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Just $25 can buy a Justin Bieber “Boyfriend” t-shirt for the average American, but for India’s destitute, the very amount is a path to transformation from poverty to hope manifested through collateral free micro-credit programs and education funds initiated by an unexpected source, the Los Angeles based organization Yoga Gives Back (YGB).
YGB will hold its second global event called “Thank You Mother India,” which is a call to action within the universal yoga community  to repay India for affording the ancient gift of yoga to millions world-wide.

Spearheaded by founder Kayoko Mitsumatsu in 2007,  the organization realized the potential of the six billion dollars per year yoga industry, to help the poorest people in the world.

Mitsumatsu and her small troop of volunteers diligently worked to assemble nearly 100 yoga studios in 14 countries including Belgium, Portugal, Singapore and others to host a special class this September.

Mitsumatsu’s credo “for the cost of one yoga class you can change a life,” resonated through grass-root ambassadors or teachers from various yoga studios. The ambassadors will offer the proceeds from the donation sessions to YGB which works with local NGO partners in India to fund struggling women with little access to capital.

Women are the bulk recipients for such micro loans as YGB research shows that they “are more likely to use the profits from their businesses, not just to feed their families, but to improve their families’ nutrition and living conditions, as well as to send their children to school thereby giving the next generation a much better chance to climb out of poverty.”

YGB’s inspiration is drawn from Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus’ revolutionary micro financing breakthrough in Bangladesh. YGB began by supporting micro-loan programs in India and partnered with the Grameen Foundation USA.

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By 2010, in addition to supporting the Grameen Foundation, YGB sought to build direct relationships with its fund recipients, and developed a direct funding program called “Sister Aid” with NISHTHA in West Bengal and Deenabandhu in Karnataka which provide educational, vocational training and micro-credit programs to help ailing women and children in India build sustainable lives.

Mitsumatsu recalled her visits with one such recipient named Jayshree in Bangalore, who lived in a one room house with her husband Ramo and two children. Jayshree recently qualified for her fourth loan for Rs. 30,000 (about $550) from YGB affiliates, after successful repayments of her prior loans.  The current loan will be fully utilized to pay for medical school for her eldest son who dreams of becoming a dentist.

Back in 2007, Ramo’s rented rickshaw barely provided food for the family. After Jayshree’s discovery of micro-loans through neighbors, she received Rs. 7,000 which funded the rickshaw business and tripled their income.
Jayshree paid back her initial loan in one year and doubled her second loan amount to purchase a sewing machine to make custom bags for clients. With a third loan Jayshree expanded her business to include a snack shop from which she continued her ongoing sewing business.

The average funding commitment is for 5 years and $25 is the usual loan amount to start a business for many recipients, which according to Mitsumatsu has ushered a positive impact in many recipients’ lives.

Last year’s fund raiser raised $27,000 with 50 studios participating from 10 countries and resulted in “doubling the number of our fund recipients in India, which is now funding 103 women and children” adds to Mitsumatsu.
As an example, Mitsumatsu explained NISHTHA is now funding 44 mothers with micro loans and 44 daughters with education funds so that they can remain in school. By the second year, out of the 44 women, 22 women who received the loan in 2011 have reported an income increase of 400% on average. Nearly half of the daughters have remained in school to date.  Loan repayments increase chances of new future loans and YGB affiliates are reporting a high success rate of roughly 90% and above in loan payback rates.

This year’s Indian themed fundraiser is geared to raise awareness within the Indian community as well as the local yoga community and aims to raise at least $50,000.

The event will take place at philanthropist Dr. Amarjit Marwah’s 14 acre ranch in Malibu. The evening’s entertainment will feature kirtan music and odissi dances by Sharanya Mukhopadhyay and her dance group, dinner, a silent auction, guest speeches and video presentations. Top yoga celebrity and Mitsumatsu’s trainer and YGB ambassador Jorgen Christiansson who taught Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting will be in attendance amongst other yoga celebrities and guests.n

Saturday, September 29. 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Dr. Marwah’s estate, Malibu. Pre-buy tickets through www.yogagivesback.org/tymi.

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