Yoga group plans Haiti trip

Article Published: Dec. 15, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Political unrest, illness and structural devastation from the earthquake that plowed Haiti this year have brought countless aid workers to Haiti.

They come in many forms, construction professionals, soldiers, medical professionals and, thanks to a few hearty Boonies, yoga enthusiasts.

Meet Holly Whiteside, co-leading a trip with a mesh of Boone and Knoxville locals, right into the heart of the tragedy.

It's something she's been wanting to do since hearing about the quake on the radio.

"I was inspired right after the earthquake to draw the yoga community together to see what we could do," she said.

It was that early inspiration that led her and the rest of the Karma Krew" to front a fundraiser at St. Luke's Episcopal Church that raised $2,500 for Wine to Water's efforts earlier this year. It's that same gumption that's pushing her and 13 others (seven from Boone) to take what could be a dangerous trek, straight to the island where it all happened. While yoga will be on the brain, that's not all the trip is about.

The yoga enthusiasts will be working with three area orphanages, partially on construction and gardening projects, partially through expressive arts. The Karma Krew is teaming up with a group called St. Joseph's Family that's already in Haiti.

"It's not so much yoga... it's not an evangelical trip in that way, it's more allowing yoga to be a lens for which we practice service," she said.

While they'll fly into Port au Prince, vans from SJF will transport the Krew to orphanages on the Caribbean side of the island in Jacmel.

"They've had some structural damage and a lot of refugees from the capital city," Whiteside said.

Whiteside's keeping a close watch on the news while preparing for the trip, and she knows the risks.

"I'm just trying to stay open to what comes," she said. "At this point, the organization that we're serving (SJF) is comfortable with our coming, and we're comfortable at this point with our going. This is part of what the practice of yoga can offer ... to stay open to what comes, to know the possibilities but not hold onto expectations of what we'll accomplish."

"I think the recent political developments have thrown a hitch into the ability to plan things," Karma Krew's Tom Owens said.

Those political developments include hotly disputed presidential elections that have resulted in officials like U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy last week calling for a freeze on U.S. aid to Haiti.

"So we don't know for sure if we're going to get to go," Whiteside said.

But she's getting her shots, shots like tetanus and hepatitis, necessary in a country where disease has increased astronomically since the quake.

She's also orchestrating a fundraising effort. Sunday, Karma Krew is hosting a luncheon at the High Country United Church of Christ (8235 U.S. 421 North) for a minimum donation of $10 each (children under three are free). The luncheon will include Haitian inspired cuisine and feature a silent auction. Tickets are currently on sale at Espresso News, Neighborhood Yoga, Green Mother Goods and the Health and Beauty Department of Earth Fare in Boone.

For more information, e-mail Whiteside at (

Karma Krew is a national yoga-based non profit organization that organizes and facilitates service projects in communities locally and abroad. The group hopes to leave Dec. 28 and return Jan. 4, 2011.

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