Downtown Vancouver sex workers and animals in need are some of the groups benefitting from the donations of the University of British Columbia Yoga Club.
While the group hosts weekly classes focusing on general yoga practice, the weekend Karma class collects donations for a wide range of local charities.
Last month’s proceeds went to WISH Drop-In Centre, an organization that provides support to self-identified women who are in street-based sex work — a unique contribution that the organization values.
“They’re modelling some fantastic community support work,” said Mebrat Beyene, the executive director of WISH. “When we’re receiving a cash donation, it goes further. We’re able to apply it exactly where we need it and turn it back into supporting women directly.”
Club president Kathy Ma says the group didn’t start out with charity in mind, but rather as a group of people wanting to do yoga.
“It’s 11 years old, so it’s quite an old club. It really started as a community of people who wanted to do yoga,” said Ma.
Karma class co-ordinator Maja Maj said volunteer instructors run the classes, allowing all the proceeds to be donated to an organization. She says the process for selecting the monthly charities has changed since she became co-ordinator three years ago.
“When I first started, it was at my discretion,” she said. “I’ve implemented a system using a form online where the actual people doing the yoga can suggest organizations they feel like deserve good karma.“
The proceeds from Karma classes this past summer went to SAINTS Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Mission, B.C., which cares for senior and special-needs animals from local shelters that no longer have room. Erin Bain, the assistant manager at SAINTS, says donations of any type are helpful.
“The UBC Yoga Club donated just over $100,“ she said. “SAINTS usually has vet bills exceeding $200,000 every year, so every single donation counts.”
Another donation went to KidsCodeJeunesse, which trains teachers in coding instruction.
UBC student Tabea Stephan says she appreciates that there is more to the class than just self-care.
“It’s a nice way to combine something I like which is doing yoga while donating to a good cause,” Stephan said.
Club memberships are $20 for students and $30 for the general public. The cost to attend class for members is $2 or $5 for non-members. The Karma class runs every Saturday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to anyone.