AZAHAR means orange blossom. It is a Spanish word of Arabic origin and is symbolic of the cross-cultural juxtapositions that color and flavor our beautiful blue planet. Being the first and last letter of the Roman alphabet, the A&Z symbolize the beginning and the end, the all-encompassing, the point and the zero. A blossom is a sign of new beginnings, and it indicates a new level of consciousness where humanity is able to live in peace and harmony.
AZAHAR Foundation’s inception developed organically with Yogeswari’s life journey. The initial vision for cross-cultural work came while standing on the Alcazar in Cordoba, Spain, looking over fields of orange trees and into Africa and the Americas through the horizon.
After years of studying various styles of modern dance and classical ballet, our founder immersed myself in African and Afro-Caribbean Dance in New York. Along with that came a deep interest in cross-culturalism, as well as a preoccupation with issues of baseless prejudice and racism. Based on that foundation, she ran two multimedia, multi-cultural dance companies in New York. A vision quest in the Native American tradition revealed AZAHAR’s purpose as a peacebuilding force, primarily led by women, combining arts and spirituality.
Having been a close witness to the 9/11 attacks in New York, Yogeswari found solace in the teachings of Jivamukti Yoga and inspiration for a peace village in Thich Nhat Han’s Plum Village. AZAHAR’s first project was with Fundación Para La Paz in Colombia, adding yoga to a rehabilitation program for guerilla soldiers. In 2007, the organization began supporting a group of young people from an orphanage center in Cambodia through yoga and supporting methodologies.
As the young people matured, AZAHAR Foundation started organizing annual Peace Camps and developing a holistic Peace Curriculum, both of which served to deepen their practice of yoga and meditation, and to expose them to the arts and methodologies of peace-building and social development. Furthermore, AZAHAR Foundation began to sponsor local teacher trainings, mostly for disadvantaged youth and these integrated efforts led to founding the AZAHAR Center for Peace, Yoga & Arts in Phnom Penh and a smaller sister-center in Siem Reap, Cambodia. AZAHAR Foundation also developed a pilot vegan restaurant ‘Mahob Buos’ (Monk’s Food), which housed the first vegan Cambodian cuisine. These initiatives have provided employment for our beneficiaries, both in administrative capacities and as yoga teachers.
In 2016, Yogeswari and Jeanine Munyeshuli identified local teachers and started a program in Rwanda, teaching yoga to genocide survivors in partnership with local NGOs.
In partnership with Jivamukti Global, AZAHAR has provided scholarships for the international 300-hour Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training to o teachers from Colombia, Lebanon, Cambodia, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Syria and Ukraine.
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