What Your Therapist Does on Vacation

Jessica Gladden

Do you ever wonder what your therapist does when they go on vacation from the Fountain Hill Center?

Of course, everyone’s vacation time is different. However, I have been encouraged to share with you what my upcoming travels will look like. I am very excited to have the opportunity to travel to Greece in May to work with students and refugees on multiple projects. I was able to complete my dissertation research in a refugee camp in Kenya, and I ran a refugee support program here in Grand Rapids for five years, so I have a fairly long history of working with refugee populations. This trip will allow me to return to some of this refugee-related work!

Map showing the location of Lesvos in relation to the rest of GreeceWhile I am in Greece, I will be staying on the island of Lesvos for about three weeks. As this island is the closest to Turkey, it has become a landing point for many refugees trying to make their way into Europe. There are currently close to 10,000 refugees on the island.

I am ‘officially’ traveling as a professor from Western Michigan University to assist a group of students who are going to the refugee camp to implement their own service-learning projects, which range from doing art and music with kids to setting up a greenhouse. I will be spending some time visiting the students at their sites and learning about the different agencies working in the camp.

Yoga and Sport for Refugees - LogoHowever, my primary focus will be working with an organization called Yoga and Sport for Refugees. The mission of this program is to give refugees a positive outlet by providing opportunities to engage in different sports. You can find them on Facebook if you want to take a look. Since I am a yoga instructor and have found some great information on how other places are using yoga to assist refugees who have post-traumatic responses, I am very interested in seeing what they do.

Picture from a Yoga and Sport for Refugees class site

Photo from a Yoga and Sport for Refugees class site.

I have made plans with the program to join them during the time I will be on Lesvos, probably providing a combination of training on trauma-sensitive yoga and teaching some of the yoga classes. Yoga and Sport for Refugees has requested assistance through the donations of men’s and women’s athletic pants. If you would like to make a donation to their organization, click here.

I imagine that my days on Lesvos will be busy with a combination of teaching yoga, training teachers, and visiting students at various locations throughout the refugee camp. But I am sure there will also be time to explore and engage in more typical ‘vacation’ activities. There is a castle in the nearby city of Mytilene, and I will be staying at a location on the Mediterranean Sea. I will also be spending a few days in Athens at the end of the trip, so I am sure I will have the chance to visit some wonderful places.


When Jessica returns from Lesvos, here are some photos of what she typically gets up to here in Grand Rapids:

Cat yoga with Jessica Gladden

Jessica doing yoga with some assistance from the friendly felines at Happy Cat Cafe, where she recently provided instruction for some non- trauma-sensitive yoga classes

"Triangle Form," demonstrated by Jessica Gladden

Jessica demonstrating “triangle form,” one physical arrangement of the body that participants in trauma-sensitive yoga classes may be invited to try