By Billy Sadia
Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on August 20, 2014
To All who lives have touched us and supported us by friendship, caring, loving , travelling or donating to us we wanted to share some of our trip with you. Please read about our adventure.
We have all 7 recently made it home, safe and sound, from our Seva Safari in Kenya. I wanted to take the time to thank each and everyone who made this trip possible. Thanks to all of you, we raised an astounding $25,000 for Africa Yoga Project and Flying Kites Orphanage. We saw first hand where all the money was going and who it would be helping, and I feel so grateful to everyone who donated to this amazing cause.
When we first arrived at the school, we were greeted with the warmest welcome I have ever received. The kids all sang us a beautiful song, with the most amazing smiles on their faces. I was so moved seeing all their eager faces sending us so much unconditional love before they even met us. Afterwards, everyone of us had a bunch of kids grab our hands, and they gave us individual tours of the school. They all took such pride in their learning environment, and showed us even the small things with big delight. I admired deeply their appreciation for everything that they had right in front of them.
My favourite part of the trip was that we were able to live at the orphanage along side 27 amazing kids. They were all so talented and unique, and it was incredible being able to spend 6 days with them. We were showered with smiles, and hugs, and we were right away accepted into their family. They called us all Aunty and Uncle, even the young kids, and were seen as no different from anyone else in their family. They would gladly come to us if they need help, or sit on our laps, or even just have a conversation. The swawili word ‘Umoja’, meaning unity, really embodied the spirit that I found in Kenya. There were always people by your side, willing to share of themselves generously, in order to be a support to you. Paige Elenson, the founder of Africa Yoga Project, said to us on the first day that “It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a village of children to raise an adult”. After spending a week with these beautiful children, I truly felt that they have raised me to be a better person. I have learned so much from their beautiful spirits, and I will forever keep them close to my heart.
Life at the orphanage was very busy, and it was never a dull moment. The kids got home from school at 4:30, and would all pile out of the small range rover they shared, and would rush out of the uniforms to come play with us. We all had dinner in the same room every day, proceeded by a meeting. The meetings consisted of people sharing how their days were, what they learned, and things that they were grateful for.
I loved these meetings because I found it so amazing that these kids took time everyday to not only reflect on things that happened in their lives, but to also be a part of what happened in the lives of everyone else. After the meetings, the kids all did homework, and we were able to help them. All of them were incredibly smart, and the marks in every grade were always within the top 2 in the whole area. I was blown away at how hard the kids worked, and how much they valued their studies. They not only never complained about homework in the way I am used to hearing, but I often found them studying in their free time as well. It really made me think about how in Canada education is too often taken for granted. In our spare time, we did some really fun things with the kids as well. One day, we did a superhero yoga party, where all the kids got to decorate a cape and be a superhero for the night. We also had an amazing dance party taught by Billy, who used to do Afro-Fusion dance. It was so much fun, and everyone had a blast.
We were a fairly large group as we had 4 other families with us, as well as 5 Kenyan yoga teachers, but the group dynamic was amazing. Everyone connected really well together, and we worked as an excellent team. As a group (with some help of other volunteers and a few other children), we were able to paint all the classrooms of the school with new colours, as well as a fresh coat on the outside. We even had time to sand and varnish the desks and chairs. Everyone worked really hard, and the school looked amazing when we were done. An other great thing we accomplished was when we helped with chores around the house. The entire orphanage was swept and mopped, and books and clothes were organized, but the matron’s favourite part was that we did a TON of laundry. They spend all day scrubbing clothes by hand, and rarely have enough time to rest. They were so grateful that they were all able to relax and finally talk amongst each other. It felt amazing that we were able to give them that opportunity.
Charlie felt eager to meet all the kids after they sang the song. The first person he met after the song was named Peter, and they quickly became best friends. His favourite memories were all of the games that we played when we did yoga. He was also very happy that they let us stay at their house, felt a lot of love when they sang “we love you” to us.
Jamie thought that it was amazing how the people live their lives so different from us. She noticed how they eat different and speak a different language. She loved how the kids were talking to us, and teaching us things that we do differently. She thought it was especially fun to play with them because their games were awesome. The best part for her was just being able to laugh with all the kids.
Emmitt’s favorite part of the trip was going to the orphanage and staying with all of the kids. He had a best friend Zipporah, who he will never forget. She is 5 years old, and would follow him around to play from the moment he arrived. Overall, he really enjoyed playing and connecting with all of the kids, and he hopes to go back one day to see our rafiki’s (friends).
Noah thought that there was many amazing moments to the trip, for example the positive energy from everyone we met. For him, one of the most amazing parts of the trip was when the Africa Yoga Project Family and the Flying Kites School got into a circle and we all sang songs. We would teach them a song like, “Bluebird through my window”, and in return they taught us songs in swahili. One of the songs, “Camarais” included singing and dancing, and Jamie loved it so much that she learnt all the lyrics, and sang all night.
My Mom and Dad had two favourite parts. The moments and experience we had living with the Kenyan people was amazing. They loved how the Kenyans were so giving of themselves through their actions. We saw so many waves , heard “how are you? or Jambo!” , and received many many huge smiles. People young and old came to the road to see us as we walked through the town. They have an abundance of happiness. The other thing my parents really loved to see was how my siblings and I interacted with the people. They were proud at how we actively participated in all aspects of the trip. The painting of the school, the interaction with the kids, the interaction with the other families (adults and kids), the games, the songs, and all the other wonderful experiences we all shared together. Every night we would have our Heisz family meeting waiting for the generator to shut off, and would discuss the many things we did that day. It was a really good bonding and we grew closer together as a family on the journey.
For all of us, this trip was unforgettable, and so valuable to us as a family. I have so much gratitude for the people who have made this experience a possibility for us, because without your support these amazing memories would not exist. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.