On day two of the July 2012 Seva Safari the group spent it with the kids and staff at the Treehouse Orphanage, a small community organization where AYP teaches yoga classes to the children.

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As I looked out the window of the bus on the way to Treehouse orphanage, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Nairobi, I was pondering the questions that were put to us during the morning meditation.  "What do I need to let go of to be here today?"  and, "What does service mean to me?"  In my mind, I was feeling pretty open.  I'd let go of everything back home.  I wasn't thinking about work stress, I had let go of worrying about my family and my boyfriend, and I was prepared to take on whatever task I was presented with that day.  I was ready to clean, or cook, or garden... bring it on!  What else could I possibly let go of?  I figured my willingness to help in any way I could was service, and I was ready.  

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How do I find words to describe the day?  It was so different from what I pictured, in so many ways.  It was the photos we typically see of extreme poverty, but without the sadness.  It was pure, simple, joy and love.  It was children singing and dancing to welcome us.  It was all of us working side by side to plant a garden, clean the home, and cook a meal all together.  It was talking with the women while we cleaned rice and prepared the food about their families, their hopes and dreams for their children and their communities, and their own educational achievements.

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It was playing ball in a circle in the middle of the dirt road with whoever wanted to join in while taking a break from the work.  It was laughter.  It was holding a small girl in my arms for an hour because she was tired, and she does not always get to be simply held, without having to say any words.  It was the child who gave up his spoon at mealtime, so that i could have one to eat with.

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Today, I had the privilege to help cook the meal for the whole orphanage and all us volunteers.  We cooked green onions, tomatoes, carrots and green beans in a huge vat, with coriander, and served that over white rice.  They were generous with feeding us, even though that meal is the only meal they eat each day. Today was all these things, in what objectively look like deplorable conditions but it felt far from deplorable... it felt alive, joyful, connected, and full of love.  

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There is nothing that defines community like what I saw today.  It is something that I have not experienced in my life, at the level I felt it at Treehouse.  The open-heartedness of every person I came into contact with was something I felt in my own heart center.  As we were closing the day, one of our AYP leaders, Billy, said to us, "A bottle with no lid lets out, but it also takes in."  At that moment I knew what I had let go of today:  my lid.  Without realizing it, the warm and open-hearted welcome I received from everyone today lifted my lid and allowed me to give and receive.  I witnessed true community today:  a group of people freely allowing in, and letting out, being a part of the universal flow.  To be welcomed into that experience, to give and receive the love today, was a gift far greater than any physical donation.  

- Rachel Elliott

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Written by africayogaproject — October 27, 2012

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