Founder of Crestone yoga studio honored

Yoga activities on the Mexico-Texas border have been organized by Crestone-based Casa De Paz SLV, founded by Gina Barrett. Courtesy photo

CRESTONE– On Saturday June 9, 2022, at the SYSTAR (Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research) Conference in Chicago, Crestone, Colorado and Conway, Massachusetts resident, Gina Barrett, was awarded the 2022 international Association of yoga therapist SEVA award for holistic trauma support at the border of Texas and Mexico.

Barrett founded Casa De Paz SLV in Crestone in January 2019. She had been hearing about the complex trauma experienced by families coming into the US for asylum and felt she could help. Gina has been a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist for over 20 years, with a specialization in assisting clients with regulating the symptoms of sexual assault trauma.

Barrett had been spending winters at the border and began to research how she could be of service. Initially, Gina delivered supplies and served at shelters. Soon she saw that there was a need to bring teams of volunteer practitioners to the border to provide mental health support.

When Gina began to volunteer in 2019, there were only about 100 migrants waiting at the border. Since then, the numbers waiting at camps and in crowded apartments in Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico averaged about 3000.

The teams of practitioners Gina brought to the border served mostly young families, some elders, and those in the LGBQTIA+ community. Most were from countries In Central America. Services included trauma informed yoga classes, chair massage, art therapy, play a narrative therapy and other holistic private sessions for trauma and wellness.

The complex trauma experienced was from many forms of gang violence where they were being forced to comply or be beaten, cut or raped. Often families reported being threatened that the whole family would be killed. Many were grieving lost family members. Some migrants also experienced kidnapping and some form of human trafficking while on their immigration journey into the US. The trauma of being displaced for an unknown period with little or no resources was the most present and unsettling concern for migrants. Many were completely reliant on the support of others to survive at the border for many months or years before being able to enter the US. The asylum-seekers were highly vulnerable in this waiting situation.

Casa De Paz SLV provided seasonal weeklong trips to various centers in Texas and Mexico. During the pandemic an online support program was created that includes “support chats” with a licensed social worker, a private Facebook group and a YouTube channel with over 20 practices for trauma self- regulation. All programs are run by volunteers and private donors. Casa De Paz SLV has also received some small grants for art supplies and yoga programs.

Seva Award and grant from International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) recognizes therapists bringing yogic practices to unserved populations. This award offers seed funding and publicity for well- defined and well-planned service projects. In addition, Casa de Paz SLV received yoga mats donated by Give Back Yoga Foundation in partnership with Lululemon and Gaiam in support of our work at the border.

The situation at the border is always changing and Casa De Paz SLV does their best to respond. On our last service trip in April 2022, all migrants waiting at the Reynosa refugee camp were being bused into the US and the camp was closed.

We are currently exploring continuing to support unaccompanied minors living in shelters in the US until they are put in foster homes or turn 18. We also encourage asylum-seekers and new immigrants to attend a 3 - 10-day trauma informed retreat on a ranch in Crestone Colorado. This fall, we are offering an online trauma informed training for nonprofits that work with asylum-seekers and new immigrants. Volunteers and donations are needed to continue these efforts. To learn more and offer your support visit, www.casadepazslv.org

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