Lewis has enrolled in a four-year college. Chantel is transferring to FIT for a degree in fashion design. John is healing his tumor and enrolled in a wellness internship at Omega. Monte applied to drama school.
These are just a few successes reported by the Reciprocity Foundation—a New York City-based nonprofit that works with homeless and high-risk youth—following retreats they held at Omega Institute’s Rhinebeck campus.
“The weekend at Omega was like hitting the restart button on my whole being," Chantel, a retreat participant, said. "I feel like a different person.”
The 2016 retreat had 10 participants, including Essence, who said she was afraid to eat salad before coming to Omega. She tried the salad bar anyway and noticed that the greens made her feel great. All the youth gained valuable exposure to healthy lifestyle elements including nutrition and movement.
Vivian, another participant, said, “Being at Omega is about becoming clear. When I’m here, I can see my past and my present clearly. I know who I am. It feels good.”
The Reciprocity Foundation roots its work in contemplative practice, helping youth cultivate inner clarity rather than focusing exclusively on external outcomes. They aim to break the cycle of poverty by advancing education and well-being, and helping youth create a powerful vision for their lives. During the retreat, many had their first opportunity to practice yoga, experience wellness treatments, take nature walks, try sitting meditation, share stories, and connect with one another.
“Youth have told us that the retreats are life-changing and have offered them a rare glimpse into how it feels to live as whole, integrated people,” said Reciprocity cofounders Taz Tagore and Adam Bucko.
Since 2011, about 100 young people have participated in Reciprocity Foundation retreats at Omega, with astounding results—including 35 percent of participants applying to college within six weeks of the retreat and 95 percent saying they felt less stress and were ready to make plans for their future.
“The gift of Omega is that everyone gradually softens, opens up, and puts their pain and fear into words,” Tagore said. “Nearly all participants now practice meditation; some have even started meditation classes at their shelters. The Omega retreat experience enabled someone deeply suppressing trauma to finally open and share. This was powerful and this young person moved out of shelter just three weeks after the retreat. That is incredible!"