Did you know Africa Yoga Project has empowerment coaches? Truly, there is so much good happening here that the headline cannot capture it all! The empowerment coaches at AYP are Susan Njeri, Leah Etende, Lucas Wandukwa, Patrick Kiragu and myself, Millie Weke.
What does an empowerment coach do?
We support AYP teachers to build stronger outreach and community classes. On average, AYP teachers reach more than 6,000 students in a single week through their free outreach classes. As empowerment coaches, we visit their outreach sites everyday at different times to witness some of the amazing ways they are changing their communities and the world for the better.
AYP’s mission is to educate, elevate and empower through the transformational practice of yoga. Empowerment is a key part of our culture. In fact, I believe that yoga can create a path to equality. Teachers not only bring a useful tool to their communities, in the form of yoga, but they also become heroes to their students.
The beauty of the empowerment coach is that the yoga teacher’s power is not dismissed, but rather enhanced, in the process.
Millie’s story: From Coached to Coaching
When I was still an Academy member, my empowerment coach would visit me as I taught my outreach class at Total Rehab Center, which is where I continue to teach even after graduation. During these classes, I learned so much from my empowerment coach and would teach with confidence. I remember feeling so so good to be teaching in their presence and their feedback on my class was the best. Plus, my empowerment coach would tell the main office what support I needed including yoga mats, yoga clothes or space, to make my class better.
Now that I am an empowerment coach, I feel I understand my teachers very well and I know what they need the most. By empowering other people, I am putting positive vibes out into the atmosphere and these vibes return to me in the form of my own improved sense of self awareness and confidence.Giving feedback to teachers after they teach a class is the best and hardest thing that we empowerment coaches do. Our teachers feel good teaching in front of us but, they also want to learn. Although sometimes it’s hard, we are there to speak and act with honesty, as well as to listen to them. We both practice giving and receiving feedback without judgment.
The Challenges & Joy of Empowerment Coaching
Being an empowerment coach is not easy. When I was first given the empowerment coach job, I wasn’t confident. Initially I discouraged myself from being an empowerment coach, but I had no other choice but to continue working. I am grateful for friends like Essie, Nyakinyua, Edwin, my boss Laura, and our general manager. They all advised me and told me to look at the positive sides of it, like knowing the teachers better and the students. They also told me, it’s not just about empowering the teachers and students but myself, too. I gained confidence through my work and I am becoming more assertive and professional everyday.
I am also learning a lot from the teachers. I am learning how to be creative with my teaching, how to teach a class with different ages, and I’ve been to many parts of Nairobi- even to places that I had never dreamed I would be.Most of the outreaches are in the Slums of Nairobi. This means most of our students used to live in rural villages and then moved to the city of Nairobi in the hopes of earning more money and making a better life for their families. Instead, many of them end up struggling and abusing drugs.The little money they get by stealing from their neighbors and from their friends, goes to drugs. Most of them will say that having yoga in their community has really impacted their lives because the teachers in their community will make them practice. They will also say that yoga helps them to forget their struggles in life.
As empowerment coaches, we are always inspired by the teachers, specifically by how they encourage their own students to take teacher training. Some of these students shining out their happiness is our happiness. We especially enjoy seeing them become yoga teachers. As an empowerment coach, we live the training and practice of yoga but the ‘yoga practice’ is just one part. When people share their stories they find the strength to reveal themselves and their struggles; they comfort others who are facing similar challenges, and they reduce their own sense of isolation.
When someone says that teacher training has transformed their life, I will always smile - this makes me feel like we are doing a great job empowering teachers, students and ourselves. My wish is that my colleagues and I can go all over Kenya and Africa at large to empower all AYP teachers and students.
Written by Millie Weke, AYP Teacher and staff member