By Millie Weke
Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on March 22, 2017
Story and photos by Anamaria Guerra Forero
What began as a dream, today is a reality that is lived and shared in community. Paige Elenson, Co-founder of Africa Yoga Project -AYP, remembers when the space they had eight years ago got too small for their dreams. The yoga community was growing day by day, and with it challenges and opportunities emerged. We screamed for a larger space, but not any space, we wanted a true house for AYP, where we could implement all the programs that were being created with and for young people.
The search was fruitful. At the end a very special space in Nairobi was found, the Shine Center named after a contest on Facebook where fans could give their ideas and among all chose the name, for everyone´s shining house…
Today Shine Center is more than an academy, more than a community center it is an all inclusive space where deep connections within and among are established. In the words of Paige “the Shine Center is the home of yoga”.
From the entrance, you will experience a welcoming feeling. The colors and the design of the space make you feel that you are in Africa!. As Patrick Kigaru, from the first cohort of AYP teachers says: “Shine Center is a safe space for youth. Outside is crazy --- Youth can easily get engaged in dangerous stuff / when you come to Shine Center you experience happiness - it is a place full of creativity ---- where you are able to dream and be creative. Outside you probably worry or feel sad and after class you are happy - experiencing unity - laughing, at a place for Hope”
Everyday the Shine Center wakes up early. Yoga classes are running all day long, classes where the AYP teachers can gain experience and empower themselves in the path of vocational training. Weekly and monthly workshops are scheduled at the center, where teachers and non-teachers can train and acquire new knowledge. Classes are accessible to everyone, it does not matter if you do not have enough money, on Saturdays and every weekday at 1pm there are classes by donation. This makes the space a very heterogeneous and inclusive place, where the sense of community and unity is felt while practicing yoga. As Millie Weke, AYP teacher says: “Shine Center is a place for a community - a place where people get connected and feel love and happiness. I feel at home at a place where I can share my practice and energy, a place where I smile all the time, a place to empower.”
Each year the Shine Center receives approximately 100 people from Africa and around the world, to join the Teacher Training Program. Around 30 people from different vulnerable communities in Kenya receive scholarships as an opportunity to empower youth and give them tools that can be used in their daily lives while expanding their employability as teachers and community leaders. In the words of Erick Ochieng, who completed the Teacher Training Program: “Shine Center is like a life school --- it is a place where you can learn and share with different people ----- Shine Center is my life”
“Shine Center is an awesome place. It is magical. You can come here feeling down but when you go out of this place you feel up --- it is a place for renewal and blossom - Denice Kahindi - saturday yoga class attendant.
The meeting place of so many powerful activities; trainings, leadership workshops, work opportunities, and spiritual practice, in conjunction with people from all backgrounds, truly make this Center a place to SHINE FROM THE INSIDE OUT, becoming day by day a platform to spread dreams, Hope, creativity and actions for the youth of Kenya.