Having over 10 years of experience as a yoga and wellness educator, Sarah worked with the JHS team to design and deliver yoga classes twice a week at our Vancouver CSO throughout the summer of 2018. While yoga can often be perceived as an inaccessible activity, particularly within the context of classes available to the public, Sarah mastered the art of making yoga accessible, fun, and person-centered. Throughout the summer, JHS service users, staff, and other community members were invited to join in on a variety of yoga-inspired activities.
“Doing my practicum with the JHS was a match made in heaven. It wasn’t a convenient decision due to the two hour commute each way, but I’m so happy that I did it because it offered me an opportunity to be exposed to an amazing organization.
Before I started my practicum, I had never really considered working with people who had experience in the criminal justice system. Being at the CSO challenged me to look at my pre-conceptions and the judgements that I had about this population, as many of the regulars have been in contact with the law. The assumptions and opinions that I held before my practicum were totally flipped upside down after my experience with the JHS. You hear the word criminal and this image comes to mind, but when you engage with people who have gone through the criminal justice system, you realize that many of them were just put in an uncomfortable or challenging situation, or grew up without the resources, social supports, or general environment that would have prevented them from doing what they did.
I had so much fun volunteering at the CSO. It really is a dance and an art, because you never know what you’ll get that day, but the energy and sense of humour in the room was just wonderful. There were so many instances where you’d see folks who doesn’t always have the opportunity to enjoy the small joys of life really experiencing happiness. It was really inspiring to know that you’re playing a role in creating that space for them and to be a part of something that you know makes people feel safe and comfortable.”
At the beginning of her practicum, Sarah focused on developing a strong rapport with frequent service users while CSO staff worked to create a space that would be conducive to doing yoga, which contributed to the success of the program overall.
“I’m pretty proud of my ability to assess where people are at and who they are before we do class. Having some time to get to know the regulars at the CSO before we offered yoga was great, because it allowed me to get to know them, their sense of humour, their personalities, and so many enriching details that allowed me to connect with them on a deeper level and bring this all into the practice to make it as enjoyable as possible. For me, it’s not so much about the practice of yoga itself, but rather, it’s about connecting with people and creating a space where they feel safe and have fun.”
After completing her practicum with us, Sarah joined our team as a staff member of one of our residential programs. While Sarah has since moved to Ottawa, she is now exploring opportunities to do her Masters in Social Work, and aims to stay connected with the JHS community in Ottawa. Sarah identified an interest in look into available positions in JHS residential programs in Ottawa once she settles into the city.
“I am certainly interested in staying with the JHS because I really enjoyed my year with them in Vancouver” – Sarah
We are excited to continue Sarah’s legacy by offering yoga again in the Fall of 2019. We look forward to bringing on a new volunteer yoga instructor to teach accessible and inclusive classes at our Vancouver CSO soon!