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.

Aloha in Waikiki

FOND Group had the honor of helping to produce the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival celebrating Hawaiian Surf and Cultural Heritage which took place in Waikiki this past fall. Alison Berman caught up with visionary pro surfer Rochelle Ballard to learn more about the memorable day and the inspiration behind the event.

All Photos by Kai Markell
In Hawaii, surfing is more than an activity or a pass time. It is more than a sport. Surfing goes deep into the heritage of Hawaii; it is embedded in the roots of Hawaiian culture. And, nodding to that deep significance was the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival, a one-day Hawaiian cultural surfing event that debuted in Kūhio Beach Park in Waikīkī on September 6th, 2014. The dawn-to-dusk festival was a celebration of traditional Hawaiian surfing and also so much more. It was an effort to bring together and nurture the many at-risk and homeless youth of Waikīkī and reconnect them with their Hawaiian heritage through surf sessions, workshops on Hawaiian traditional practices, and also educating youth on resources available within the community. “It was a really amazing shared day of Aloha, and that’s what Aha Kai Aloha is, it’s bringing earth into the ocean or valley into the sea using all of the elements for sustainability, bringing together the wisdom of perpetuating the land and sea through the love of surfing-Aha Kai Aloha. In Hawaiian culture it is called Ahupua’a -from the valley into the sea of Hawaiian cultural sustainability,” said Rochelle Ballard, professional world-class surfer, who first had the vision for the festival.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with 'Uncle' Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with ‘Uncle’ Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Rochelle moved to Kauai, Hawaii as a child, which is where she later took her first leap onto a surfboard. She is an accomplished professional female surfer and veteran of the Association of Surfing Professional’s (ASP) World Championship Tour, and also starred in the original Blue Crush film. After an inspiring professional career, Rochelle continues to cultivate her love for surfing, one way being through her deep involvement with Living Life Source Foundation (LLSF), the organization behind Aha Kai Aloha Festival. LLSF is a charitable non-profit located in Hawaii’s Manoa Valley and has a beautiful mission, “To restore a system of living by embracing all faiths and modern science; teach concepts vital to creating a life of greater meaning, purpose, and freedom; and, educate the people of Hawaii to become self-sustainable and to perpetuate the life-force spirit of Aloha.” Professor Bruce Keaulani, locally known as Uncle Bruce, is the founder of Living Life Source Foundation and asked Rochelle to create an event that would bring together the organization’s efforts with local youth and the healing aspect of what LLSF stands for. And from this sparked the inspiration for Aha Kai Aloha Festival.

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FOND Founder, Nicole Delma, honored to share a moment with legendary shaper Pohauku Stone.

The festival opened with a prayer chant, Oli. Rochelle recounts the moment, “A shower came through, and everyone was facing the ocean, listening to the water and the waves, as to bless the day with safety and the Aloha spirit.” The festival offered a mix of workshops that taught youth about Hawaiian traditions such as pounding Poi, which is the process of pounding taro root into a dough like consistency. A large focus of the day was also to show youth the connection between surfing and Hawaii’s ecology. Local Tom “Pohaku” Stone brought this to life through a hands-on workshop on papa he’e nalu, showing the kids how traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboards are carved. Through teaching these traditional methods it also continues that important aspect of Hawaiian culture, Rochelle explains, “When you stop doing these practices then the culture dies, and people are no longer fulfilling the Aloha, the spirit of where they came from.”

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Aiding at-risk and homeless youth can be a delicate undertaking. On the streets of Waikīkī, it isn’t always easy to identify which kids are homeless, even more so, each child has their own unique story and circumstances. Knowing this, the festival was designed to be as inviting as possible, acknowledging that whether teaching a surf lesson or introducing to a local charitable resource, a critical first step is to earn trust.

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Local groms prepare for the female longboard competition.

Youth Outreach (YO!), which provides medical and social services to homeless youth through YO! drop-in centers in partnership with Waikiki Health and Hale Kipa, Inc., was one of the resources available to the children, as well as Surfrider Spirit Sessions (SSS), a Hawaiian non-profit that serves at risk youth through ocean-based experiential education and mentoring programs.

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Commentator Kaipo Guerrero (left) lent his voice and surf expertise to the day’s events. Guerrero is a well-known announcer in the sport of surfing and a fan favorite.

Surf lessons and an eight-division surf competition open to the public also took place during the day. Competition entry fee was waved for canned food donations and divisions were bracketed by age, not gender, encouraging participating for the love of the sport, rather than for fierce competition.

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Local youth take turns experiencing outrigger canoe rides through the Waikiki surf.

With over 600 arriving for the festival, 100 participating in the surf competition, and 400 healthy breakfast and lunch meals shared, the impact of the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival was inspiring. The festival is committed to continuing to partner with existing organizations to enhance and support their efforts to aid local at-risk youth, both for next year’s event, and also with the possibility of building workshops throughout the year.

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Volunteers teach local youth how to make traditional Poi from locally grown Taro root.

Surfing holds a unique significance within Hawaiian culture, which Aha Kai Aloha Festival gracefully demonstrated by connecting at-risk youth with their heritage, its traditions, and community recourses, all through the shared love of surfing and Aloha.

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Special Thanks to Alison E. Berman for this recap of an amazing event and to the Elkes Foundation for helping to make it possible.

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Alison is a storyteller, marketer, and the founder of digital storytelling platform Anchor & Leap. She has a complex understanding of multi-channel storytelling and gained her roots working at prominent media companies Meredith Corporation as a Marketing Manager and previously at Rodale, Inc.’s in-house content marketing agency. While at Rodale, Alison also facilitated a company-wide social media think tank that was formed by CEO Maria Rodale.

As a consultant, Alison helps companies define and share their own stories through rich content marketing and strategy—all with a focus on aligning messaging with the core values of the organization. Some past clients include Nissan, Applegate, Norton by Symantec, Kraft Foods, and Energizer Holdings.

Alison is passionate about creative cultures, design thinking, and social enterprise. You can follow her on Twitter @DigitAlison

Animoto’s Stevie Clifton on Success & The Art of Giving Back

FOND Group catches up with an old by friend by way of a new one. 

People of Purpose | Stevie Clifton

By Hillary Kaylor

What do we talk about when we talk about social media in 2013? With teens fleeing Facebook, heated Twitter stock debates, and marketers looking at monetizing every possible digital moment, it’s no wonder that most people are fatigued on the topic. But when really investigating social media’s landscape and some of the recent backlash behind it, we’ve found it’s because the connectivity and community that makes virtual sharing so important has increased while the thoughtfulness behind that community has decreased. Certainly selfies have a time and a place; so long as they’re countered with an output of real purpose, expression, and art.

Enter Animoto: a bicoastal-based video creation service where users can upload their pictures and video clips, and, with the help of some very high-level production technology, turn those clips into a gorgeous, cinematic work of sharable art. A natural fit for consumers who want to share their thoughts in a more compelling way, but as co-creator Stevie Clifton found, Animoto is also making a difference by bringing literally millions of unlikely artists, photographers, schools, humanitarians, and non-profits together.

How was Animoto founded? Did you see a need not being filled in the community?

My good friend Jason (Hsiao) and I both moved to NYC to work in the film and television industry over 10 years ago.  After working for a few years (he in production and me in motion graphics work), we started to get a bit antsy, and began meeting weekly to brainstorm fun ways to bring production-quality video to “normal” people. We both had backgrounds in computer science, and we knew there had to be way to make beautiful video creation accessible to more people.  After hitting on the idea of Animoto, we looped in my brother Tom (Clifton) and our friend Brad (Jefferson), worked on prototyping the concept for awhile, and had our first working version of the site in early 2007.

Can you walk us through the process of a project like this from inception to delivery?

After coming up with the initial idea, Jason and I created a founding team with a diverse set of strengths.  In addition to complementing each others’ skill sets, we also trusted each other. This allowed each of us to focus on the things we were good at and get a lot done quickly.

Once we all had conviction about the idea, we committed.  At the beginning, most of us were working part-time on the project, but if you stay in that mode too long, you’ll never make the progress you need to make.  Once we realized this, we quit our jobs and dove in.

We then focused on getting a working concept as quickly as possible so that we could get feedback from real people.  Without that, I think we could have made a lot of missteps along the way, or spent a lot of time working on things of little value to our users.

How did you realize that Animoto could serve the philanthropic community as a whole? Once you did, how did you change your product?

When we first launched Animoto, we thought that it was going to be a great fit for consumers who wanted to share their memories. But we noticed that photographers, businesses, nonprofits, and schools were pretty active too. It makes a lot of sense. Video is a powerful medium for communicating a message, so when you make it easy for people to create video to share their message, you open up the doors to a lot of different people.

When we noticed that a lot of nonprofits were using Animoto to try to spread the message about their cause, we decided to give them free access to our Pro features with our Animoto for a Cause initiative, which we launched in 2009.

Over the years I’ve spoken at various nonprofit and humanitarian organizations to help them understand how to share their message more effectively using video and Animoto (e.g. at the UN and Rising Tide Capital), and it’s been really fun to see the ways in which people are using it.

 “…With Animoto for a Cause we have the potential to help real causes and real people, which is satisfying.  I was tempted to give you guys major props based on the famous partners we’re working with, or the amount of press/exposure we’ll get through this, but even more important is the fact that we’ve found a way to use our product, a fun video creation platform, for real humanitarian work.” 

 –Tom Clifton, Co-Founder, Animoto

What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know where to start in terms of becoming mindful and starting consistent charitable work?

There are three things that helped me get involved and stay consistent.

1) Just start.

I think the most important thing is just show up. There are a ton of opportunities, and many are probably closer than people think. Don’t try to find the best opportunity; just find one that’s close and start showing up.

Nine years ago I started volunteering at the breakfast program my church puts on for the local hungry and homeless, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  At the time, all I knew is that I wanted to find a local volunteering opportunity because if it was far away, I’d be too lazy to stick with it.  Finding something local is great because it helps open your eyes to some of the pain that’s right in front of you, but invisible until you know where to look.  I bump into people who come to get breakfast at our church frequently in our neighborhood, and being confronted with need keeps me from getting too comfortable.

2) Commit to something

I think the longer you wait to commit to doing charitable work, the less likely you’ll ever do it.  You only get busier and take on more responsibilities as you get older, so it’s not going to get any easier.

My wife and I have committed to giving away a minimum of 10% of our income to charitable causes, and we’ve been doing it since we got married nine years ago.  We didn’t make much money back then, but we both had a strong conviction that it was the right thing to do.  Since then we now have a lot more financial commitments–we have two kids, more bills, a mortgage, school tuition to pay, etc.  If we hadn’t committed to doing this together, we wouldn’t still be doing it.

3) Know your reason

Knowing why you want to be charitable is an important part of continuing to do it long term.  There’s no right answer here, but I think without feeling a sense of purpose behind what you’re doing, it’s going to be really hard to give money away when you have a big credit card bill one month, or to show up at 6am on a Sunday morning to serve people breakfast when your kids kept you up the night before.

Were you involved in philanthropy as a kid? Family? Religion? Community?

I wasn’t involved in philanthropy in the typical sense growing up, but I was exposed to it in its more traditional sense of “hospitality” throughout my childhood.  I was brought up with my five siblings in a pretty devout Christian family, with parents who demonstrated a sacrificial hospitality to anyone who came across our doorstep.  They are rare people who care more about relationship than dogma and are some of the most generous and empathetic people I know.  Even though it must have been crazy raising six kids, they always had an open door policy for anyone that needed help.  We constantly had people from all walks of life living with us when they needed a safe place to stay.

As an aside, I think it’s sometimes easier to be “philanthropic” these days than hospitable, especially with how much more isolated we are. To a lot of people, philanthropy is giving money away to organizations that need it, or going out and volunteering at an event.  This is important stuff, but I think true philanthropy is welcoming people into your life, especially people that are different from you.  It’s easier to sacrifice money or a little time than to sacrifice comfort by really engaging with people.

What’s the most rewarding thing about running your business today?

The people. It sounds clichéd, but it’s true. I look forward to going to work every day because I like the people I work with and respect them.

How would you like your legacy on this earth to be defined?

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Maurin, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.  His goal was “to make that kind of society where it is easier for men to be good.”  That’s such a wonderfully practical formulation. I’d be pretty happy if I felt I had somehow made the world a place where it’s easier for people to be good. I think it’s getting awfully hard to be good in the world.

Why does doing good feel good for the world and for you? 

I think it’s because it reminds me that the boundaries between me and other people are porous. We’re actually all connected in really tangible ways, if we let ourselves see it. It’s both extremely comforting for me, but also a call to action.

If there is just one thing readers of this should take away from your project and your personal mission statement—what is it?

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. The most important thing is to recognize your desire to be philanthropic and then just start somewhere!

About Animoto

Animoto

In the works since 2005, Animoto was founded with the vision of inspiring people to share their lives through the magic and power of video. Animoto’s founders include veterans of the entertainment industry and have produced shows for MTV, Comedy Central, & ABC, studied music in London, and played in indie rock bands in Seattle.

Today, Animoto is a video creation service (online and mobile) that makes it easy and fun for anyone to create and share extraordinary videos using their own pictures, video clips, words and music.

Simply upload your pictures and video clips, choose your style, add words and music, and click the “produce video” button. Then, Animoto’s cinematic technology does its magic and in minutes brings it all to life with a beautifully orchestrated production you can share with family and friends.

Millions of people actively use Animoto for everything from special occasions like birthdays, weddings and trips, to sending a quick special greeting, or just to share everyday moments.

Based in New York City with an office in San Francisco, The entire Animoto team is a passionate and innovative group devoted to helping more people experience the power of video for sharing their lives.

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.

Fresher Farm to Table

GETTING THE ROOT OF FRESH AND HOW TO GET IT IN THE CITY

Living in NYC, it is surprisingly hard to find impeccably fresh produce. I’d insert the word ‘local’ here too but recent schooling has taught me that ‘local’ is rapidly becoming the new ‘organic’ when it comes to overuse and lack of meaning in terms of describing the quality of our food. You see, we can call anything ‘local’ but how far does that mean…this block, zipcode, state? To be determined.

When it comes to organic, it can be even trickier. In a recent conversation with Long Island microgreens grower, Brendan Davison,  I was educated on the some of the misnomers surrounding organic and natural food labeling. Davison shocked me when he told me that one of my very favorite ‘organic’ producers actually only operated one single acre of truly chemical-free farmland and for the rest of its thousand or so acres, it was full-fledged pesticide-laden business as usual. And yet, they were legally able to maintain their USDA Certified Organic classification on their packaging. News to me.

So, for now, I’ll settle on ‘fresh’ as the key quality I am looking for in my food and with that, I mean I want it to be picked within the last 10 hours and to have come into contact with as few chemicals as possible in the course of its life. This food not only tastes the best but it offers the highest amount of nutrients and critical enzymes our body needs to nourish itself. I treat my body like a science experiment and I can vouch for the difference I feel in energy, mood, sleep quality with the right supply of fresh wholesome foods.

In my search for fresh in the city, I tried out so many different options in the last year and was painfully disappointed with many of them. The major at-home grocery delivery chain brings its organic bananas wrapped in bubble wrap and then styrofoam and then packaged in an industrial sized cardboard box (carrying cockroaches if you are lucky).  The semi-prepped food services are slow to disclose the source of their food suppliers and fail to provide a good value. Farmers markets do provide good options but are not exactly convenient for someone like me who juices daily and moves through 20lbs of produce in a week (though be sure to still ask questions about the food they are selling because it doesn’t all come from where you think).

After much digging and wishing for a ‘local’ and ‘organic’ (bear with me) service that would bring me products from places that I could go and visit without an airplane that had been cut from the vine only hours before, I finally landed at RusticRootsDelivery.com through the introduction of a friend/grower. What killed me is that I didn’t find them in all my google searching. There must be other people who want this type of service. A few conversations with the delightful couple (Emer and Jeff) who run the operation and  I was committed to helping them get the word out digitally…which is how you now see them listed under the FOND umbrella. The work Emer and Jeff do to get all of this fresh food into the city isn’t easy – a complex  distribution chain with  over 40 local growers and farmers is not something anyone can come in and master. One taste though and you will see why it is well worth the effort.

Mark my words though – THIS IS THE BEST VALUE I have found in healthful, real food anywhere in the city.  The fact that a real live farmer shows up at your door to drop the goods off is just the icing on the cake.  I wasn’t home for my delivery today at the beach and they put the items away in the fridge for me and then sent me a note to tell me where everything was. Items arrive in neat coolers that are reusable, not cardboard boxes. They follow-up with recipes via emails to help those of us along who don’t have a clue what to do with swiss chard or rhubarb. In one month, I’ve made rhubarb preserves, brocolli rabe, wild ramps for god’s sake! These are not items I would have ever bought or considered adding to my diet but I’m so glad I did.

In addition to fruit and juice baskets (my dermatologist asked what I was using on my skin today because its glowing BTW), they offer local farm fresh eggs, milk in the bottle, goats milk, yogurt, micgrogreens, meat, cheese, honeys and syrups and are adding more each day. Minimum order is $50, delivery $10, no subscription and pick and choose what you want and when you want it. For more, see their FAQ’s.

No one paid me to write this. I simply love these guys and think they are doing a good thing and it is improving the quality of life for a lot of people. Check it out and let me know what you think at nicole@fondgroup.com.

Use code FOND and they’ll knock 10% off your first two orders. Delivering to Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
(And thank your farmer when they drop your food off – farmers rock.)

RusticRootsDelivery.com

To your health-

Nicole

Here are some of the highlights from my last several months in farm fresh heaven:

Breakfast Salad - a runners secret weapon. pumped up with extra nutritious kale Microgreens from @goodwaterfarms and toast with fresh avo and homemade rhubarb preserves

Breakfast Salad – a runners secret weapon. pumped up with extra nutritious kale Microgreens from @goodwaterfarms and toast with fresh avo and homemade rhubarb preserves.

Fresh bottled milk from Ronnybrook farms. You forget how good real milk tastes.

Fresh bottled milk from Ronnybrook farms. You forget how good real milk tastes.

Juicing every morning is easy with RRD's juicing basket.

Juicing every morning is easy with RRD’s juicing basket. Skin, hair, joints, (my brain!) have never been better.

RusticRoots1 RusticRoots2 image image_6 image_5 image_4 image_3 image_2 image_1

Seeing Microgreen

FOND was first introduced to Brendan Davison, founder of Good Water Farms back in November through a mutual friend who knew it would be immediate kismet. Since first sampling the sweet and unfathomably nutritious Microgreens superfood that Davison grows on his land in Long Island, we were hooked. Since then, Davison has been expanding rapidly and now supplies multiple Whole Foods and Gourmet Garage locations in the NY area. You can also order his delicious greens from organic home delivery service Rustic Roots Delivery (use code FOND to save 10% off your first two orders).

In spite of his busy schedule, Davison still makes time to give back to the community and we caught up with him this past weekend out at Rockaway Beach. Davison was posted up at Rockaway Beach’s 96th Street Relief Center where he spent the day offering educational microgreens demos in support of the building of a new community garden. Good Water Farms was at the event along with other local green business owners and artisans to help raise awareness for the garden build as well as educate locals on urban farming and the importance of sustainable food, fashion and other eco friendly products.

We were lucky enough to witness the excitement around the uber ladybug freeing (they are pollinators for the greens) as well as take home our own Sunflower microgreens pot which will begin producing the delicious edible greens in just a few days from the comfort of our NY apartments.

Read more about Brendan’s amazing story and his awesome path from Shaman to becoming a microgreens farmer on NPR. 

After demoing how to germinate and sprout the sunflower microgreens, Davison gifted Delma with her own take home pot of micgrogreens.

After demoing how to germinate and sprout the sunflower microgreens, Davison gifted Delma with her own take home pot of micgrogreens.

FOND headed out to Rockaway Beach to say hello to Good Water Farms and check out the festivities surrounding the build of the 96th Street Community Garden.
FOND headed out to Rockaway Beach to say hello to Good Water Farms and check out the festivities surrounding the build of the 96th Street Community Garden.

To Africa to Fight HIV

FOND Group recently teamed up to race the Two Oceans Ultramarathon in South Africa for one of its favorite causes: Grassrootsoccer.org (GRS). FOND assembled a team of 7 runners who raced a grueling 56km (35 mile) course along the stunning coast of Cape Town and raised over $75,000 to support GRS AIDS/HIV prevention programs in the process.

After the race, the group spent 10 days touring South Africa and Zimbabwe, visiting sites and soccer facilities where GRS teaches its Skillz Curriculum to at-risk youth with the goal of stopping the spread and reducing the stigma surrounding HIV. Team members visited GRS headquarters in downtown Cape Town to meet with its staff, interns and volunteers to share ideas and learn more about the recent growth within the organization.

Read more about the Two Oceans trip and how it came about on The Huffington Post.

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