Giving Tuesday: Giving Back to our Communities

posted by 
The Body Positive
November 27, 2017

In honor of Giving Tuesday, we reached out to our recently trained Be Body Positive Facilitators to hear about the impact that they are having in their communities. 

20% of the donations The Body Positive receives online between now and the end of the year will be given back to those Be Body Positive Facilitators who are running groups in public school or non-profit settings. To make a donation, please CLICK HERE. Thank you for helping to create a world free of body hatred and full of empowered, embodied individuals! We hope you enjoy the inspiring stories below.

All four of the following Be Body Positive Facilitators attended our Leadership Summit in August, 2017.

Who are you?

HANNA CAISSE: I am a college student graduating in 2018. I am currently working as a speaker and my most recent event was as a volunteer at Oakmont Regional High School

ZOE VAVREK: I am one of the leaders of the Body Positive club at Sir Francis Drake High School. I am a junior and am anticipating graduation in the year 2019

CRISTAL BANAGAN: I am the Associate Director at Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa located in Richmond

KAMALA LANCE: I am the Administrative Assistant & Body Positive Mendo Club Leader at the Mendocino High Schools (Mendocino High, Mendocino Community High, Sunrise High)

What have you done with the Be Body Positive Model and curriculum since the Summit?

HANNA: Public speaking workshops

ZOE: I have been going through the High School curriculum granted to me after I completed the training to be a facilitator with my high school club unit by unit.

CRISTAL: I am facilitating a middle and high school group that started in October and will end in December.

KAMALA: I teach the Body Positive curriculum in the classroom (Personal Fitness class) every Tuesday for 90 minutes, I will be facilitating the Body Positive Mendo Club at lunch on Fridays (starting this week), and I will be teaching the curriculum in another classroom once/week with 50 students in January. I am currently holding an online Body Positive Mendo Book Club (The Intuitive Eating Workbook) and as facilitator I am appreciative of my Body Positive training to pull from. I also plan on developing a 1 day workshop for women in my community...and will probably launch this Summer of 2018.

What, if anything, have you done to tailor the work to your community?

HANNA: My events have been at high school and yoga studios in town.

ZOE: We have taken breaks from the curriculum and sometimes just do fun bonding activities as a group or watch a StyleLikeU video (great youtube series).

CRISTAL: For our young middle school girls, I have added a bunch of hands-on activities for the girls to do so they remain engaged. For the high school group, I am adapting the conversations to what they want to talk about and keeping it very open and honest while staying on track with the themes.

Kamala: I work in a high school and have access to the students on a daily basis. We are a small high school and our non-teaching staff is encouraged to be part of the "teaching" opportunities. An unexpected surprise in my Tuesday class was that there wasn't a lot of body diversity and half of the students expressed feeling "lucky" to be in their bodies because they fit the "thin-ideal." I expected to be working more with individuals experiencing body dissatisfaction. We have learned together the importance of learning to value body diversity in ourselves and others and how precarious the "feeling lucky" can be. Bodies can change over the course of our lives and believing all bodies are good bodies is really important.

We want to hear about how you have given to your community through your work teaching the Be Body Positive Model. Tell us about a moment that mattered! 

HANNA (college student):

Most recently I went to my old high school to speak in a sociology class. At first it was a little bit difficult because high school students are hard to engage when meeting for the first time. I did my regular talk, but directed it a little bit more towards sociology. The students asked one or two questions but mostly seemed pretty quiet. After the talk, I got an email saying I was mentioned in the school newsletter. I was BLOWN AWAY with how much these students really got out of the talk. I was so happy to hear that the students listened and absorbed the information. Not only that, but they made comments about how they have a new perspective on health. They really seemed to understand the Health At Every Size model, which was great. Its hard to teach people to love themselves if they still think they need to lose weight. I was so touched that the kids were engaged in the talk, and really took something away from it. I am excited to go back and speak to this entire school population as a speaker over winter break, since the students had such great reactions.

ZOE (high school student):

Last year our Body Positive club and a local yoga studio, Marin Power Yoga, collaborated for the first time to offer a free Body Positive yoga class for high schoolers. It was a great success and it always seemed that whoever came felt a little lighter after, a little more connected with their body and community. This year, we continued the free Body Positive yoga once again but were extremely disappointed when the first session came around and only a few people showed up. Rather than mope around, we decided to take the opportunity to brainstorm on how to get the word out. We all made a huge list that day of the different ways we were going to advertise to make sure that the following week there would be at least one other person at our gathering. 

And so that next week we all made sure to put up as many posters at possible in our school and beyond. As we told as many people as we could about the free yoga that upcoming Sunday, we didn’t know who was going to actually follow through with it and show up but it turned out that our hard work paid off. That Sunday, the one we had been anticipating all week, we had the most surprising turn out! We were astonished and almost brought to tears by how many people ACTUALLY SHOWED UP and with an excited attitude!

And the group has been getting bigger and bigger ever since! At the yoga class, our Body Positive club leads a quick discussion (usually consisting of us going around the circle and sharing our response to a prompt we give the group) and then Wendy leads us in a yoga practice. It is great because not only do people get to share a positive, loving space with teenagers from other high schools (which is a rare commodity) but it is also a welcoming space for people with all levels of yoga experience. In the beginning, when nobody showed up, we wondered if we should just cancel the class due to a lack of interest...and need? But that seemed ridiculous. We utilized our resources to advertise because it seemed like something worth our time and energy. The Body Positive has done so much for us and if we couldn’t find a way to spread the message, we would have felt as if we’d failed as facilitators.

Now, three weeks into our five week session, we struggle to fit everyone inside the studio! Elbows collide and people are back to back. Being this close mentally and physically with any other group would be extremely awkward and weird, but it’s not for us. We may not all know each other very well, but we all have common ground; we want to improve ourselves spiritually and we all want to redefine how we see worth. That’s beauty!

So that is by far one of our biggest success stories of this year and our club is doing amazingly well too! Ella and Zoe (the two leaders that got trained at the Be Body Positive Leadership Summit this August) still talk about The Body Positive’s training, the effect it has had on their lives and how they really haven’t been the same since (in a great way!) We hope that The Body Positive team is doing well and we are forever sending warm wishes and happy hugs!

CRISTAL (Associate Director at Girls Inc.)

In our middle school group, we were talking about mean things people might say to you and why, and one girl who was always very shy in the group and non-vocal, spoke up and confessed that she was being bullied at school by a boy that always called her names referring to her weight. She agreed to let us all hear her story, and as a group we decided to continue talking about her situation. I asked her how she felt when this would happen, and why she thought the boy was tormenting her. I asked her how she could deflect some of the negativity off of herself, and if she believed what the boy would say. The rest of the group was very sympathetic and offered up advice and some of their own stories of being verbally abused by peers. I know this gave the girl a sense of empowerment, and at our last session, she reported that she has been responding differently when the boy at her school tries to attack her, and it has helped him to almost stop doing it completely. In group now she is happier and more involved. I KNOW the group is benefiting her, and I am so happy to see that they are pre-disposed to helping one another when they see someone having a hard time!

KAMALA (High School Administrative Assistant):

One of the students in our high school also happens to be one of my daughters. She has experienced body dissatisfaction and shame since she was much younger. In her younger years she was bullied and it affected her eating and self-esteem. She is one of the many reasons I feel so passionate about this work. I have been careful to allow her to absorb what she would like in regards to The Body Positive and haven't forced her to participate unless she wanted to...despite how enthusiastic I am about this stuff! The Body Positive Leadership Summit taught me about the language I use when I talk about myself and others and all things relating to health. I hoped that she would absorb through mom-daughter osmosis. It appears that osmosis has occurred! When we were taking her Senior Portraits she looked at the photos I had taken and said "Before, I would have seen a bigger body that I didn't like as well as my, I only see my beauty." I nearly cried, threw my hands up in the air, and exclaimed "HALLELUJAH!" If that was the only thing she learned from Body Positive mom-daughter osmosis I could live with that. I'm discovering that many students, not just my own daughters, are absorbing The Body Positive message in such wonderful ways. Students are discovering their voices, they are learning to eat confidently in front of others, and they are discovering that their family members who have been described by doctors as "obese" are worthy of respect in any size body. I feel lucky to have received this training and see the impact it is having at home and in my work. I am so grateful!

Your donation will allow more powerful leaders like Hanna, Zoe, Cristal, and Kamala to take our work into the world! We can't wait to hear about what happens next for them, and all the rest of our leaders. To support us - and them - learn about all the ways you can make a tax deductible donation HERE.

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