Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl is an international yoga teacher and inspirational guru using her influence on social media to help tackle global issues. Her current mission is to help children in Latvian orphanages through her organization 109 World. We spoke with 109 World co-founder, fellow activist Olivia Rothschild.

How did your team come together?
Rachel and I have known each other since high school. Since then we have been close friends and followed each other on our very different paths in life.

Rachel went traveling the world and started to practice yoga. I traveled around, studied Peace & Conflict Research and continued with a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship where I met Leticia Reyes, the third co-founder of 109 World. Rachel had already started an Instagram account and soon became the most famous and inspirational yoga guru in the world. I went on to work for Sweden’s biggest PR company within Public Affairs and Leticia was working with the Clinton Global Initiative.

Rachel and I kept an ongoing dialogue about the opportunities and the influence that Rachel had accumulated and what it could bring. We knew we had to make something with it. I knew I had to quit my job in order to fully commit to doing that, and so I did. I left for Aruba and brought 109 World to life together with Rachel. Leticia was involved early in the process and has finally quit her day job to work full time with 109.

Read more about Rachel Brathen here.

What are some of your guiding philosophies and principles?
Always put positive impact in the first place. All we do, we do to create a positive, much-needed change and we keep that in mind in all our actions.

Here are some of our values that you can find on our website as well:

  • Be of service to the world is at the core of 109. We believe in being of service in every way we can to support those in need.
  • All members of the 109 team are dedicated to one thing: creating lasting positive impact stemming from personal motivation to do so. Our social and environmental causes lie at the core of the organization. Anything and everything we do is for the higher purpose of creating change where needed.
  • Manifestation—we believe that emotional energy fuels the process of manifestation. A positive mindset, a light attitude towards life and grand visions along with focus and dedication, is how we demonstrate that we’re serious about our goals. We act with perseverance but always keep the light and bright energy of an open mind.
  • Trust and transparency – social media has given people the permission to enter any space. The digital age has changed the level of transparency that we expect from people. 109 will use social media to keep an open, transparent and interactive communication with our community. We believe that everyone should be able to understand what we do and for this to happen, we need to be as transparent and concise as possible. Transparency is a powerful tool.

What are your causes? What is so compelling about them?
We chose to work within seven different categories that we like to call “our passions”—water, food security, women, education, children, animals and the environment. We chose these broad passions because we face pressing global challenges within these topics and we would like everyone to be able to find the passion that speaks to them and choose that particular one to engage in.

In support of each passion, 109 creates social media campaigns aimed to raise funds and awareness for the cause in a transparent, contemporary way. We believe in each individual’s power to make a change and allow the community to take part by donating money, joining online challenges and competitions, get involved in their own local area or simply by spreading the word and sharing the campaign message. The campaign is 109 days long and peaks with a social mission trip where supporters can join the team on location to actively take part in making a difference in the world. The profits from the mission trips go to the designated cause.

The specific causes within each passion will differ from year to year. Our first mission, with a trip kicking off the 2nd of April in Nicaragua, will be to provide an entire village with access to a reliable source of safe water. The next mission is in Latvia, Europe, where we aim to invest in proper education for children that would otherwise not have the means or manifestation of a better life. We have a dog rescue mission coming up in Aruba, a food security project in Rwanda, a children’s mission in Colombia and much more!

How does yoga connect to these causes?
Yoga is a practice to open the heart and mind and is all about being of service. We believe that we all need to feel good within ourselves to be able to give to others and yoga is one way of ensuring your own well being.

Describe an average day on your mission trips.
There is no such thing as an average day on our mission trips—the trips will vary depending on the destination and the focus. The only common thing will be the yoga practice. The trips all focus on maximizing positive impact in the local community and for the participants, including as much awareness raising and worthwhile content as possible. In Nicaragua, that meant hands on work such as digging and trenching, guest speakers and activities with the local community. In Latvia, there will be workshops in expressive arts, cooking and other activities with the children. The idea is for participants to get a hands on experience and insight into the impact created through the 109 campaign.

How can people participate or raise awareness for your causes even if they can’t do the trip?
On our Instagram account @109world, we post daily awareness raising and engaging content and calls to action. We host challenges to not only spread knowledge but to inspire change in your everyday life. You can also donate small amounts to our different causes through our website.

Could you share a moving story from one of your missions?
We just got back from our very first social mission trip where we were able to provide the entire village of Playa Gigante, a small fishing village on the East Coast of Nicaragua with 1400 inhabitants, with a reliable source of potable water. The lives of the inhabitants benefitting from the mission will change considerably and new opportunities will open up for the little community hit hard by drought.

In the words of one of the participants: “[We] Pulled over on the side of the road on the way to work. First day back. Tears won’t stop coming. So many mixed emotions. Proud of the change we have started. My heart aching with all that still needs to be done. Change in the world and inside my self. Thank you all for sharing last week with me in the ditches and on the mat. I love you all!”

Images: 109 World’s Instagram page