Bodhi Tree raising funds for education in India

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The Bodhi Tree Yoga Centre in downtown Kemptville is hosting a sun-salutation-a-thon in November to help raise money to send children to school in India. The Bodhi Tree’s charity of choice is called Helping Hands for India. The studio’s owner, Melanie Charlebois, is the charity’s Treasurer and has been an active member of the board for several years. In 2013, they opened a school in the small town of Pritamgarh, India, which now provides quality education to almost 300 students. “Most of the students were not going to school before,” Melanie says.

There are many barriers to education for children in India, especially for girls. Parents have the option of either sending their children to private school (which is expensive), or public school where there is an issue with attendance for both teachers and students. “Teachers only show up 25 per cent of the time,” Melanie says. Families who have a limited income will often choose to send only one of their children to school, usually opting for their boys, rather than their girls. “Empowerment of [female] education is huge for us,” Melanie says. “We try and empower families to keep their daughters in school.”

The charity’s fundraising goal is $38,000 a year, which pays for all the operating costs for the school, including school supplies, uniforms for the students, and fair wages for the teachers and support staff. It also pays for a vehicle and driver that brings the teachers to school every day, to make sure that classes are reliable and on time. “For ten dollars a month you can send one child to school,” Melanie says.

Melanie really fell in love with the cause when she had the opportunity to visit the school in 2014. “I couldn’t not get involved after seeing the joy on a child’s face when you hand them a book and a pencil,” she says. The charity is completely volunteer-run, with almost all the funds raised going directly to sending kids from grade one to eight to school.

The Bodhi Tree’s sun-salutation-a-thon will be taking place at their studio in Kemptville on Sunday, November 4, from 9:30am-12:30pm. The goal for the three hours is to do 108 sun salutations, a tall order for even the most practiced yogi. One hundred and eight is a significant number in the Hindu religion, as there are 108 beads on a Hindu mala (a string of beads used for meditation practice) and they say that the Buddha meditated under the Bodhi Tree for 108 days before reaching enlightenment.

Melanie says the event is supposed to be a fun challenge that will allow people to push their limits while raising money for a good cause. “I think it’s absolutely possible,” Melanie says. “Even if a sun salutation is not available to you, simply visualizing yourself doing it is fine too.”

To sign up to participate, you can drop by the Bodhi Tree (28 Prescott Street) and pick up a pledge form, or contact Om Shanti (Melanie) Charlebois on Facebook and she will email you a pledge sheet. Helping Hands for India is a registered Canadian charity, so all donations over $20 are eligible for a tax receipt. People are also always welcome to make a donation by visiting www.helpinghandsforindia.org. “We have a team that is very dedicated,” Melanie says. “All we want is to see a bright outcome for these children.”

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