At the Center for Living Peace, bright-orange mats unfurl amid orchids, grasses, and rays of sunlight in preparation for Smiling Monkey Yoga, in which kids unwind with deep breaths, joyful movements, and mind-centering exercises. To help kids build strength and flexibility, the studio's founders and teachers, Patrice Simon and Amy MacConnell, intersperse traditional yoga poses such as wheels, locusts, and trees with games that hone social skills and coordination. Deep inhalations and exhalations direct kids inward, where they unlock wisdom about themselves and their relationships with others. In addition to fueling self-exploration, these breaths can be applied in their daily lives to help them cope with conflict and defuse stressful encounters with teachers, bullies, or the Boogey Man and his big scary dog. Children aged 3 and younger may experience yoga during Baby and Me classes, where parents melt tension and forge friendships through a series of relaxing poses.
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Two survivors of domestic abuse founded Women Helping Women/Men2Work (WHW) in 1993 following their own experience rebuilding their professional wardrobes on tight incomes. Though they began collecting clothes in a trunk for women in shelters, the organization’s reach has grown rapidly. Since its inception, WHW has helped more than 30,000 men, women, and teenagers become economically self-sufficient through employment services. Staff members work with underserved individuals to help them develop their resumés, practice interviewing techniques, and search for job leads. They prepare participants for a work environment with professional attire and body-language training. Participants also can take part in workforce-development workshops, where they learn about networking, negotiations, and multimedia skills to help them become competitive in the job market.
While statistics for teenagers aging out of foster care often look bleak—with many becoming pregnant, incarcerated, or homeless at a young age—Lisa Castetter believes it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why she founded the Teen Leadership Foundation in 2008. By equipping youth with leadership and teamwork skills prior to their emancipation from foster care, the organization helps them enter adult life feeling empowered and backed by a support system.
Stable, adult mentors serve as positive role models, helping teens build confidence, trust, and self-esteem. Transitional-age foster youth work with their mentors and other community leaders during the foundation’s workshops, where they receive training in getting jobs, managing their money, enrolling in school, and developing other skills crucial to living independently. Additionally, the organization’s three-day leadership camps provide opportunities for foster youth to participate in fun, challenging activities with mentors and peers.
See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.
Orange County native Garry Brown wanted his sons to be able to catch barracuda from the piers and dig for clams along the beach, the way he had as a child. With that in mind, he founded Orange County Coastkeeper in 1999, following the example of the nationwide movement to conserve and protect local rivers, lakes, and shorelines. Orange County Coastkeeper aims to restore the region's bodies of water to health so that they can better serve residents as recreational areas and protect aquatic life. It organizes cleanups, advocates for conservation through public policy, and works to reduce pollution with the help of citizen volunteers. Recently, Orange County Coastkeeper has restored the kelp and eelgrass beds off the coast and in Newport Bay, and is improving its public gardens to raise awareness about environmental issues.