Changemakers In Action
Interview throwback but, perfect for our time now
The mission of Holistic Life Foundation
The Holistic Life Foundation is a Baltimore-based 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization committed to nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities. Through a comprehensive approach which helps children develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Holistic Life Foundation Co-Founder and Marketing Director, Andres Gonzalez about the mission and growth of the Baltimore-based organization.
In the last 50 years, Baltimore went from being a steel manufacturing haven to being featured as one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America. Baltimore is well-known for its high crime rates, drug problems, and high unemployment. The economic changes and the introduction of illegal drugs into the communities devastated families and neighborhoods. Children no longer have the strong family bonds to cling to or the friendly neighbor to lend a hand, instead they look to the streets; teaching themselves how to survive and roll with the changing economic and social landscape.
In most cases, children and adults fall victim to crime, drug addiction, and/or poverty. The ramifications of these experiences impact the people of the communities both physically and mentally. Many well-known social programs seek to provide support to meet the physical needs of the community members but, none provide a comprehensive approach to developing a long-term solution.
The Holistic Life Foundation works to grow a rose out of concrete, by creating a program that places the community members at the forefront of finding the solution. Call it mind-over-matter or individual therapy but, yoga practice works.
The Holistic Life Foundation shows the keys to a better life are readily and easily available through mindfulness, knowledge of self-love, and care. Children and adults in the communities are asked to slow down, take a breath, self-examine and then release their thoughts, problems and worries from their shoulders.
Why yoga? What makes this program more successful than other programs?
We chose yoga because of the impact that it had on ourselves (Holistic Foundation Co-Founders Executive Director Ali Smith, Director of Youth Programming Atman Smith, and Marketing Director Andres Gonzalez). It transformed us from pretty-wild guys to more compassionate, loving individuals able to live in the present moment. I think that this program is successful because it gives participants tools that they can use to balance their physical, mental, and emotional aspects in their current lives and in the future.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you decided to start this program?
The biggest challenge that we faced when we decided to start the program was funding. We did everything for free for the first eight years and we couldn’t expand and be sustainable until we started receiving the proper amount of financial aid.
What is the goal of the Holistic Foundation?
We are committed to nurturing the wellness of children and adults in all communities using a comprehensive approach that helps individuals develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care. We are also committed to developing high-quality evidence-based programs and curricula to improve community well-being.
How are your instructors different than other instructors at studios people pay for?
Our instructors have gone through our Workforce Development program and are trained in providing HLF’s curriculum.
How do you determine what type of program is right for the students?
We base the type of program that we deliver on the audience. We never go into a facility with a cookie-cutter program. We cater the practices to the demographic and use techniques that we practiced ourselves.
What is your most amazing success story?
I would say that our most amazing success story has to do with the first group of kids. In 2002, we began our afterschool program with 15 of the school’s “problem” students. We introduced them to mindfulness and yoga techniques at a time when these concepts were not very popular. Some kids stuck with us, some moved away, and some unfortunately passed away. But the amazing thing is that half of those 15 students are currently employed with the Holistic Life Foundation 17 years later. They saw the impact that these techniques had on them and are now making that same impact in their communities and all over the world!
The Results: Evaluation Outcomes of the Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Curriculum
The evaluation of the Holistic Life Foundation Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Curriculum showed that implementing HLF’s curriculum in the school context was attractive to students, teachers, and school administrators. Positive effects were observed on problematic behaviors including rumination, intrusive thoughts, and emotional arousal
Learn More: Holistic Life Foundation
About the Author
Annmarie Hylton-Schaub, Head Marketing Strategist and Content Developer at Project Good Work a boutique marketing group focused on helping individuals who want to launch social impact projects, charities, and change-making initiatives. The marketing group works to develop branding, marketing strategy, and content to connect clients with the people who believe what they believe so that their project and business can thrive.
If you have a passion for an unserved community, a social justice problem, or simply want to change minds contact Project Good Work at ProjectGood.Work to start your project of change today.