This post is written within hours of receiving the most amazing news from Busia, Uganda, where I went this summer with a wish to share my love for yoga. This news made me feel so humble, so proud and it gave me an even stronger faith in humanity – if that is at all possible.
The preparations for my trip to Uganda started in spring 2016 where I contacted my dear friends from Uganda Red Cross Youth located all around the country. I wanted to visit them and meet their families and friends. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that something was pulling me there to find something.
Since I am not a holiday person and I like to make a difference and be active during my travels, I asked if any of them had any projects that could be linked to yoga somehow, so that I could teach there. It was as if it had been planned previously. One friend had a big school with 600 pupils run by charity helping the entire community exit poverty, another friend was working to create awareness about menstrual health and teach young girls and women in the villages to make reusable pads so that they could go to school even on the more bloody days of the month.
I jumped straight at it!
I arranged for a collection of funding to support the school, I advertised for used yoga mats and got a donation of 10 mats which took up most of my luggage allowance and I started making teaching materials for people who had never heard of yoga and thought it was a dance.
I arrived in Entebbe airport on 1 July 2016 to the longest and slowest immigration line I had ever experienced. It took so long that my friends almost left the airport thinking I didn’t make the flight. But I did! And my bags were there and all was good.
The first place I went to was in Busia close to the Kenyan border. It is a dusty town with limited supply of – well, most things. Many people live in villages either in clay houses or brick houses without electricity and running water. They live off their land and from selling handmade crafts for small change. In town, the income level is higher for some people, but most of what I saw was still very basic, but functional.
In Busia, there’s a Red Cross building. Since the Red Cross is not very active there any longer, the building is being rented out to NGO’s wanting to make a difference, such as ASHWA (Alliance for Sustainable Health and Wealth in Africa) which my friend Eric is Managing Director of. The building has a big room that is usually used for workshops and educational purposes. It is the perfect size for yoga and that’s where I taught my very first class.
Needless to say? It was a huge success!
Finding the yoga etiquette is something we need to work on a bit, but all participants gave it their all. The reactions after the class gave me a new motivation to stick with it and teach as much as I possible could while in Uganda. We had only planned one class in Busia, but it became two classes and a teacher workshop where 10 people learned more about the background of the yoga tradition, theory on kids yoga and a personal practice to keep themselves on the right track.
In between teaching in Busia, I also went to Bethany Centre which is a school and orphanage on a beautiful hill in a village about 1 hour on a bumpy road from Kampala. I managed to teach all the pupils at the school during the time I was there and the teachers were watching carefully. They were amazed at what they saw and they found it very inspirational. At the end of it, I trained the teachers in a personal practice and the theory behind school yoga, how it supports the brain, why the body is important when learning, how sensory difficulties can hinder some children from learning and on a deep level, I introduced some thought patterns that were very new to the teachers.
One thing I emphasized was the fact that children cannot learn if they are afraid. I also underlined how important movement is for the functioning of the brain and how crucial it is to sleep. Most children in that village sleep less than 6 hours every night and eat food with very low nutritional levels.
It only made me even more determined to do this!
It makes so much sense.
When I left Uganda in the beginning of August, I was hoping for great results, but I had not expected what just popped into my mailbox today. In Busia, on their own initiative, they have founded a yoga club. Not just like briefly saying that they have a club, they have made a full document with the constitution for the yoga club, they have elected members for the board and made a schedule, appointed a main teacher and even held classes on their own. Furthermore, they have written a report stating the progress of the yoga project and with comments from the participants.
My partner at Bethany also told me that the teachers are doing their yoga practice and that they even use it in the classroom to help the children learn better.
I am beyond words! So humble. So grateful and so inspired to build this project to empower the community, create jobs and improve the lives of so many people.
Webali! (thank you)
BY THE WAY, we are working on forming a support organisation in Denmark and we might be needing your skills. Please let me know if you want to help shape and build this awesome yoga project in Uganda – and maybe beyond! Only our imagination sets the limit….