireland I discovered that my last name means “one who heals”. So this just had to happen.
Can you explain the mission statement of your project and how you go about finding subjects for it?

The mission of The Healing Initiative is to highlight the faces and stories of compassionate individuals who have made it their life’s work to restore the Earth and all its inhabitants to wholeness. I find subjects by looking through my own friends and by word of mouth. There’s nothing I love more than having someone tell me about someone doing amazing work. Those are the stories I long to hear. I am so grateful to have found a project that’s all about meeting and photographing amazing people.

HK: Have you been involved in philanthropic efforts before and why? Family, friends, church?

JFH: I grew up doing volunteer work in the church and in the community with my mother. There were times we had nothing, but we still helped others. It was a given. It might be something as simple as making a plate of cookies or it might mean devoting several hours or a weekend of our time, but my mother understood the importance of compassionate acts.

HK: Why do you think most people are not involved in philanthropic efforts on a regular basis?

JFH: I would guess that most people aren’t involved in philanthropic efforts because they don’t know how it good it makes you feel to help others. The feeling you get when helping others is unbeatable. I think people probably also have this idea that they have to do something really big in order to change the world, but the truth is that the smallest acts can add up to a world of difference.

HK: Do you think that spirituality and the so-called meaning of life can be achieved through helping others?

JFH: Absolutely. I would go as far to say that helping others is a spiritual act. It might be nice to live alone in a cave in India and meditate toward enlightenment, but I think the biggest spiritual growth happens as a result of our interactions with others on this planet. It’s through walking into difficult and challenging situations that we grow the most. When we look deep we often discover that the challenging situation is our own fear, our own ego. Helping others is a way of doing battle with our fears. When you’re feeling alone, in need of help or just stuck in fear… that’s the best time to help someone else.

HK: What would you like your legacy in this world to be?

JFH: I would hope that I could live every day on this planet with love and integrity and that I always remember to express gratitude for the blessing and tremendous challenges of being human. If other people learned this from watching me, then that would be a life well lived.

HK: How can someone who is just starting out pick and join a cause?

JFH: I highly recommend sites like nycares.com, where you can search through hundreds of volunteer opportunities and find one that you have an affinity with. I would also say that we can do service every day through acts of compassion, love and kindness with the people who are in our lives every day. Do something good for your friends and family today. Send love to the people who challenge you most. All of these acts add up quickly and can change the world. And if you don’t see the impact these acts have on the world, I promise you that you will feel the impact they have on you.

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Jimmy Farren Hickey

Raised in rural Nebraska, Jimmy grew up dividing his time between working cattle with his father and doing craft projects with his mother. At age 4 he announced to the world that he would one day move to New York City, which he did at age 26.

Jimmy has enjoyed a diverse work history that includes time spent as: a cowboy, a waiter, a cook, an art consultant, a web designer, an illustrator, a creative consultant for reality TV, an editor, an editorial director, and a creative director. He is currently the digital creative services director for Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and Departures at American Express Publishing (the views expressed on this website are his own). Prior to that he served as the digital creative director for Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., working on the websites of ELLE, ELLE DECOR, Metropolitan Home, Car and Driver, Woman’s Day, and many others.

Jimmy is a long-time yogi, a reiki practitioner, a world traveler, and a pretty decent ukulele player.

Jimmy is available for photo shoots and design projects, so feel free to drop him a line at info@thehealinginitiative.com.

HIllary

Hillary Kaylor

A regular FOND Group contributor, Hillary Kaylor is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, The FADER, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Vice, and Gawker. She once drove a tractor on an Australian banana farm where they paid her in bananas. Kaylor is currently working on a non-fiction book based on the three months she spent volunteering in the slums of Cambodia earlier this year.

YOGA + SCIENCE, DISCOVERING THE ANATOMY OF WELLNESS WITH MICHAELLE EDWARDS

HOW I LEARNED TO RETHINK MY BODY BACK INTO ITS RIGHTFUL POSITION

When I visited Hawaii this past spring, I was told stories about a very special woman living up in the hills of Kauai named Michaelle Edwards who had dedicated her life to helping people get repositioned in their bodies so that they could enjoy them as they were meant to be used. This intrigued me on a personal level as I had often felt as though I wasn’t sitting quite right in my body and had great difficulty doing anything that required me to remain still for any length of time. More than just your average restlessness, my body actually brought me tremendous pain if I was forced to be still and, while this predisposition served me well in sports and running very long distances, it also prevented me from pursuing other activities I was curious about such as yoga or meditation.

Regardless, I had tried Yoga only to be chastised by teachers who insisted it was the restlessness of my mind that was causing my physical pain (viable, I thought) or forcefully tried to ‘straighten me out’ and pressure me in to positions my body wasn’t ready to accept. Strangely, not one teacher had ever suggested the reverse – could it be that the positioning of my body might actually be agitating my mind? What’s more, as a trained massage therapist versed in anatomy and physiology, I found it very disturbing that some of my teachers didn’t even know the various parts of the body or the mechanics of how they were connected yet they were bold enough to sit on me to try and get my body where they thought it should be. There had to be a better way to work with my body, I thought.

The view from Michaelle's property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.
The view from Michaelle’s property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.

While reading Michaelle Edward’s book YogAlign, which was gifted to me by one of her former students, Pro Surfer Rochelle Ballard, I read something that quite possibly changed my life. Using detailed attention to anatomy and physiology, Michaelle explained that the Psoas muscles, which connect your spine to your legs, have a direct connection to your emotional state and that connection goes both ways. You see, the Psoas are somewhat of the ‘fight of flight’ muscles that respond directly to stress and are linked to the proactive tightening of the tissues around our torso/major organs that occurs to protect our most vital parts when danger or a threat are imminent (an approaching predator, for instance). The thing is, improper positioning or stress on these muscles and associated nerves can actually cause the agitation in the centers the brain responsible for the ‘fight of flight’ response to stay on well after the perceived threat is present and when there is no threat at all. Hence, a physically rooted cause for a restless mind. Aha! This was a light bulb moment for me and I at once contacted Michaelle and arranged come and study/work with her for a week at her home and studio on Kauai.

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As I got to know her, I learned that Michaelle Edwards has spent the better part of her 60 years studying the human anatomy, the dynamics of movement, the brain/body connection and various disciplines of yoga and bodywork and applying that knowledge to her own unique method. Over time, that method evolved into a specific set of exercises or adapted Yoga poses aimed at freeing that stress on the Psoas and thereby relaxing the mind and just generally shifting us into a more peaceful place at home within our bodies. Her technique, called YogAlign is the embodiment of much of her life’s work coupled with her own personal practice and that of the hundreds of students she has worked with over the years. Understanding the intricacies of human anatomy, its connection to our brain and our spiritual and emotional well being is Michaelle’s passion and, after spending a week with her, I could clearly see was also her calling.

Out front of Michaelle's property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

Out front of Michaelle’s property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

I arrived at Michaelle’s amazing green property just outside of Hanalei in early July where I was housed with Katrina, one of her advanced students who teaches YogAlign in LA and was there helping her to shoot some informational videos to post on YouTube. The property is nearly completely sustainable and she and her students can subsist on the fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and coconut water naturally provided from her land with little need for anything from the outside. As I came to learn, this is not unique on Kauai and is part of a growing movement to help keep out GMO yet, for Michaelle, it was just a way of living she had acquired nearly 40 years earlier to stay in sync with the natural environment around her. This pure diet is likely one of the reasons she looks substantially younger than she actually is and is literally exploding with energy.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

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Our days together mainly consisted of an hour of YogAlign group class in the morning, an hour or two of swimming in Hanalei Bay early afternoon (in which she always swam twice as fast as me), running on the beach or on the trails above her home followed by a natural lunch and then 2-3 hours of focused practice working on my own unique ‘posture challenges’ and learning a specific combination of exercises, breathing, bodywork and mental techniques I could use to reset and realign myself to a more natural and dynamic positioning. As Michaelle explained it, our bones are really just ‘strung’ together by our fascia, muscles and ligaments – all of which are soft tissue and can be coaxed back to their optimal positions. When we are aligned, motions and proper posture take far less effort as the natural human form is quite efficient by design- just watch a toddler move sometime and you will see how effortless their motions are before their posture begins to get compromised.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle's healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle’s healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Michaelle absolutely blew my mind with her knowledge and I genuinely felt as though I was sharing time with someone who had indeed ‘figured it out’ and was on to something remarkable. After one week, I could see a marked difference in my posture and actually measured a full inch taller in height as a result of the release of the pressure on my spine that was being imposed by a wound up Psoas from years of suboptimal posture and overconditioning. What’s more, I felt so different. I was sleeping better than I had in months, my eyes and sinuses were clear and my energy levels were steady and strong. At 60, Michaelle still ran circles around me in terms of her energy level but I got the sense that she had tapped into some inner knowledge of health and longevity that others had not.

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

We took before and after photos, measurements and careful notations on things I would not otherwise have looked at such as the distance and positioning between my toes. Realizing that my little toes being crunched up had a direct connection to pain in my neck was eye opening, literally. There were techniques she showed me which actually changed the way my face looked by altering and releasing the stresses that pulled on my eyes and jaw and positioning of my head to my body. We sat together and went through photos of her previous students who had even more dramatic results after spending weeks with her and even my skeptic’s mind started to change. Perhaps the secret to ‘straightening out’ my body had nothing to do with forcing through painful positions and stretching muscles to the point where I was hot and throbbing in pain. Perhaps the key to evoking lasting change in my posture was actually in these very subtle movements coupled with focused breath and mental techniques. (You can see some before and after photos here on Michaelle’s site Manayoga.com. )

Since leaving, I have kept up with the practice and continue to see added benefits and results. I look and feel taller, lighter. My core is toned and elongated all the way around. My running is better than ever as I now feel as though my legs and hips are moving efficiently in an anatomically correct gait. I would not go so far as to say that I am a Yoga devotee but, when it comes to YogAlign and the techniques and theory I learned from Michaelle, I can say that I have unquestionably received tremendous benefit and that the quality of my life has improved as a result.

Michaelle even taught me how to sit correctly (though she is the first to explain how most of our human health woes seem to have evolved out of our sitting culture). As I sit and write this, I am pain free and thinking of my next run – a 22 miler and considering I might actually bump it up a day as the need to recover from yesterday’s 18 miler just doesn’t seem to be there the way it used to be.

Thank you Michaelle for helping me to find a pain-free way to be within my own body – in stillness and in motion. I can’t promise I will sit still any time soon but, at least it is good to know that I now can 🙂

Mahalo!

Nicole

MICHAELLE IS COMING TO NY! – SEP 21, 2013This Fall, Michaelle is making her way to New York to teach her first ever clinic here: Change Your Posture, Change Your Life. The class will take place on September 21 and I will be sure to be there and will post more information on how to sign up as it becomes available. If you are interested, feel free to email me at nicole@fondgroup.com and I will alert you when I have those details.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai - a heated local and global debate.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai – a heated local and global debate.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

The chicken coup.

The chicken coup.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

View from a hike above the house.

View from a hike above the house.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

Hanalei Farmer's Market was easily one of the best I've ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you've never seen before and GMO free!

Hanalei Farmer’s Market was easily one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you’ve never seen before and GMO free!

The view from the backyard never got old.

The view from the backyard never got old.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Kauai Proper – living the life of a local Pro Surfer…well, almost

While I don’t like to pick favorites, there is no secret that I feel incredibly lucky to have Surf Pro Rochelle Ballard and her company: Surf Into Yoga (SIY) as one of my clients. Surf, nature, sweet gear, massage, amazing natural foods, Hawaii…what more could you need? From the moment she told me she was moving from Oahu’s North Shore to reestablish SIY Wellness Adventures from her native Kauai, my bags were pretty much packed while I waited for the green light.

That green light to come and check out the new digs in Kauai came in July when I anxiously boarded a plane to spend 16 days in Kauai working, brainstorming and ‘testing’ (wink, wink) all the experiences SIY Kauai Wellness had to offer.

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Napali Coast view from the North

Aside from the obvious perks of this arrangement, add in a refreshingly humble world-class athlete who generously offers tips on the Hawaiian approach to health, nutrition and local wave knowledge and you pretty much have the perfect Hawaiian experience. Couple that with the the fact that she is who she is, a surfing legend who truly helped pioneer the sport for women, and you can imagine that the experience of jaunting around her favorite local haunts, surf breaks, camping spots and excursions is that much better.

BETTER WITH A LOCAL LEGEND: CASE AND POINT, SURF LESSON WITH ROCHELLE
On the first day Rochelle took me out to surf the very break she learned on, I was shown so much Aloha from the locals paying their respect that you might have thought I was in Blue Crush and not her. Not one dirty look, not one negative word – it was all positive and powerful energy of encouragement as I paddled into waves twice the size of my comfort zone. I know Hawaiians are super friendly but, I’m not naive. I’m aware that much of this welcome reception had to do with who I was paddling out there with and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Not only did I get countless smiles and thumbs up from perfect strangers who made me feel completely welcome as I struggled just to stay put in the line up on her Joel Tudor single fin (about 3 feet shorter than any board I’d ever actually stood up on) but they lovingly launched into a joint hoot of booming cheers and whistles when I finally caught my first ever short board ride allllll the way into shore (albeit on my belly-foot-knee-belly-butt). It was an unbelievable experience I will never forget. In between receiving tips from Rochelle on how to position myself, how to breathe, where to put my toes, how to open my stance, I sat in awe as she paddled outside to the larger sets and gracefully demonstrated why she is a champion of the sport.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

What is so cool about what Rochelle is doing on Kauai is that she is aiming to share that priceless insiders-only experience with visitors right there on the very beaches that she grew up learning to surf at. The experience is about understanding what it really means to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle, to value nature and family and to live with a strong sense of community, health and service to others. Surf Into Yoga has now successfully relocated from Oahu to Kauai and has expanded into an outfit offering lessons, day packages and full multi-day wellness retreats to include anything and everything from Surf, SUP paddles up the Waimea River, Napali Coast Boat Excursions with Snorkeling to Private Yoga and Massage or Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation. Like any good researcher would do, I had to try all of these things myself before I could sign on and approve. The verdict: AMAZING.

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Rainbows abound daily on Kauai. This is, in fact, a double rainbow!!

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Breathtaking views of the Napali Coast cliffs from the boat during our excursion – this view is an actual Windows Screensaver, for obvious reasons. And yes, those are dolphins!

The experience one can have on Kauai surfing and exploring the far less touristy west coast is unparalleled and the waves, well, no complaints here. Yes, the North Shore of Kauai is spectacular and beautiful but the west is magical in its own special way and for so many reasons. Most notably, its proximity to some of the most amazing sights and adventures on the island of Kauai. Nestled right at the base of the Waimea Canyon and 30 minutes below the majestic hiking territory of Kokee State Park, the west coast also offers direct access to Napali Coast Boat Adventures where you can cruise the sights of the pristine northwest cliffs and beachfront inaccessible by road.

An experience on the west side guided by Surf Into Yoga allows you to explore the island as something more than just another tourist and to get a sense of what is truly the Hawaiian way of life sans the overcrowded and overpriced restaurants, souvenir shops and marked up coconuts you will find in the more resort-focused areas. The accommodation options, ranging from converted plantation style cottages to private beach bungalows, are nestled among beachfront communities where you are more likely to stumble on family potlucks than bars and very likely to be greeted as though you are a neighbor rather than a foreign mainlander.

During my stay, we surfed, camped and hiked up at Kokee, paddled at sunset up the Waimea River, boated up the Napali Coast, snorkeled, bodysurfed, practiced surf-specific yoga, did an outdoor massage, talked a bit of Blue Crush history, ate gobs of fresh lilikoi, avocado, mango and payapya right from the trees, sucked down buckets of Mate (a miracle green tea), ran, planted some trees, did some work in the garden, caught every sunset and almost every sunrise, did a little off roading, ate some killer fish tacos, had a campfire, experienced a run in with local bulls and pretty much wore our faces out smiling.

My experience was so epic that the final days of my trip consisted of me looking at potential rentals for a more permanent stay along this lesser traveled coast in what is arguably one of the most magical places I have ever visited.

I returned home nourished, tanned, toned and so excited to start sharing my experience with friends so they too could see what a special thing she has going there on Kauai’s west side with Surf Into Yoga.

Contact: Visit SurfIntoYoga.com for info or email info@surfintoyoga.com or call 808.343.0616 for custom package or booking options. Be sure to mention FOND for special rates and preferential treatment 😉

Mahalo to Rochelle for hosting me, to Aura and her other friends and family for amazing food and hospitality, to Nukumoi Surf Shop, Hanapepe Naturals, Brennecke’s Deli, Napali Coast Adventures, Michaelle of Manayoga.com.

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Sunset overlooking the valley on my final day on Kauai.

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Early morning view from my tent atop Kokee State Park where we spent the day hiking along rivers and waterfalls.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean - so beautiful.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean – so beautiful.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

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Closing out the day with a perfect sunset moments before the 'bull incident'.

Closing out the day with a perfect sunset surf moments before the ‘bull incident’.

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Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

Reforesting Patagonia and the Patagonia Ultra Marathon

5 REASONS WHY WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT THIS RACE, THE CAUSE AND 2 WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

On September 28th, FOND will be down in Patagonia to race an Ultra in one of the most pristine destinations on the planet and to help reforest the region of the Torres del Paine National Park in the process. Take a read on why we are super stoked for this race and ask yourself whether you might want to join… or perhaps just plant a tree (which you can GPS track) for just $4 and pick up some happy earth karma.

WHY WE LOVE IT:

1. IT’S IN PATAGONIA. Contrary to popular belief, Patagonia is more than an awesome gear company – it’s also home of some of the most incredible natural beauty in the world. Because it’s a bit of a hike for us here in the US, a race is a great excuse to get down there and give back. From sailing to sheep shearing, Patagonia is home to lakes, forest and breathtaking glaciers, including Grey Glacier, which is part of the Southern Ice Field, the largest expanse of ice on the planet after Antarctica and the Arctic.

Patagonia Runners

2. THERE’S A RACE LENGTH FOR EVERYBODY.  The race is comprised of a 63k ultramarathon, 42k marathon, 21k half marathon and 10k. The run starts and ends in the Torres del Paine National Park and is a point-to-point run. The event offers runners of all abilities a distance to choose from. 2013 marks the second year for the event and the first year for the 63k ultramarathon.

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3. IT BENEFITS REFOREST PATAGONIA . The event, organized by NIGSA, continues to support the mission of calling the world’s attention to the conservation of Chilean Patagonia and contributing to the sustainable development of the region. For every entry, a tree will be donated to Reforestemos Patagonia, a campaign with the goal of planting 1 million native trees in Chilean Patagonia. What’s cooler, their advanced GPS and mapping technologies will record the exact coordinates where each tree will be planted. Along with a digital Certificate of Reforestation, each individual who plants a tree will receive the coordinates of their tree, as well as a geo-tagged link showing them its location on Google Maps.

Patagonia forest

4. IT’S A NEW RACE. The Patagonian International Marathon is the first of its kind in the Torres del Paine National Park. Because it is a new race, it will be fairly small and will offer an excellent chance to meet other dedicated runners/conservationalists/travel enthusiasts from around the world.  In spite of its youth, the race has clearly been organized by experts as is apparent through the wealth of information available on the Patagonia Ultramarathon Site. The smaller entry pool also means much greater chances of placing well. Small competition = healthy competition 🙂

Patagonia_Runner

5. IT’S A CUP-FREE EVENT. Perhaps one of the coolest innovations in long distance racing, the remoteness of this event combined with the mindfulness and foresight of its organizers led them to the decisions to eliminate the needless piles of waste associated with most endurance events. This means every runner is required to carry with them their own water hydration system- handheld water bottle or bladder system. It’s about time!

TWO WAYS TO GET INVOLVED – ONE EASY, ONE FUN!

1.  GIVE A TREE!  for only $4 and help reforest a precious part of the earth. This small step will leave you feeling good for several hours – possibly even weeks and will give you a nifty Facebook share opportunity to prompt your friends to also plant a tree. Together, we can help reverse the devastation of the forest fires that ravaged this area.

2. RACE! As we mentioned above, there is a race distance for every runner and plenty of accommodation options available near the park ranging from camping to luxury. What an amazing destination to put on your calendar for fall Travel than Patagonia! Also, as far as races go – the fact that the Ultra is less than the NYC Marathon is pretty epic. If you sign up, be sure to let us know so we can brag about you on our site and say hello while down there.

We hope to see you there!

FOND

RACE DETAILS AND REGISTRATION
FAQ

Travel + Leisure talks to FOND about Voluntourism

THE LUXURY OF HELPING OTHERS

When I quit my job last year to found FOND Group , I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of support I received from friends, colleagues and total strangers. While I knew that working with the intent to truly help others felt SO much better than just doing work for the sake of work and earning a paycheck,  I wasn’t so sure others would agree–especially not NY, the epicenter of the manic rat-race.  Within days of launching, any doubts I had were quickly quelled as I was immediately welcomed in to what felt like a secret society of inspiring people who had similar experiences and goals as I did and were amped to offer their guidance. Many of these people (ex-cubies, as I call them) were much further along on their paths but quick to share similar tales of career re-evaluation after reaching some level of traditional ‘success’ in the big apple and then mindfully deciding to pull the plug and reroute.

Hillary Kaylor was one such amazing person.

Today, Hillary shared her experiences and mine in an article she wrote for Travel and Leisure titled Voluntourism 2.0. I’m thrilled T+L, a publication I have respected for years (even when I worked for its competitor Conde Nast shhh), had the foresight to cover this rapidly expanding market. Perhaps they too realize that luxury travel isn’t always about extreme self-indulgence but sometimes its about the luxury of feeling awesome having helped someone else reach their goal or the luxury of gaining a broader perspective of the world. It’s a luxury to be in a position to help other people and its important we remember that.

I’m not sure if was the hurricane last fall or a cosmic shift of the stars of maybe just a lot of first-world early midlife crises going on but I’m finding that others — MANY others– seem to also be shifting their points of view as to what it means to be successful, what it means to get ‘paid’ and what it means to have purpose in their work. Eight months in to FOND, it is apparent to me that there is a tuning of sorts happening and a lot of ‘successful’ people I knew who could easily have followed the traditional corporate climb are bucking it entirely to find work that matters.

Please take the time to read Hillary’s article in T+L and think about your skills and where they might have the most positive net benefit. It’s not about having the time – it’s about designing a life where your time is best spent. If you are stuck, reach out to us and maybe we can help.

A note on Hillary…

I’ve said before what a gifted writer she is but she is also just an amazing force of a person who believes she can (and is) able to make a difference in the world. It’s inspiring.  The fact that she exercises her gift of writing to artfully and passionately articulate her point of view and her experiences to inspire others is, in itself, a huge act of paying it forward. A former colleague of mine at RCRD LBL, Hillary and I linked up earlier this year and she agreed to put her skills to use to help FOND accomplish its mission. What an important part of the team she has become. Thanks Hillary!

Mahalo From Kauai-

Nicole

Digital Detox: Summer Camp For Adults

BY HILLARY KAYLOR

Color wars. Village communities demarked by wildlife flags. A reveille bugle to wake us every morning. The 325 of us, ranging in ages from 19 to 67, were warned. We were prepped. But it was only when we stepped deep into the cover of 80 acres of cool redwoods in Anderson Valley (three hours north of San Francisco), into a 1970’s boy scout camp straight out of Wes Anderson’s wildest dream that we realized, finally, where we were.

Camp.

And not just any camp. A camp for adults. Without electronic devices, computers, phones, lights, heat, or watches. We were not to speak about the “W” word (that would be work), what we did for a job (hereto forth to be called “fun” or “play”), and that revealing our names or ages would result in severe punishment (pulling out one another’s hair, strand by strand for each offense). We were asked to hand over our bags of iPads, Kindles, iPhones, Blackberries, digital cameras and a jumble of cords. Mine alone weighed 15 pounds and was giving me a lopsided walk; just one of the many reasons I had signed up for this experience. The offending devices went into a paper sack and were unceremoniously locked away as the campers (again, mostly me) whimpered softly.

As our tech lifelines were stripped, we couldn’t help but wonder what a Digital Detox meant. After the initial withdrawal, we were promised special connections with each other, a slow release from our wired selves; a disconnect to reconnect.  And a whole lot of good feelings, spirituality, and ultimately, a freedom we once knew as kids but had forgotten now that we were drones in the world. We were also promised that after just a few hours of sing-a-longs, we’d rid ourselves of the nasty urge to grab our phones to document the experience or share with someone who was not there. Because at this camp, the only people who mattered were the ones you were speaking to face to face. Something that I personally had forgotten how to do at least three years ago.

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Greeted by enthused counselors with names like Bricky St. James, Prow Prow, Golden Bird, Honey Bear, Topless (a jovial tea-master who claimed not to have worn a shirt in six years) and our saintly, mustachioed director Fidget McWigglesworth, we soon dragged our packs to our open-air bunks, geared up in shorts, face paint, and with mouthfuls of chocolate chip cookies, decided upon our own nicknames.

Mine was Lil’ Ripper. My best friend; Magenta.

We sipped woody tea and strolled the landscape before the others arrived from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Australia and Canada. We went to the Wonder Woods, to the Magic Bus where many a late night party would be spent swinging in hammocks and playing music, to the yurt-cum-tea room alight with romantically strung Christmas bulbs and carpeted with Oriental rugs and Indian tapestries. We ran to the flagpole, the main field.  We stumbled upon vistas and the hollowed out trees seemingly tailor-made for Tarot card readings. Creative stations. Rock walls. Typewriters to post messages of hope and inspiration to one another strung along a wall titled “Human Powered Search Engine.” Questions were asked, questions were answered. Legos were assembled and Frisbees were thrown.

Playshops during the day included hip-hop dance class, archery, meditation, non-violent communication (my favorite), partnered yoga, river walks, and more were on sign-up sheets where we handwrote our preferences. We raised the flag and hugged one another, sang songs, served one another vegan meals and water, and took one-inch photos of each other by holding up our hands and making tiny boxes as viewfinders, forever imprinting what we saw into our memory banks.

“Internal-Gram!” Proclaimed a counselor, before we rushed off to campfire talent shows, jam sessions in dark pockets. Inspirational signs and spirit sticks abounded:

YIELD TO THE PRESENT

TODAY YOU ARE YOU. THAT IS TRUER THAN TRUE. THERE IS NO ONE ALIVE WHO IS YOUER THAN YOU.

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The Kumbaya was infectious. In Sun Fire’s outdoor meditation, I tearfully told him an internal struggle I’ve never told anyone. He kept my gaze, squeezed by hands and thanked me for sharing and reinforced how proud of me, and of the moment, he was. Later when I spent three hours making a fire with Condor, who literally lit it out of nothing more than two sticks, a piece of rope, whispers and intentions. Then he ran back to his backpack to gather his stone peace pipe. We stayed so long it began to get dark, and he told us of how to speak to the fire, release our problems to the non-judgmental flame, and then burn our pain away.

At the end, I held his shoulder and thanked him for the amazing experience, and true to counselor form, he deflected gracefully. “Thank you. Because the amazing thing here, is you.”

There was sleeping under the spiders and the stars, grass stains and field rashes from Capture the Flag. Wild costumes. Skinny swimmin’ and streaking through the 80’s themed prom. Outrageous contests that resulted in me diving my face into a pie plate of flour to find a piece of bubble gum to chew, blow a bubble and then pass on. I coughed up enough flour to make a batch of scones, but we did place second. There were haircutting contests where scissor-wielding amateurs treated volunteers to choppy services. And then? The scraps of hair on the ground were swept up by the final competition: the best beard contest, where girls and boys alike literally had the floor-hair glued to their faces.

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We pranked each other, we danced like maniacs, and we never knew what time it was or where we had to go. We moved as a group in tune, as a flock of birds or wave. We whispered into the wind and had a silent candlelit dinner under the trees. Many people choked up. When we were finally allowed to speak again (and eat), we devoured our gluten-free mac and cheese and mustard greens like a Thanksgiving dinner. Then many of us ran to the port-a-potties, as few were accustomed to our body digesting so quickly.

It was exhausting, it was a social experiment; it was a beautiful experience that brought me back to life. Consciousness. Living in the moment. Being free from cubes and screens and judgment. It has ushered in a new revolution between all of us. No Facebook for a month, we swore. No texting for six, we exclaimed. No answering emails and instead inviting meetings to be in person. Easy to enact in Anderson Valley, perhaps not as much in midtown Manhattan, where I “play” for “fun.” We wrote each other’s real names down in our booklets and promised not to look until we’d left. We put our numbers in and promised to call. Just like when I was twelve, I left sunburnt, sweaty, with an infected tick bite, and full of simple purpose.

There’s too much philosophically to speak of in terms of the backlash to this wondrous world of technology that has saved us in so many ways and may very well be destroying us in others. But even with this incredible camp experience and detox, we struggled intellectually how to bring this back to our lives in the “other world” in a meaningful way. We talked about many things, as there was nothing to do but talk and to act: about life, God, love, the universe.

Eventually, the topic switched from what dreamed to finally, where we were from so we could spread the word at home about this mini-revolution. When I said, “Brooklyn,” the painted fairies around me seemed shocked.

“How did you hear of it?” They wanted to know, entranced that I was not a Californian like them.

I spoke in wonderment back. “How did you hear about it?”

“A Bay Area e-blast,” one piped in.

“A forwarded Eventbrite from a friend in the Castro,” said another.

“We heard it on Twitter,” I motioned to Magenta, since she was my source, who’d gotten it from an Arianna Huffington tweet. “You know they have the Internet in Brooklyn, too, right?”

Get More Information on Other Digital Detoxes near you, right here: thedigitaldetox.org/

Post by Hillary Kaylor – to read more on Hillary, click here.

Small Steps and Slumdog Children of the World

BY HILLARY KAYLOR –

Where did your feet take you today? Mine padded across my apartment, into my work shoes, out to the pavement and onto the subway. There was more pavement, and then a carpeted office. Maybe, if I’m lucky, they’ll later take me to a bar, a club, a movie. This mundane route is actually a revival of one I took before I left for Cambodia to volunteer. It feels different now, because before, each step I used to take I felt connected to my feet, when in reality, they never even touched the streets at all. In that sense, I was never truly grounded: never connected to the earth, never connected to anything. So, on this morning commute did my feet actually take me anywhere at all? Did they touch the world; did they really choose my path? My answer after my time abroad is no.
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I was protected by the barrier of my shoes and my routine. In New York City, trash is strewn about, vomit, discarded food containers and dog shit. And though I walked those avenues every day, my feet did not touch them. For that, I was less thankful than I was complacent. I mean, who even thinks about such things as gratitude for shoes when living in New York? I did have the sense to notice that when I was barefoot, it was special; in sands, thick grass or plush rugs. To be barefoot meant a privilege–a sacred thing reserved for vacations and safe spaces. Then, and only then, was when I was truly connected to my steps, my path, my feet and the imprints they left as I made my way.

Perhaps this is your experience too. You walk from place to space, your shoes carrying you all the way. Protected and safe. But what if they took you somewhere else? To a prison, to a war zone, into a burning garbage dump? And what if you didn’t have shoes? And had to navigate your scorched soles through piles of glass, syringes, and toxic waste?
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In the documentary short Next Steps, a group of ‘slumdog’ Khmer children–those living shoeless on toxic garbage dumps to forage for food–are asked, “What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?”

The kids alight, their sooty faces grinning, and then shout, “Plastic!”

“And the worst?” Probes an off-screen speaker. For this, the kids are quieter, unsmiling.

Finally one answers.

“A dead baby.”

This film, one of many documenting the plight of destitute populations living off garbage in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Romania, Guatemala and more, is a devastating look into the mission of the Small Steps Project, headed by Amy Hanson: reformed celebrity reporter with a closet full of Louboutins-turned philanthropist and that voice off-screen. Peruse the many short films, testimonials and pictures on the charity’s site, and see a post-apocalyptic world where children roam in rags, eating and collecting trash all the while choking back thick black smoke from tire fires and other blazes. Their parents, if they have any, are impoverished and considered societal misfits: suffering from alcoholism or HIV, and have found a home here because there is literally no other place for them to go. The dumps are more attractive than the streets: they provide a community of sorts, sometimes with organized chiefs of modern tribes, and the influx of garbage trucks provides a consistent and reliable deluge of material to sort through.

Sometimes the parents have jobs within these tribes as collectors. Other times? The parents stay inside their trash shanties all day, drunk. Inside their homes fashioned from plastic beams and vinyl beer adverts, drawing stagnant water from a sulfur-stinking pool. In those cases, and in the case of abandonment, it’s the children as young as four who trudge forth with two-foot-long metal hooks–instruments better suited for medieval torture than trash collection. They do not go to school. They do not see anyone outside their dump community. They do not know of a way out; they cannot comprehend another life. Their feet take them nowhere, and they are connected deeply to their lot in life, physically and psychologically. More than you and I, they are connected to what this earth has become.

Before I met Amy this year in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, I wanted to help heal the world, but I was overwhelmed. Even paralyzed at times. There were too many options, too many people in need. I was just one person, with limited resources. How to choose anything: a country, an epidemic, a cause? I took a leave of absence from my job for three months, in no small part to my mentor’s shocking death and my realization that those who seemingly have it all can end up in a headspace where they believe they have nothing at the end. But was three months even enough time? Would I make a lasting impact? Or would it just be a speck in the overall scheme of things? I was too protected by my shoes, and my small world, to really understand what I was doing, and why.

But there was something about Amy. There was something about the name Small Steps. And there was something about their mission that put it all into sharp relief:
Small Steps aims to put shoes on the children across the world that live on trash dumps. Small Steps is unique in its way because of its shoe-based efforts and two-pronged plan of action. Stage one is to get shoes on the feet of the kids in the dump so they are no longer standing in glass, animal remains and raw sewage and give them immediate aid in food, medical supplies and other necessities. Stage two is to empower the dump-living community with the tools to relocate: transportation, job placement, and other expansion efforts.

Naturally, there are many implications and hurdles in solving this problem at one dump, let alone across several countries and cities. The first problem is: no one on the dump wants to leave it. It’s their home, after all. And their livelihood, however insufficient. The second is with unemployable parents, the children more or less follow the same path. Without school, without outsiders, without skills that could be translatable, the kids are often painfully shy or terribly ashamed of their soil and their smell. There is poor and then there is a child who roams barefoot on a garbage dump. Among the economic hierarchy, there is a difference and that difference is palpable when interacting with them. They ask for nothing, they avert their eyes. Their smiles emerge faintly when joked and played with and then are gone instantly as they gauge your reaction. Are you here to help or to hurt? And how are you going to help anyway?

But it’s about starting small to get big results. As Amy says “Sometimes poverty feels like such a big problem that what you do to help or donate feels like a drop in the ocean and you can’t tell what impact it has. But if everyone takes a small step, the impact is huge.”

The idea of mattering to just one is at the heart of successful philanthropic movements.

When faced with the question of why volunteering or donating matters, at any step or stage, I think of this.

This is a mantra that may ring true for those who, like me, had not yet heard.

If it matters to just one person, you have actually changed the world.

Especially if, like Small Steps, you concentrate on global projects, like showing documentaries at Glastonbury (June 26-30) documentaries about their efforts across the world, including Cambodia, Nicaragua and India with expansion plans for Romania, Laos, Guatemala and Africa. Or auction shoes from the likes of Ben Stiller, Morgan Freeman, Coldplay and The Rolling Stones, who are donating the shoes they perform in at Glastonbury to the cause.

This is how Amy starts small to get big results. Today it’s shoes, tomorrow water filtration, next week, nurseries and Mommy programs that employ parents within schools and centers. Expansions, outreach programs, investors, celebrity philanthropists and world tours are just some of the many paths Amy is spearheading to bring Small Steps to a truly global scale.
Through my work with Amy, I met mothers and children affected. Beautiful children, dark-complected with almond eyes, whose smiles can light up a life, let alone a room. We fed them, we played hand-slapping games, we took them to the beach for the first time in their short lives.

There the kids learned to swim in our arms. Stripped down to their underwear, and others naked, there was no shame among them; they had lost any they had long ago. Shame is life to them.

They screamed in the ocean, they squealed. The burnt rubber smell left their skin. Some whose skin was very dark in the morning is lighter now, more attractive according to Cambodian culture. With the dump washed away temporarily, they transformed into flashing beacons. Their initial shyness fell away, they smiled, they played, and they pretended to sneak up on us. They took turns with water goggles, undone by the luxury of this, the most magic piece of plastic they have ever encountered. They don’t have to trade this one in. And they are considerate with one another, gentle. Passing the goggles around and showing each other the truth beyond what they ever imagines. They are not in fire, they are in water. And in the water, they can see.

The children come to school with us. They are fed more rice then they have seen, bits of sweet egg, garlicky morning glory, fish heads with the flesh still on. There are toys, there are bathrooms. They shower and then stand naked together, as we dry them. We wrap them in big red towels and hold them close. We comb the lice from their hair. Gently. One girl with hair cascading down her back waits with a blissful smile on her face as I take a half hour to turn her tangles back into strands of silk. I hold a section with one hand away from her scalp so that when I attack the knots she won’t feel the rip. The first time I do it she looks at me in shock. She is not used to getting her hair brushed. And certainly without yanking the hair from her head. She sits still and watches the other girls watch her. She winks at them, and when I am done she bows to me.

I try to bow back, and she runs away. But when I see her later she hooks her arms through mine. Another wants to borrow my sunglasses. Her brother has a mouthful of rice that spills from his mouth in delight at a joke known only to him. A girl of three bursts into giggles when I pretend her tiny new shoes, given to her by Small Steps, are mine and I walk away like an elephant in them, strutting like a beast on a runway. In turn, she steps into mine and models for me, my moccasins slapping against the dirt floor in huge comic effect, until she reaches me, wraps her twiggish arms around me, hugs me and doesn’t let go until I pry her off and bring her back to her mother.

She abandons my shoes, as she is more comfortable barefoot in the safety away from the dump. And that day, when I left the school, I left mine too. I walked back to the volunteer house in the sidewalk-melting sun. I stepped in pools of stagnant water. I cut my feet on glass. I tended to my wounds in my hotbox room with swipes of stolen paper napkins from restaurants and a foul-smelling salve I’d come to rely on for everything from sprains to headaches. After a few weeks of this, my soles became yellow and black: hard and strong, like slabs of rocks. And with each step, I felt the ground beneath me; I felt my feet carry me instead of the other way around. I began to run faster and lighter. My toenails turned black and my feet became my own protection from the elements. It was against the rules to be shoeless at the NGO where I worked, and of course at the trash dump that Small Steps serviced during my time there, because it was so dangerous. But whenever I could, I was without them. I wanted to feel everything beneath me, my path. I wanted to feel where I was going.

Now, back in my New York office months later, my feet have softened, my nails pretty once again, my soles pink as I am compelled to wear shoes like everyone else or face reprimand from HR. It feels like a personal failure. Under my desk, in meetings, and whenever I can, especially outside, I take them off. It aligns me with my time away; it reminds me of the kids who do not have them. And it lets me dream about where my moccasins are today, months after being left in Cambodia. If someone has taken them. If they are protecting someone else. Someone who needs protecting far more than me.

And as for my thoughts on the world and how we can change it; I’ve come to this. Giving is an endlessly replenishing resource. The more we seek, the more we find. This trip to Cambodia for me was something, but not nearly enough. I’m currently speaking to Amy about a Canadian fire truck convoy to deliver supplies to slumdog children in need in Nicaragua. And Guatemala. And anything else I can do. Because it really doesn’t matter if I have shoes or not, as long as I am connected to my path.

To donate to Small Steps, please visit here.

To purchase Glastonbury tickets and for more general information, click here.

Post by Hillary Kaylor – to read more on Hillary, click here.

Pro-Surfer Rochelle Ballard links up with FOND

What happened on Oahu, why Rochelle Ballard is coming to NY, what exactly is a Surf Into Yoga Crossing and what’s FOND got to do with it?
February was a spectacular month. I finally honed in on what I wanted to do with my skillset (a.k.a. – the rest of my life), and put the wheels in motion to make it official. After registering The FOND Group LLC, I decided my next step should entail a bit of my favorite kind of spiritual rejuvenation: the traveling kind.

First Stop: Hawaii, Of Course…
As a late-blooming surfer and perpetual lover of nature, it was amazing I’d never visited Hawaii before. Ever. I’d heard stories and seen thousands of images but somehow my brain could never quite piece together what it might actually be like there. At one point in college, I’d even tried to transfer to Hawaii, sight unseen, as I wasn’t getting enough beach in Northern California. But the transfer fell through, and 15 years later I’d still never been. (It’s probably for the best it didn’t work out, or I’d likely be degree-less and selling seashells by the seashore to this day.) I decided to get right to the core of the place and targeted that legendary surf Mecca: Oahu’s famed North Shore as my introduction. I was insanely curious to see what the scene, the surfing, the lifestyle was really all about. I couldn’t wait.

IPhone shot of Pipeline just blocks from Rochelle's property on Hawaii's North Shore.

iPhone shot of Pipeline just blocks from Rochelle’s property on Hawaii’s North Shore. Waves got up to 20 feet that week, I’d never seen anything like it.

Good timing landed me on the North Shore during the Volcom Pipe Pro and I got to see the best surfing I'd ever witnessed in person on waves I could hardly wrap my head around.

Good timing landed me on the North Shore during the Volcom Pipe Pro and I got to see the best surfing I’d ever witnessed in person on waves so crazy I could hardly wrap my head around what I was seeing.

Destination North Shore – Rochelle Ballard’s Property
With some luck and opportune timing, I had made arrangements to stay on the property of surfing legend Rochelle Ballard for a 10-day respite at her North Shore Wellness Retreat. Surfing, meditation, bodywork, natural food and the greenest surroundings you could imagine, just steps from some of the best surfing beaches in the world… Truly paradise.

Rochelle Ballard's North Shore Wellness Retreat. Rochelle has since sold the property and returned to her native Kauai with the intention of taking her practice on the road - Surf Into Yoga Crossing is born.

Rochelle Ballard’s North Shore Wellness Retreat. Rochelle has since sold the property and returned to her native Kauai with the intention of taking her practice on the road –           Surf Into Yoga Crossing is born.

Green Paradise…
From the moment I arrived, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My body and soul just kicked into happy gear and I was overcome by a great sense of peace and the notion that my health was mine to reclaim. The past year had been tough, both mentally and physically, and being here at Rochelle’s special green property (even the house is deep green) marked the first solid steps towards my new course. I wasn’t there for any reason but to recharge and, for the first time in a long while (perhaps my life), I’d given myself full permission to check out and relax, nurture myself, and just take in all the good laid out before me. This decision to clear out the old and chuck the clutter of emails, meetings, and “should-haves” from my conscience had left me clear and free and excited for what was next.

The Beautiful Green Property, Rochelle's  home (since sold) on Hawaii's North Shore Where I Stayed for 10 days

The Beautiful Green Property, Rochelle’s home (since sold) on Hawaii’s North Shore Where I Stayed for 10 days

Yoga with Rochelle…
I’m no yogi (I tend to giggle when the Ommms start), but I am a firm believer in the mind-body connection, and my past training as a sports massage therapist is something I apply in daily life: I’m quite certain the pains I experience in my feet, back and neck have as much to do with what is going on mentally as to what is happening physically. Proof of that showed in how beat up I would feel after a tough work day in comparison to the relative pain-free state I would experience after a 20 mile run. There was no doubt I had some serious unwinding to do after the contortions I’d put myself through trying to make an unhealthy and overstressed lifestyle work for me—and yet I did still have serious reservations about Yoga and its cult-like tendencies. A LOT of adoption without a lot of information scares me. My scientific brain had led me here, though, and it was through the study of anatomy and physiology, and its practical application, that I’d reached the personal conclusion that I damn well better learn to connect and take care of my body and mind to have any chance of long term bliss and freedom from stress. My mind was as open as it was ever going to be on this trip and in this place—so I decided to take a yoga class with Rochelle. She calls it Surf into Yoga.
Well, let’s just say Rochelle’s yoga teaching style is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. She is a firecracker, and anyone who’s ever seen her charging, big-wave style of surfing knows she possesses an immense inner fire and strength that extends far beyond her tiny frame. What surprised me, though, was how gentle and nurturing she also is. She developed this style of yoga when no other style spoke to her as a bodyworker and athlete, and she’s passionate about sharing it, but there’s no dogma, no cult, no pressure, no judgment –just something really beautiful and healing that left me wanting to learn more. As a fellow bodyworker and athlete, the way she taught, I just got it.

Killer massage too…
I was also the grateful recipient of some amazing bodywork from Rochelle. She knows her stuff. I’ve been getting weekly massages since I was 21 to manage a chronic misalignment of my spine. I’ve had massages from gurus, monks, quacks, Rolfers –and in every style: shiatsu, deep tissue, hot stone, Thai, inverted, underwater, just plain bad. I’ve had massages in a dozen countries and from a few hundred practitioners. (Don’t get jealous, you haven’t seen my back.) I’m not the first to say that Hawaiians have their own special energy and approach to life that just makes for a calmer, lighter self, but in Rochelle’s bodywork, I felt it.  In fact, her body and energy work and our resulting conversations were so powerful and positive that I felt compelled to find a way to bring them to a wider audience. I was a believer – this stuff was legit.

And we talked…
Rochelle and I sat down and talked. To my surprise, I learned that I was the last guest ever at this property. Rochelle was making some major changes in her own life path and it turned out we were crossing each other’s at the exact right moment. Me, I needed inspiration and a worthwhile cause to get moving with FOND, and she was ready to move on her dream of bringing Surf Into Yoga and her life’s spiritual lessons to the world… Starting with NY. I could help with this! I’d been craving exactly this sort of collaboration. As soon as we started talking, it felt as if it was meant to be.

We shared our visions. We both believed in truth, in putting messages out into the world that are both positive and practical, in supporting local businesses, in giving back to our communities. We believed in health for body and mind, in good wholesome nutrition and a positive, all-inclusive athletic culture with opportunity for all.

Now, quite magically, several conversations, texts, emails later, and the concept is alive and kicking and will start this September. Rochelle is bringing the inspiration I experienced on the North Shore of Oahu right here to the urban beaches of NYC. And FOND is getting to help.

Surf Into Yoga Crossing is Born!
So, What is a Surf Into Yoga Crossing?
Surf Into Yoga New York Crossing is a personal journey with Rochelle Ballard that willb e documented through blog writing, photography and video. The crossing will feature a series of interactive elements involving Rochelle Ballard and local communities with the goal of sharing its mission. Read more on Surf Into Yoga NY Crossing with Rochelle Ballard.

What FOND has got to do with it and how you can help:
FOND Group is working with local brands, venues, non-profits and community groups to finalize the details of Rochelle’s visit which will include surf and yoga activities for underprivileged youth, a photo presentation and lecture on her travels and life lessons through surfing, private yoga/surf instruction and bodywork with Rochelle and–waves permitting—some epic surfing on our own Northeast swells.

GET INVOLVED! If you are a brand or individual that would like to get involved in the NY Crossing with Rochelle Ballard, please use this form

or email us at
info@fondgroup.com with Surf Into Yoga in the subject.

Read more on what Stay tuned for more details coming soon!

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