Giving Back: Rob Schware and his vision for the Give Back Yoga Foundation

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When most begin to see the light of retirement on the horizon they begin dreaming of books they haven’t had a chance to read, places they have not yet visited and perhaps a home on the beach or in the mountains. Not so true for Rob Schware. While Rob chose to return to his beautiful home of Boulder after two decades of senior management at the World Bank in Washington, DC, he has gone about retirement in a truly remarkable and selfless way.

In 1995 Rob stumbled upon a yoga class given by Thom and Beryl Bender Birch at the Omega Institute. From this introduction yoga became an influential part of Rob’s life. In the lead up to retirement Rob began to question how he could give back to the yoga teachers that had given so much to him. With a phone call to his long-time teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF) was birthed. What Rob and Beryl began to envision was a foundation where yoga teachers, who were inspired to give back, could find the resources and the direction to give effectively and efficiently. Adjacent to Rob’s retirement in 2007, the GBYF launched with the mission to make yoga available to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the transformational benefits of its powerful practice. GBYF does this by “supporting and funding certified yoga teachers in all traditions to offer the teachings of yoga to under-served and under-resourced socio-economic segments of the community and inspire grassroots social change and community cooperation.”

Since then it has been training yoga teachers and providing resources for service projects from the streets of Denver to Kenya. The projects funded by GBYF over the last few years are remarkably inspiring (check out the GBYF website www.givebackyoga to read about specific projects.) This year GBYF has chosen to focus on services impacting veterans, first responders and prisoners. Specifically GBYF is seeking to reach and provide 10,000 veterans with yoga and meditation toolkits developed by expert teachers experienced in working with post-traumatic stress; support and training for 1,000 first responders; and resources and yoga services for 10,000 prisoners.

In addition to the national vision, Rob is bringing a dedicated focus to his own neighborhood with a new pilot project to the Boulder/Denver area. The Give Back Yoga Community Initiative pilot project will launch in the Boulder/Denver area in April with the vision to ensure that “money that is raised here, stays here”. This community approach has yoga studios, businesses and individuals committing to supporting the community by pooling their resources to support specific service projects. This is what giving is all about – instead of starting something new, GBYF is acting as a catalyst and networker to promote sustainable community outreach ensuring resources can start to meet needs in the community. Two particular projects that have already been identified will include supporting Boulder-based non-profits, Angel Organic in their work with under-served communities around Boulder and The Wellness Initiative in providing support to low-income youth through yoga-based wellness programs.

So while Rob may be picking up a book or two he hasn’t read prior to “retirement”, it is most likely on a plane bound to the West Bank to support a service project for young Palestinian women or to San Francisco to visit the project at San Quentin State Prison, teaching yoga to incarcerated youth and adults. The world needs more retirees like Rob and we are lucky to have him as a neighbor in Boulder.

To learn more about how you can give to the Give Back Yoga Community Initiative in Boulder/ Denver, go to GiveBackYoga.org.

Originally Published in Boulder Lifestyle Magazine – July 2013

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