By Millie Weke
Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on August 01, 2018
Walking down the sand roads of Kariobangi as a child, there was fun and joy in the dusty air - not to mention the smell of street foods everywhere.
My hometown is one of the most populated areas of Nairobi - a large part of the area is slum dwellers, the majority of which are women and children. All these people mean there’s severe overcrowding but there are also a lot of smiles.
I remember children playing, my mom and other women selling vegetables, tomatoes and fish, and shops with second hand clothing and bananas. Tailors would sit in the shade by the side of the road, sewing on their machines. Men spent the afternoons chatting and playing games with bottle caps. Uplifting music drifted out onto the street from the open-air hair salons and barber shops. My community was bustling and busy, and in its own way, very beautiful - but life there is also extremely difficult.
I was born in a well known Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Eastleigh, Nairobi Kenya, the cheapest maternity hospital in the area. Growing up, my seven family members, plus three cousins and one nephew lived in one single room. We shared a toilet, which also was the showering room, with 18 other people living in my area.
Child labor and other crimes like robbery, police brutality are common in Kariobangi. There’s peer pressure that results in early pregnancy. When there’s infrastructure, it’s limited. The water is bad and there’s no sanitation. Overcrowding pushes poor housing to its limits, and house fires are not uncommon. All these issues threaten the health and livelihoods of children, teens and adults alike.
I remember playing with friends in random messy bars selling locally brewed beer. Drunk adults are not an uncommon sight. Even with all of this, I and other children would wander alone, with nobody supervising me.
Since my mom would sell groceries, I would try to make money to support myself and my younger siblings. Education or health services didn’t exist for me. I had a very little voice and was largely unheard in a community just trying to survive, just trying to meet its basic needs.
Now that I'm an adult and a yoga instructor with Africa Yoga Project, I am still deeply connected to Kariobangi. I’m committed to fight for the people living these difficult lives, fight for the vulnerable people. I know that child abuse thrives in places like Kariobangi unless action is taken.
Through AYP, I am introducing yoga to my community and encouraging people to apply for the teacher training. If they are also moved by yoga, and trained as a yoga teachers, they can spread the word of yoga all over the world. They also can have a new, safer, healthier life. I am also creating safe places for children by teaching them yoga in school and at home.
I believe that yoga unites every being, it can calm their emotions, mind and body. The people I teach say yoga makes them feel happy and loved. Yoga builds communities, and I believe it can bring hope to my community of Kariobangi.