Volunteer Spotlight: Catalina Castro

Catalina with her dog, who has made special guest appearances in the virtual yoga classes.

In the fall of 2019, Catalina joined Calvary Women’s Services as a volunteer teaching Spanish. While working with Elaine Johnson, Senior Manager of Education and Programs, it was clear that it would be a great addition to the Life Skills, Education, and Arts Program (LEAP) for Catalina to start teaching a yoga class.

Catalina had just started teaching a weekly yoga class in the spring of 2020 when everything changed, and we stopped our in-person programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It took a little while to pivot, but staff found a way to move these classes online, and Catalina began teaching live virtual yoga classes over Zoom. The willingness of LEAP volunteers to move their classes to a virtual setting meant that we could continue providing access to LEAP classes to women throughout the pandemic. When so much was uncertain, we were thankful to have the continued support of volunteers like Catalina.

Teresa, who lived at Calvary’s Reach Up Transitional Housing program at the start of the pandemic, said, “The ladies at Reach Up really enjoyed the yoga classes. She helped us relax. We all were going through a tough time; many women were not working. Yoga helped strengthen our minds, bodies, and souls. Catalina was so patient and made the atmosphere very relaxing. We always looked forward to those Tuesday classes.” Another resident said, “It was so relaxing and good for me when I had tension in my back and neck.”

Volunteers, like Catalina, provided space for women to continue growing and working to change their lives during such as difficult time.

Here is a reflection from Catalina on her time teaching yoga virtually.

How has it been volunteering and teaching yoga during the pandemic?

When we were in person, it was easy to connect with the women—figuring out how to create that community in a virtual setting was the challenge. I wanted to foster a reminder that it is your body, your practice, and these tools and movements are something you can take anywhere. During such a stressful time, it was essential to focus on exercises to help ground yourself. Having virtual classes created a space for women to still connect even from their rooms.

It took a while, but a few weeks into virtual classes, women started sharing how movements were helping them or if something didn’t feel right. It was challenging but getting comments like “that stretch felt good” made it seem worthwhile.

What do you like best about your work with Calvary?

The eagerness that the women have for learning is palpable. Women are looking for ways to thrive, and they are curious.

What has been your most memorable experience at Calvary?

Virtually it has been harder to create connections with the women. I received feedback from one woman that a specific stretch helped her work out a kink in her back and made her feel like she could use these skills to stretch whenever she needed to. It felt good to know that even over Zoom I was able to connect with the women and support them in their practice of yoga.

One unforgettable moment was hearing Teresa’s story at this year’s Hope Awards. It was so powerful because I remember her being in yoga classes and engaging after class to learn more about stretches that she could do independently. Hearing her success story was incredible.

What would you tell someone thinking about getting involved with Calvary?

The Calvary community is welcoming and warm. Your time is an investment in yourself. Not only are you going to share your skills with the women at Calvary, but you are going to learn so much from everyone at Calvary. Go in knowing that you are investing in the community and also yourself. It is all worth it to hear success stories.

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