April 2, 2012

Building Community through Global Sisterhood: An Interview with Shanti Ambassador, Danielle Hoogenboom.

(Joining hands and hearts, Danielle Hoogenboom and Nadine McNeil)

Have you noticed, lately, how women across the planet are rising up, empowering themselves and in so being, are also reaching out beyond their boundaries—geographic and otherwise—to uplift other women (and children)?

As we collectively engage, both metaphorically and physically, we are joining hands and hearts and creating an expansive circle of healing.

This process destined these encounters for which I am deeply grateful, enrich my life and enhance my purpose of being a catalyst for social change and global transformation.

I recently shared some time and space in Jamaica with Danielle Hoogenboom, an awe-inspiring fellow yogini and activist who vows to live her practice from a place of interconnection and celebration serves as the backdrop for this exchange between two human beings who resonate deeply on a soul vibrational level.

Looking each other squarely in the eyes, our first exchange was a smile – a gesture that transcends all boundaries.

Celebrate Uganda 2013: Expand, Engage, Explore

Danielle Hoogenboom is one of the selected 2012 Ambassadors for the Shanti Uganda Society, and co-leader of the Celebrate Uganda 2013 Journey.

The Shanti Uganda Society, based in the Luweero District of Uganda, with an office in Vancouver (Canada), improves infant and maternal health, provides safe women-centered care and supports the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

Founded in 2007 from a seed planted in Vancouver, BC Canada, Shanti Uganda is a full-fledged registered Canadian charity, and in 2011, was registered as an NGO in Uganda, lending even more credibility to its work and mission.

In Sanskrit (the ancient and sacred Hindu language) shanti denotes peace and, like charity, peace must begin at home.

If there is no peace within self, how can we expect for it to exist in the world?

The energy that we radiate towards humanity, the world and ourselves is what is reflected back to us, oftentimes multiple-fold.

Having developed a deep kinship and fondness for Uganda as a result of my travels there for work, combined with my own quest for peace and being an enabler for it on a universal scale, Shanti Uganda has touched my heart and captured my attention.

Danielle, thank you for introducing Shanti Uganda to my world!

Nadine McNeil: You speak of having developed a deep appreciation for community. What does community mean to you and how would you define it?

Danielle Hoogenboom: Our communities are very much the containers that allow us to really grow and inspire us to become the powerful open-hearted people I truly believe is deep within our hearts.

I am very blessed to be part of the Vancouver yoga community, as well as my varied involvement with Off the Mat, Into the World.  I am in awe of the people that surround me, both locally and globally and give thanks to the Most High for allowing me to cross paths with such sweet souls. Their light encourages me to shine brighter. I think we do that for each other.

I believe we can live Namaste, honoring the connective light that lives in self and the other. Our potential is boundless. The people who we commune with is very much yoga in action, really seeing the oneness of all people.There is no separation between us, so as we support and inspire ourselves, so too do we support and inspire others.

Nadine McNeil: Can you recall that defining moment in your own life where you realized that in this lifetime you’re destined to serve?

Danielle Hoogenboom: I think there was always a deep calling and understanding of involvement in the world but it has taken many years to comprehend it and lots of deep healing to have the confidence to move forward.

I think it took nearly a decade of yoga to open up the tension, trauma and to release old patterns and really see my own personal power; [and experience] through that process, my gratitude for the journey I’ve taken, and how much potential I have to give to the world in a way that aligned with my heart and soul opened up.

Very soon after I began teaching yoga, I heard about Seane Corn and her involvement in social change as a yoga teacher and sacred activist. Instantly, inspired and in awe of her ability to articulate spirit, the shadow and collective social awakening, I began to feel that something was absent from modern yoga: the more active involvement in the world and the transition from personal healing towards collective healing.

We must do our work first, but at some point, how can we not feel called to live and utilize the lessons of the yoga mat to affect and inspire change?

Seane introduced me to her work and commitment with Off that Mat, Into the World (OTM), a grassroots organization that supports the leadership and active social involvement of yogis. I joined their Global Seva Challenge to rise as a leader in my community and grassroots fundraise.

I began to see divine intervention in small everyday actions and how a dedicated group of people can collaborate and create change, while having fun. This process of empowerment, leadership and articulating my voice around meaningful causes while fundraising [has] literally changed my entire way of being.

I am now OTM Vancouver Community Leader, Shanti Uganda Ambassador and actively involved in many local and global projects.

I believe that when we are truly aligned with spirit, we enact that divinity essence throughout our human existence. This is what being the change that we wish to see in the world is about for me. People everywhere are igniting change.

Nadine McNeilSo, 2013 will find you in Africa as one of the trip leaders for Celebrate Uganda 2013. I love Africa. It breaks my heart that after centuries of suffering, it is still misunderstood. How many people are you envisioning will be a part of this 10-day journey?

Danielle Hoogenboom: Celebrate Uganda encompasses so many of my passions: sustainable community development, empowering women, holistic health, yoga, dance, fundraising, traveling, exploring, self-discovery and connections across continents.

Celebrate Uganda 2013: Expand, Engage, Explore

Empowering and supporting leaders in finding their authentic voice through personal exploration allows us to share and learn with our sisters to deepen our understanding of the human experience. This is a journey that begins the moment you decide to get involved and feel connected to our sisters in Uganda and Africa’s rich history.

We will support you in finding a voice around the stories that speak to your heart and a deep understanding of Shanti Uganda’s programs.

Nadine McNeil: Awesome!  As an ambassador for Elephant Africa, I look forward to reading blogs from the Celebrate Uganda 2013 community.

Danielle HoogenboomI want to stress that the leadership and team building while fundraising in your local community is our primary focus.

The service component of the trip is a commitment to raising $5,000 for the SU programs and a discovery on how your path, purpose and skills can be celebrated in accomplishing this.

More than being a trip of enjoyment, education, adventure and cultivating deep connections which we’ll undoubtedly have, we’ll celebrate Uganda together. Exploration through yoga and personal discovery is our focus on the ground.

We envision bringing ten people who collectively raise $50,000 for the programs. We have the potential to raise so much more: vibrations, intentions, funds and awareness. I want to be part of this conversation of change. I believe in the power of a co-created global collective.

Nadine McNeil: I truly believe that how we are born into the world has a direct impact on our dharma or life path. The concept of gentle births attests to this. The Shanti Uganda Birth House is a place that is built on this “peace-consciousness.”  What are some of the programs offered there and how do you feel that they continue to harness the intention of the birth-house?

Danielle Hoogenboom: Shanti Uganda owns 1 acre of land in Nsassi Village. In 2010, with the help of the yoga community, the construction of three buildings—a round hut for the women’s group and teen girls, a birth house and a maternity center—were completed.

There have been 61 conscious births at the house as far, with trained Ugandan midwives focusing on using holistic care to ensure the health of both mother and baby. The Shanti Uganda Birth House offers both pre and post-natal care, infant immunizations and family planning measures.

21 HIV/AIDS positive mothers and grandmothers are part of the Women’s Generating Income program. The women support a total of 170 children and grandchildren through the production of fair-traded jewelry and textiles.

(Photo: Shanti Uganda)

Over a 100 girls have taken part in Teen Girls Empowerment Programs with a focus on health empowerment through the use of storytelling.

At the end of the workshops, the girls receive reusable menstrual pads, which enable them to attend school during menstruation.

The Shanti Uganda Society also provides land and classes for sustainable agriculture. A local agriculturalist assists in training members of the community and Shanti beneficiaries in agricultural productivity and the importance of proper nutrition.

I am personally really excited about this one, since I am very committed to organic gardening.

Nadine McNeil: In your role as leader of this noble opportunity, what words of wisdom do you intend to offer to the people who will be turning to you for guidance, support and direction?

Danielle Hoogenboom: Live your yoga. Live from the place deep within you that truly acknowledges the power of your light, and know that you are resting in the guidance of the divine where all things are possible.

Connect with other people on a soul level and through practical action. Remain especially open to your places of resistance and trust that all is unfolding as it’s meant to.

I believe that when you commit to a life of service with an open heart you are the one that is being served. I have received more blessings, lessons, moments of pure bliss and absolute awe from living an awakened, involved life, than I could ever imagine giving back.

I am so humbled by the human experience. We must celebrate life and we must do the work that brings joy to our hearts and see each other’s humanity. The work is the reward. I really believe in the power of conscious community and the empowerment exchange we can offer one another: global sisterhood. In being able to hold space for each other, together we learn and evolve.

There are so many causes, so many organizations, so many friends in need and a millions paths to give your heart to. Make small gestures and always do the work with spirit in hand and love in heart.

Nadine McNeil: The ‘invitation’ to Celebrate Uganda 2013 is through Engaging, Expanding [and] Exploring. What does this mean for you, Danielle Hoogenboom?

Danielle Hoogenboom: I’m beyond excited! As the inspiration/yoga/meditation/leadership developer, I also get to help co-create this alongside the SU leadership community. They had a vision about a journey that was really grounded in a joyous discovery of Uganda and its rich culture, that could foster an empowering and exciting adventure for participants, while raising funds for all of their projects.

(Photo: Danielle Hoogenboom)

I am deeply moved and connected to the work they do with women and teen girls, and their commitment to sustainability and sisterhood. The title Engage, Expand, Explore came to me, and it encapsulates our shared vision.

This is an adventure and invitation for participants to engage within their local communities by giving voice to viable programs that are affecting meaningful change; and becoming more engaged in the world as creative fundraisers and leaders of change. It is here where community is born, through big hearts and small steps.

Nadine McNeilI am often approached by people who regard themselves as ‘ordinary,’ wanting to know how they can make a difference – besides giving money – to the various human causes and issues plaguing the world today. Do you have an inspirational message that you’d like to share that compels us into action?

Danielle Hoogenboom: Bob Marley said, “For every little action, there’s a reaction.”  I live by this.

I believe in the yoga of the everyday: that all our thoughts, words and actions either contribute to or subtract from our world.

Imagine the cumulative contribution that we could make to the planet and humanity if, for example, we gave up the disposable culture of to-go cups and plastics, and supported small businesses that align with our values.

Be conscious around how you spend your money. Plant food and create community all around you. Practice self-care and speak passionately about causes that inspire you. Start a dialogue.

Nadine McNeil: Danielle, thank you for sharing who you are with me and with the world.


For anyone reading this exchange who is ignited to rise up for themselves and the Shanti Uganda Society, join us on Celebrate UgandaFor more about Danielle Hoogenboom visit: www.lovelightyoga.com & www.leadwithlove.ca.



Editor: Andrea B.


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