AZAHAR means orange blossom. This word comes from Spanish but has roots in Arabic. Its mixed origin illustrates the fusion of different cultures and mirrors the foundation’s dedication to embracing diversity. A and Z are the alphabet’s initial and final letters, symbolizing starts, finishes, entirety, specifics, and emptiness. A blossom signifies fresh starts and an elevated consciousness where people can coexist harmoniously, embodying the AZAHAR Foundation’s ultimate vision.
The foundation’s roots trace back to a pivotal moment atop the Alcazar in Cordoba, Spain, where the vista of orange orchards stretching towards Africa and the Americas ignited the spark of a vision.
Guided by an unwavering commitment to fostering unity across cultures, the organization’s founder, Yogeswari, delved into the world of African and Afro-Caribbean Dance during her time in New York. This immersion sparked a profound fascination with cross-culturalism and a resolute stand against unfounded prejudices and racism. This passion manifested in the form of two multimedia, cross-cultural dance companies based in the heart of New York City.
Fuelled by deep personal reflection and empowered by the teachings of Jivamukti Yoga, Yogeswari used yoga and spirituality to find solace and purpose after witnessing the 9/11 tragedy. The seeds of AZAHAR were sown, rooted in the belief that women could be powerful agents of peace, intertwining arts and spirituality.
AZAHAR’s first programs took shape alongside Fundación Para La Paz in Colombia, where yoga was integrated into the rehabilitation program for former guerilla soldiers. In Cambodia, the organization embarked on a journey of empowerment, collaborating with a group of young individuals from an orphanage. Through the art of yoga and innovative methodologies, these partnerships fostered personal growth and healing.
As these young minds blossomed, the AZAHAR Foundation introduced annual Peace Camps and a comprehensive Peace Curriculum. These initiatives enriched their practice of yoga and meditation, exposing the AZAHAR community to the transformative power of arts, peace-building, and social development methodologies. The impact resonated further as local teacher trainings paved the way for disadvantaged youth to become ambassadors of change, and build livelihoods as yoga teachers. These collective efforts materialized in the establishment of the AZAHAR Center for Peace, Yoga & Arts in Phnom Penh and a sister center in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Not stopping at yoga and arts, AZAHAR opened a vegan restaurant ‘Mahob Buos’ (Monk’s Food), in Cambodia. This innovative concept not only introduced vegan Cambodian cuisine but also provided meaningful employment opportunities for our community.
In 2016, a partnership between Yogeswari and Jeanine Munyeshuli saw the inception of a transformative program in Rwanda. This initiative aimed to bring healing and hope to genocide survivors through the power of yoga, in collaboration with local NGOs.
AZAHAR extended its reach by offering scholarships for the prestigious 300-hour Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training. This initiative supported educators from diverse corners of the world – Colombia, Lebanon, Cambodia, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Syria, and Ukraine – nurturing a network of change-makers dedicated to spreading holistic well-being.
AZAHAR Foundation’s story is one of resilience, compassion, and transformative action. From its modest beginnings inspired by the hues of orange blossoms, it has evolved into a force for positive change across continents, proving that when individuals come together with purpose, the impact can be truly extraordinary.
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