Umodzi Asheville yoga fest celebrates community, helps Malawian programs

Celebrating umodzi at Malawian Camp Hope. Photo courtesy of World Camp

By Katie Onheiber

[Editor’s note: Author Katie Onheiber works for Word Camp, which is putting on this fundraising event.]

Umodzi Asheville, a one-day yoga festival celebrating community and global unity, will take place at the Odyssey Community School this Saturday, Sept. 12 and raise funds for World Camp’s Malawian programs. Participants can purchase All-Day ($60) and Single Class ($20) passes for a slew of heart-opening classes hosted by local yoga teachers Leaflin Winecoff, Joe Taft, Luna Ray, Jodie Martin, Megan Hislop and Kelly Gilmore. The festival will also feature a raffle with health-, wellness- and recreation-focused prizes.

Umodzi Asheville was born when World Camp managing director, Emily Stallings, decided to marry her love of yoga with her passion to provide access to health, education and resources to those in need. In Malawi, Africa — where Asheville-based nonprofit World Camp works — “Umodzi,” which translates as  “unity,” is a powerful concept central to communal life.

“We are moved by the common concept in yoga that we are all one,” Stallings says. “This concept deeply resonates with the reasons we are drawn to international development. Many of the tenets of yoga encourage individuals to undertake good works.”

World Camp was founded in 2000 by a group of UNC Chapel Hill students following their travels through southern Africa. Seeing firsthand the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS and the challenges it placed on children and their communities, World Camp’s founders were moved to action.

They developed three programs that empower Malawians to lead the changes needed in their very own communities — Camp Hope, World Camp Clubs and MediServ.

Camp Hope addresses the diversity of challenges faced by Malawian youth living with HIV by blending psychosocial support with traditional camp activities. It is aimed at enhancing campers’ adherence to treatment while encouraging them to create a sense of possibility and optimism.

“Malawian youth living with HIV face stigma and are often tasked with secrecy around their disease,” Stallings says. “Camp Hope provides a supportive environment where kids are able to open up and share their thoughts and feelings.”

World Camp Clubs build valuable skills through experience. Students elect their own Student Leaders who plan and run meetings. Through community projects, club members learn firsthand about strategizing, building consensus, analytical thinking, planning and budgeting.

“Clubs undertake what we call Community Improvement Projects,” Stallings explains. “Club members get to make a positive impact in their community while boosting their self-esteem and allowing adults to see their abilities.”

MediServe helps provide surgeries to Malawian patients and hands-on training for Malawian healthcare providers. Photo courtesy of World Camp
MediServe helps provide surgeries to Malawian patients and hands-on training for Malawian healthcare providers. Photo courtesy of World Camp

MediServ is an international medical volunteer program comprising doctors, nurses and ancillary support staff that provide surgeries to Malawian patients and hands-on training for Malawian healthcare providers.

“Malawi has just one doctor per 50,000 people — one of the lowest ratios in the world,” says Stallings. “There are only 37 working surgeons in Malawi, for a population of approximately 17 million people. That’s nearly half a million people per one surgeon.”

The Umodzi Asheville yoga benefit presents an opportunity for the community to make a positive impact in the lives of Malawians right here from Asheville. “We all share this planet and we can all make a difference,” Stallings says.

To view the festival schedule, purchase passes and raffle tickets, visit


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