June 16, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Thinking outside the Bubble 

Whistler locals reaching out beyond the valley to help change the world

click to flip through (6) A centre was built in Karmoja, Uganda to manage the program. Pat Montani with the local team in Uganda.
  • A centre was built in Karmoja, Uganda to manage the program. Pat Montani with the local team in Uganda.

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Change the world — one victim at a time

It is February and I'm midway through a Yin asana at Neoalpine Yoga.

Our instructor, Zoey, takes the opportunity while we are contorted down on our mats to give us some news. "This will actually be my last class for a couple months," she says while everyone's face is buried in their knees. "I am leaving for India as part of an organization my friend and I created. We are working to find shelter and long-term care for survivors of India's sex-trade industry."

Her casual mention of such a serious subject causes me to raise my head in curiosity. She looks over at me and we make eye contact, but she quietly continues her teaching: "Just about five breaths left to hold the pose," she says, her voice peaceful and warm.

I take that as a hint to put my head back down toward my knees.

Zoey Stimpson is a petite young woman with a large smile. Growing up in North Vancouver, she eventually made the move to Whistler to live the outdoor lifestyle that attracts most of us here. She has a blossoming career as a yoga and wellness teacher, travelling between Vancouver and Pemberton to help others connect their body, mind and spirit.

But she wanted more. Not for herself, but for her impact on the world. "I had a childhood dream to be immersed in a world of equality," Stimpson remarks. "For me, freedom means a level playing field for all. Ever since I was young I had wanted to be a positive force for change within the world, so last year I asked a dear big-hearted friend to help get the ball rolling."

So they did just that. The pair had been introduced to the horrors of the sex-trade industry from another friend, and the need that the survivors had resonated deeply with them.

Once tuned in to the issue, Stimpson and her friend Meagan Corbett had a vehicle to drive their motivation to make a positive change. As women this was a cause that hit an emotional nerve — they felt the urge to help females who were less fortunate, even victimized, so they formed an organization called Change Her World.

The pair enlisted help from an organization called Off the Mat Into the World. This group uses the principles of yoga to help fellow yogis reach out and incite change — exactly the calling that the two young women felt. Through OTM's guidance, Stimpson and Corbett were initiated to the world of becoming benefactors to a cause. Last year their efforts resulted in raising over $40,000 for Change Her World. The money went directly to organizations supporting the survivors of the sex-trade industry, offering guidance, shelter, and education for these rescued former sex slaves.

But simply raising money was not enough for the duo. Back in February they travelled to India to see the fruits of their fundraising efforts, and the reality of what the women they are helping must live through. When Stimpson returned from this two-month odyssey I asked her what she had learned from this life-changing journey.

Her response was full of wisdom, bringing forth the realization that charity is not only about giving, but also receiving: "Not getting lost in the traumas, the stories, and the injustice was a difficult task for me. Balancing my emotions, level of compassion and sensitivity with determination, purpose and action was a goal of mine — without this consciousness, it's safe to say, that I would have been a pile of mush. Luckily I had strong women... to hold hands with, share, process and get back on track with.

"Amidst all the horror and shadow we've been immersed in is this journey invited more laughter than tears, more joy than anger, more love than hatred, more happiness than sadness, and more hopefulness than hopelessness."

The 53 women who received the assistance that Corbett and Stimpson organized now live a life of hope and freedom instead of fear and slavery. Not only that, they now have a positive connection to two big-hearted Canadian women who wanted nothing more than to help out however they could.

For now, Stimpson continues to carve out her career as a yoga instructor, helping people up and down route 99 stay connected on the mat. Her organization is more of a side project to give back to the world that has, "...blessed me in so many ways."

Stimpson and Corbett will be sharing their experiences from India and sharing more about Change Her world at a showcase event July 31 at Millennium Place.

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