For weeks, Kendra Simpkins has been grounded.
Count Sarasota’s 2019 Female Veteran of the Year among tens of thousands of Americans stranded overseas due to the coronavirus outbreak. In Kendra Simpkins’ case, it means being grounded in the world’s most complete and total lockdown.
Arriving in India on March 2, the 36-year-old Army veteran’s destination was the northern city of Rishikesh, the self-proclaimed yoga capital of the world. Simpkins, founder of a nonprofit dedicated to providing alternative and holistic therapy to fellow veterans also coping with post-traumatic stress, was booked for a two-week immersion into yoga therapy.
But that all changed last week when Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 21-day shelter-in-place lockdown on India’s 1.4 billion citizens. Perhaps as a consequence, the nation with the world’s second largest population ranked 39th globally in the number of documented COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday evening, with 1,397 infections and 35 fatalities.
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"It was so sad to see Rishikesh turn into what the rest of the world was experiencing when they started to shut down," Simpkins stated in an email. "The streets were like a ghost town, and it was eerie; even the locals said they’d never seen it like this."
Her fifth and final attempt to book a flight out of India fizzled late last week due to airline cancellations. She’s been promised refunds, which have yet to turn up on her credit card. So for at least the next few weeks, Simpkins and 22 others, including five Americans, will be marking the days at Anand Prakesh Yoga Ashram.
"Foreigners are not allowed outside at all, they are very strict about me not leaving the building and also strict about not letting anyone cross city/state borders," she added, "which poses a concern to get to Dehli if there was a flight ... But (I) know it’s temporary and understand they have to take strict measures as soon as possible."
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Honorably discharged in 2010, Simpkins is a licensed therapist who treats PTSD clients with multilayered approaches. Among the most successful, she says, is Rapid Resolution Therapy, which she says has improved the mental health of 90 percent of her clients.
In 2018, she and partner Ryan Praefke founded Operation Warrior Resolution, which includes rigorous yoga classes in its programs. As a result of OWR, Simpkins was named Female Veteran of the Year by the Sarasota County Veterans Commission.
Between being stuck in India and the pandemic back home, OWR has had to cancel a number of its scheduled events and retreats. But Simpkins issued a Facebook statement on Monday announcing she would continue to host remote online sessions. She also invited listeners to participate in the Community Foundation of Sarasota’s April 28-29 Giving Challenge, in which all contributions to the nonprofit will be matched by the Foundation.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 33,000 Americans are stranded overseas.
For more information about Operation Warrior Resolution, visit operationwarriorresolution.org.