Gaiam Donates Yoga Mats to Haiti

Yoga mats provide a clean, dry place for Haitians to sleep

People in earthquake-devastated Haiti aren’t doing much yoga these days, but many of them now have a Gaiam yoga mat, which provides a clean, dry place to sit and sleep. Sending the mats to Haiti was the ingenious brainchild of Yoshi Aono, who says he got the idea for “Yoga Mats for Haiti” while lying on a comfortable mat in savasana, or relaxation pose, at the end of yoga class. He joined forces with Tamara Kerner, whose Hope for Haiti charity events have included yoga-class fundraisers in Boulder, Colo.

Aono traveled to Haiti in March with a relief mission organized by Airline Ambassadors to personally deliver the aid. “You can only imagine the devastation we saw,” says Aono. “The pictures don’t even begin to tell the whole story.”

Aono joined Patch Adams (a medical doctor and social activist who has devoted 30 years to changing America's health care system), 20 other doctors and volunteers in a “commando style” trip to Haiti, where they distributed 7,100 pounds of aid directly to the people most desperately in need — those living in the vast tent cities surrounding Port au Prince. “Even the aid workers’ boxes became roofs for makeshift houses,” Aono says.

Woman with yoga mat

Haitians exit the aid distribution line, carrying their new Gaiam yoga mats. “They all looked you in the eye and genuinely thanked you for caring,” Yoshi Aono says. Credit: Yoshi Aono

“Gaiam’s donation really made a huge difference,” he continues. The company donated 200 yoga mats as well as solar-powered radios and flashlights. “We approached Gaiam about the yoga mats, and the company came through fast and in a big way. Most of the Gaiam mats were eco-mats, which just shows the company’s commitment to helping and their realization that we still need to be environmentally conscious,” says Aono.

Beyond yoga mats

In addition to the yoga mats, radios and flashlights delivered by Aono, Gaiam also worked with Ohio-based Matthew 25 Ministries to donate more than 50 pallets of goods worth almost $175,000 from the Gaiam Distribution Center to the ministries’ Haiti relief efforts. These goods — which included water bottles, sleeping pads, blankets, clothing, shoes and sandals, bedding, backpacks, small appliances and solar-powered flashlights and radios — were delivered very quickly, thanks to the hard work and efficiency of Gaiam’s warehouse staff. “The Haiti situation has been heart-wrenching, and I would say donating and helping others is definitely part of our company vision,” says Steve Reynolds, operations manager. “We do lots of other donations to local schools and an organization that supplies local teachers.” For the Haitians in need, these useful items will help them begin to move toward a normal, healthy life again.

Feature photo at top by Atomic Zagnut Adams. Yoshi Aono hands out yoga mats and sleeping pads to Haitians in one of the poorest tent cities in Port au Prince. “It was heartbreaking to see how these people slept on the dirt and had nothing at all for their own personal care,” Aono says. He says it was rewarding to see all the efforts of the yoga mat campaign — planning and executing aid transport and working with village leaders on distribution — safely culminate on this day.

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