Healing in the Wake of the Storm

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, Kripalu Yoga teacher Marion Fischer didn’t think twice about opening her part-time home on the island of Vieques to anyone who needed shelter. Little did she know that her generosity in the moment of crisis would evolve into a lifelong commitment to helping the island heal ... or that Kripalu donors would be supporting her.

For six months after the hurricane, several families, along with workers from the National Guard and the Humane Society, stayed at Marion’s house. When Marion next visited the island, she found not only physical devastation, but off-the-charts levels of trauma-related depression and anxiety, especially among the kids.

Marion moved to Vieques full-time in the summer of 2019, and thanks to a donor-supported grant from the Jonathan P. Schwartz Teaching for Diversity Fund (Schwartz TFD), she brought Kripalu Yoga with her, starting a yoga program in the island’s middle school. She dreams of expanding the program to the rest of the schools on the island, and hopes the kids will inspire their parents to try yoga.

“The principal wanted to steer me to the ‘problem’ kids who ‘really need it,’” Marion recalls. “What she didn’t realize was everyone needs it. It’s the best anti-anxiety medicine there is.”

She’d like to start a community yoga program under the island’s 350-year-old ceiba tree. The tree was presumed to have died after being battered and stripped in the hurricane. But in February 2019, it bloomed again.

Donors’ gifts to the Schwartz TFD fund weren’t responsible for reviving the ancient tree, but they have helped Marion’s love and service to bloom on Vieques.

“This is where I’m going to stay,” Marion says. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing this.”