By Billy Sadia
Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on June 26, 2015
Using the adjective “proud” might not even begin to describe it. I am extremely proud to have followed my heart and got involved with Africa Yoga Project. I got to experience firsthand how this organization makes a difference every day, practicing: change.
First, it’s nice to go back and actually know how I got here. When I say here, it means a week after my arrival from my trip to Nairobi, where I spent two weeks.
Hawaii, February 2014. Level one training with the Baptiste Institute. A training led by Baron Baptiste where Paige Elenson assisted. At some point in that week, Paige talked about an organization that she directed and co-founded with Baron Baptiste: Africa Yoga Project. We saw the documentary “practice: change” and I was in tears. The reason it touched my heart so deeply was quite simply: Paige had the vision for an organization where people were empowering each other to make a change in each corner of their communities. That day, I wrote on my journal, action: learn more about AYP. Then, level two happened a month later, and since I was hooked, there I was. Paige led this training and I got to hear Walter (a teacher from AYP) and Paige talked about AYP and I got to see the same documentary again. Again, tears. Again, journal: “action: apply to be an ambassador from Africa Yoga Project”. And so I did.
My commitment with Africa Yoga project was this: I needed to fundraise $10,000 for them and once I completed my fundraiser I got to pay my own way to spend two weeks in Nairobi, Kenya. As I started my fundraiser, I made a goal with the AYP programs coordinator, Angie (at the time) that I was going to travel in the spring of 2015. As the challenges of fundraising arise and I started to doubt myself, Angie and I talked about actual dates and she said “you need to have your campaign completed 3 months prior to your departure” I said, no way, it won’t happen. Then she said I could change my initial plan and go later. I then said “no way”. Changing my commitment was not an option for me. So I didn’t changed it, AND I finish my fundraiser almost on time (about 5-6 days late). Once I understood that I had to become unstoppable, people followed me. My campaign was humbling, very challenging and extremely rewarding. I am so grateful to everyone that trusted me, what I was up to and my commitment to AYP. All those people were going to Kenya with me. Now, it was time to go to Nairobi.
Upon arrival there, Irene and Jon were waiting right at the exit door of the airport. Irene is the ambassador’s director, Jon my assigned “rafiki”(it means friend in Swahili). So my journey began.
The program is designed in two weeks: first week is about receiving, the second, giving. So in my first week, I got to go to two outreaches (places where AYP teachers teach yoga) a day. I got to witness the work done on the ground. For some classes I assisted, others I taught yoga and even taught dance. Oh, and another very important part of this week: I got to be hosted for lunch at an AYP teacher’s home. I wish I could tell you what I loved the most about this week, and I just cannot. Every part of it was so wonderful, masterfully coordinated by Irene, who by the way, would solve major issues throughout our days with no sweat and without me even knowing about them…..This week was truly remarkable. From an orphanage, to a silent yoga class (where the teacher and students were deaf), to a community hall or school. All these places had the same thing in common: joyful faces when the AYP teacher arrived and an even more joyful faces when the class began. To me the biggest learning and take away was this: TEACH, SHARE, ANYWHERE, TO ANYONE, ANYHOW. What a lucky woman I am to witness the positive impact that sharing the passion for yoga has in each corner of each community I went. Thank you AYP teachers. You taught me every day how to practice: change.
You would think that I couldn’t feel any fuller and complete after my first week. For a day or so I kind of thought that too. The thing is, I still had my “giving” week to go. I actually got to teach contemporary dance (my profession) for 4 hours, during three days and with a final “showing day” of two hours. It was amazing! The level of appreciation for me and for what I had to offer was incredible. I actually taught a pretty intermediate level workshop. And it was challenging. And it was fun. And it was unforgeable. Every day after my classes, I would say thank you in our final circle and I would choke up. I am so thankful. Thankful for the welcoming that I received from every participant and their willingness to do it. We danced, we laughed, we created. Thank you. Honestly, the week didn’t feel that it was about “giving” to me. I was certainly on the receiving end of acceptance, appreciation, and joy.
To top it off, I taught the amazing Saturday community classes and had a blast!
During my time there, I felt safe, supported, taken care of and a part of AYP. I wish I could bring the wonderful Shine Center with me. And I am. I actually have all of my new friends and all the communities they work at with me. Through inspiration, acceptance, kindness, empowerment and the willingness to PRACTICE: CHANGE. I am forever grateful. Now on to planning my next fundraiser.