North Bay nonprofit helps fire victims with yoga classes, services

Friday, October 5, 2018
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Ask firestorm survivors about rebuilding, and more than a few will tell you that putting up a home, again, is not the hardest part.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Ask firestorm survivors about rebuilding and more than a few will tell you that putting up a home again is not the hardest part.

"It's just a matter of ordering their stuff and having the right guys," said contractor Larry Fraser.

RELATED: First home rebuilt in Santa Rosa's Coffey Park after North Bay fires

But for anyone who lost a loved one or house in the firestorm, there are no mental blueprints. "Yeah, I locked the door and it wasn't there when I came back the next day," remembered Naydra Kauwe, who lost her home in Coffey Park.

"It's just realizing the most important things in your life are gone," added Cheri Sharp, who lost her home as well.

Both women have lived with trauma for a year and still counting. On Thursday, they eased some of that pain in a yoga class -- part of a program offered by the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County.

CEO Debbie Mason says the nonprofit found a need in helping fire survivors deal with post-traumatic stress. "We have put together yoga, drop-in counseling and have trained more than 300 mental health professionals for skills of mental health recovery."

After the fire, many survivors describe delayed awareness of their anxiety, or temper, or just plain mental fogginess. What happened in a few hours may take years to get over.

RELATED: Center in Santa Rosa aims to help over 500 North Bay fire victims

The trauma, says Naydra, is physical. The yoga? "It felt like a release, like I had to let go of that stuff," said Naydra.

"It's just like taking the time to do more than just fire stuff," said Cheri.

Rebuilding is never easy. Not the outside part, and especially the inner.

"I think it's trying to put the pieces back together," said Cheri. "It's a long road, for sure."

And a metaphor on multiple levels.

If you are a fire victim still dealing with mental stress and think you might need help, Healthcare Foundation has a website. You can also call (707) 473-0583.

For more stories related to the North Bay Fires, visit this page.