NORTH Vancouver resident Jen Charles is getting into the holiday spirit of giving a month early this year.
In 2010, Charles, 33, a certified reflexologist and founder of Balanced Roots Reflexology, offered reflexology sessions by donation throughout the month of December with all proceeds going to support the Atin Afrika Foundation, a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of children in northern Uganda.
Based on the campaign's success, Charles plans to continue to show Atin Afrika her support this year; however, as she's scheduled to be out of town in December, she's opted to conduct her fundraising a month earlier. For any reflexology session booked with Charles throughout the month of November, she'll donate half of the proceeds to Atin Afrika in the client's name. In addition, for any gift certificates redeemed, she'll donate $20.
Charles was introduced to reflexology at age 16, taking a community course. She's continued her education over the years and became certified, and officially launched her business a year ago.
Reflexology is a healing art based on the belief that the feet have a map of the body on them.
"It's a very non-invasive health practice that's been used for thousands of years. It's a holistic type of medicine," says Charles. That said, reflexologists don't diagnose or treat ailments.
"There are reflex points on the bottom of your feet that when they're stimulated they can basically get rid of any energy blockages . . . within your body so that your body is able to heal itself," she says.
While ear and hand reflexology are also practised, Charles works with the feet only.
Charles' services are mobile. Frequency of visits are based on the client, ranging from multiple times per week to address an acute issue, to once a month, to once every three months.
"With any of these kind of health modalities, it's basically about learning how to read yourself and know what you need," says Charles. "Everybody has a different level of what they need; you might suddenly feel like, 'Oh I really need a massage, or I really need to go for a run.'"
Examples of who reflexology can benefit include people with circulation issues, like those leading sedentary lives, as well as people experiencing a lot of stress.
Reflexology is beneficial to individuals of all ages, says Charles, who volunteers Thursday mornings at the West Vancouver Seniors' Activity Centre with the North Shore Keep Well Society, offering sessions to seniors.
Charles is happy to be able to support the Atin Afrika Foundation. The non-profit was recently co-founded by her friend and fellow North Vancouver native Chelsea Peters, who serves as its international co-ordinator. After a successful fundraising campaign, Atin Afrika has opened a transitional foster home and taken in a number of children who were formerly living on the street in Lira. The children are being provided with psychosocial support, trauma counselling, life skills training, as well as local language and English literacy instruction. The goal is to reconnect them with their home communities, or else find them a place in a reputable boarding school. Peters is currently working at the home in Uganda.
"It's just amazing what she's doing," says Charles. "To be there from the beginning, hearing the stories of what started it all off and (seeing) how far she's come, just that determination and dedication to getting these kids off the street . . . . This time a year ago they were in such a different circumstance and she's given them a leg up. It's so admirable and if I can do my little bit, that would be good."
Charles has also encouraged her two daughters to collect bottles and cans to further support the cause.
Reflexology sessions are $45/hour. Sessions are offered Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. For more information on Balanced Roots Reflexology or to book an appointment, email email@example.com.
For more information on the Atin Afrika Foundation, visit www.atinafrika.org.