The Breath of Hope Foundation is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to fostering empowerment in children and communities through the mind-body practice of yoga. In collaboration with educators and researchers, Breath of Hope aims to advance knowledge of the benefits of yoga, especially in fostering resiliency in the at-risk child. In post-disaster and conflict situations, Breath of Hope strives to rekindle hope and peace in children through community-based yoga programs, creating a ripple effect from the child to the family, school, community and beyond.
Breath of Hope was born in response to the 2004 tsunami, an event of unprecedented destruction that shattered lives and communities across South Asia. As Breath of Hope’s founder Therese Poulsen watched the media coverage of the tsunami’s devastation, she understood that material relief efforts, however vital, would do little to relieve the deep and pervasive trauma caused by loss of family, home, and community, especially in the region’s children. She also realized that her unique background as a long-time practitioner and teacher of yoga might give her the means to make a difference in those distressed young lives: that the science of yoga could provide practitioners of every age and social condition with the balance and strength to face the most trying of life’s challenges.
In 2005 research began, and armed with this knowledge, Therese traveled in November of 2005 and a resolved to provide assistance wherever she could. Poulsen traveled to southern Sri Lanka to begin her own relief efforts through community-based programs of yoga. She began by knocking on literally the few doors left standing, and met with regional and local leaders to design a minimally invasive, culturally sensitive program of support for the area’s trauma-exposed youth.
Since then, Poulsen has initiated programs in schools, orphanages and community centers across southern Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand and now is starting a program in Germany, helping thousands of children find renewed hope, strength and confidence in the wake of disaster, and is training hundreds of teachers to carry on the program with minimal outside support. Moving forward into the future, Breath of Hope will continue providing services in South Asia and Europe as we work to expand our programs to wherever they are needed and requested across the world.