In 2006, AYP Founder and Executive Director, Paige Elenson, was on a safari with her family in Kenya when she saw some Kenyan acrobats doing handstands in the bush. Although she was told to stay in the jeep, she couldn't help herself. She got out and showed them that she could stand on her hands too! After the safari, she came back to New York and kept receiving calls from the Kenyan acrobats pleading with her to come back and teach them more. Finally, after lots of thought, she decided to go back. This trip is what changed it all for her. What she did not realize was that she would be staying in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya, where most people live on less than $1 a day. While teaching, she met five teenage girls: Catherine, Anita, Irene, Leah and Hadijah. They called themselves the “Ghetto Girls.”
The Ghetto Girls ranged in age from 13 to 19 and were living in a small room made out of iron sheets with one mattress. Each and every day they traveled over two hours to come to yoga class. They said it made them feel clean, strong and happy. From here, a connection was born with Kenya, and with the amazing young people who were coming to class. After doing some research Paige found out that one of the root challenges that causes such abject poverty is youth unemployment. Over 70% of youth in Kenya are unemployed. She turned this challenge into our opportunity by forming Africa Yoga Project with Baron Baptiste. We now train girls and boys, like the Ghetto Girls, to teach yoga as a avenue to education, empowerment and employment.
At 70% youth unemployment, this is no small challenge in Kenya, but we know that in the US over 36 million people practice yoga and spend over $16 million annually on classes, apparel and yoga related products. If we look beyond yoga, the global wellness industry is a $3.7 trillion market so there is huge growth potential in Kenya and across Africa. We are training global wellbeing leaders in and from Africa to lead the growth of the wellbeing industry on this continent. By participating in our program, youth become civic leaders and employable to build the wellbeing value chain.
Our growth since 2007 has been extraordinary. Over 6,000 people participate in more than 300 community yoga classes weekly in 80 locations. More than 200 young people, trained as teachers, are earning a living wage by teaching yoga to people who otherwise would not have the opportunity. And all over the world, people like you are getting involved, ready to lead the change in their own communities. Join us!