Welcome to the Local Heroes series, where we highlight inspiring stories by people in Singapore who are using their skills to do good.
SINGAPORE — Laura Zaccaria gives back to the community by raising funds for charities through yoga classes.
“The practice of yoga is by giving yourself the gift of being present and in the practice, you are always contributing to someone else’s wellbeing,” shares Zaccaria.
Zaccaria started practising yoga when she moved to Singapore in 2013. She holds a full-time job as a business consultant at a consulting firm and conducts weekly yoga classes alternate Saturdays in the morning to raise funds for charity. 100 per cent of the proceeds go to the selected charity as Zaccaria strongly believes in giving back.
“It is just nice to see people coming together for the purpose of getting together to practice yoga and contribute to a cause. To be able to offer that is something meaningful for me too.”
Yoga focuses a lot on the mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation. For Zaccaria, she sees it as a connection with the body and mind, as well as gaining something both internally and externally.
Taking a cue from ‘Yoga Gives Back’, a non-profit organisation that raises funds for the women and children in India, Zaccaria decided to do the same by raising funds for smaller non-profit organisations and charities as her way of doing good for the community.
Fast forward to 2017, Zaccaria conducted her first donation-based yoga class to her colleagues as part of her teacher-training journey. It slowly progressed to collaborating with yoga studios and organisations that share her values. In the three years, she set up ‘Yoga for a Change’, an initiative run by Zaccaria herself, who has raised funds for approximately ten charities.
They include Aidha, a charity organisation to help foreign domestic workers and low-income Singaporean women achieve economic independence through financial education; Love, Nils, a charity that supports children with cancer and their caregivers with healthcare guidance; Blessings In A Bag, a volunteer-powered community that strives to provide every child and their family with the essentials they need to thrive and to feel valued; SPD, a local charity that helps people with disabilities to maximise their potential; Willing Hearts, who provide daily meals and other support services to the underprivileged and the marginalised members in Singapore; National Cancer Centre Research Fund; as well as charities aim at helping children in Bali and Nepal.
“I focus mostly on initiatives that are oriented towards women empowerment, women education and children. There are so many causes out there that I care personally, but I don’t want to divide the funds and raise a couple of hundreds for this or a few hundred for that. I want to channel all the funds to the different charities that I support and create awareness about them through the process.”
She adds: “I don’t raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through my yoga classes, so I look for charities where I know the money I raised will make a difference to them. Even if it’s S$500, I know it will be beneficial to them.”
As the main person-in-charge running ‘Yoga For A Change’, Zaccaria makes sure she does her research beforehand and builds a connection with the people running the charities. “The lens that I try to use is either through recommendations or from a friend so that I know where the money goes.” She now fundraises via giving.sg, an online platform that allows individuals to fundraise, donate and volunteer for 550 registered non-profits in Singapore.
“I started raising funds for Aidha because I have been volunteering with them for five years till today, teaching computer classes and skills-based workshops. They were my first chosen charity because I know the people, how they run the charity and most importantly, I know where the funds will be going. On that same note, I will always give the option to my yoga attendees that they don’t have to give the money to me. If they are not comfortable in paying me in cash or via payNow, I’ll encourage them to donate to the charity directly.”
All of the classes are donation-based, and Zaccaria doesn’t set a fixed or minimum amount for her students. “I found out that people are willing to donate more if the amount is left to their decision. This also makes it more accessible to students who have a tighter budget.”
The greatest satisfaction for Zaccaria comes from sharing her joy of yoga and the meaning behind it to people. She explains: “I know a lot of people have never tried yoga or are intimidated by it because of the amazing poses you see on Instagram, and that can easily be seen as the association to the practice. For my classes, you are not here to do all the fancy poses but rather, raising funds for charity… so whatever you do on your mat is at your own pace.”
“The point of the practice is to practise for a cause and by giving to yourself in the practice, you are always contributing to someone else’s wellbeing.”
The ultimate goal for Yoga For A Change is not only about fundraising, but also to raise awareness about the charities she works with and spread the good among people.
“It brings me so much satisfaction to my teaching, I feel the most centered and grounded at the end of each class, feeding off the whole energy of the group. I hope to raise awareness for small charities because they may not be so well-known and are still are very much in need of funding.”
Zaccaria welcomes newcomers - skilled or total newbies - to join her in the yoga classes. In addition, she is always open and happy to connect with small charities who are looking for additional financial support.
“I do what I do and raise funds for charities to allow them to do the great work they do, as well as being able to give people a good time for themselves.”
For more information on Laura Zaccaria’s classes go here.
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