My Volunteer Journal: Episode 24 – Yoga and Yummies for Operation Shanti or How to Throw a Kick A#$ Benefit

yoga“Oh yummy! This is heaven in bar form!” I think as I shove another Theo’s Bread and Chocolate chocolate bar sample into my mouth. I’m at a yoga class benefit, but at the moment I am completely distracted by the chocolate tasting station. Delicious. Should be a requisite part of every volunteer activity. The chocolate certainly makes up for the fact that I spent the morning combing through bags and pulling jeans out of the dirty clothes to check the pockets so I could assemble a wrinkled collection of bills to donate at this event which benefits Operation Shanti in India.

Now I know this volunteer journal is suppose to focus on activities that don’t involve admission fees, but this activity i.e. a charity yoga class was an idea too cool and inventive not to share and I was told you could donate whatever you could afford.

Operation Shanti’s mission is “to directly improve the lives of exploited, at risk, destitute children and the forgotten, suffering elderly, enabling them to become ‘beacons of light’ and share the same gifts of peace, goodwill and generosity with others for the rest of their lifetimes.” The man who organized this event, yoga instructor Garth, had gone to India and worked with this organization and wanted to do more for them. Back in the US he ingeniously thought of a way to use his talents to help people half way around the world – throw a yoga benefit on three different days at three different clubs throughout Los Angeles.

The class I’m attending is at the beautiful Santa Monica Equinox. After ascending a tree house like labyrinth of catwalks and staircases I arrived at the yoga floor. In front of me was a desk where volunteers were collecting donations and handing out swag bags. Now I love swag bags as much as the next person. Our gifts bags were in reusable Lululemon bags and contained donated products like a water bottle, another reusable bag that zipped into a tiny clutch, yoga headbands, samples of organic body care products, granola bars, and lots of coupons for holistic services. I took my donation envelope out of the bag and quickly stuffed my crumpled collection of bills into the envelope. I was a little embarrassed they were so messy. The woman collecting the donations was very polite though and thanked me and handed me a raffle ticket.

After the chocolate tasting and other refreshments all the participants were herded into the room for the class. It was packed – body-to-body. We all got to know each other very well during the hour and a half yoga class. The class itself was difficult, but I felt all limber and in need of a good nap afterwards. At the end of class we were given time to grab water and refreshments and then we all gathered for the raffle. Garth had managed to get amazing donations from hairdressers, fitness shops, the Equinox, massage therapists, and restaurants like Real Food Daily. I didn’t win anything but that didn’t matter - I had the greatest time at the event meeting people, working out and learning about the Operation Shanti.

You can hold your own charity benefit. Pick a group you want to sponsor. Decide if you want to throw a party or exercise event (yoga, Pilates, water aerobics, etc.), find a venue (most health clubs will be happy to sponsor an exercise event if you are going to be dragging new people through their doors), get donations from local businesses to give as thank you gifts or a raffle and raise money by collecting donations.