Last year I was asked to contribute a photo to the first Devayani Charity Calendar. The idea is that photographers from all over the world are asked to donate an inspiring photo of a child practising yoga and choose a charity they would like to support. All the photos are available to the public to vote for their favourites. Proceeds from the sales of the calendar get divided amongst the 12 charities chosen. It is a wonderful international project in kindness and the spirit of yoga.
This photo which was used in the Devayani 2012 Calendar came about because of the extraordinary work of Off the Mat, Into the World, the Earthchild Project and The Global Seva Challenge. I spent a hugely inspiring and memorable day with these organisations and I love the photos so much, they always bring a big smile to my face. I hope they will for you too.
Here is a little bit more information about the organisations (and then there are lots of happy photos I promise):
Off the Mat, Into the World (USA) use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change. Every year they choose an international destination and raise funds. “Since 2007, the Seva Challenge has raised over two million dollars for projects in Cambodia, Uganda, South Africa and Haiti. These funds are raised mainly by yoga teachers and enthusiasts in the States and the top fundraisers are invited to join The Seva Challenge: a transformational journey that builds community, provokes awareness and action around global issues, and raises significant funds to support communities in crisis.”
In 2010 Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM) travelled to South Africa and one of their chosen benefactors was one close to my heart, the Earthchild Project.
The Earthchild Project schools programme educates children on environmental and self-awareness and run extra-mural activities such as yoga, arts and crafts; practical teaching on how to grow and maintain an organic vegetable garden; a holiday programme; educational outings and a hiking club.
Janna Kretzmar, Director of the Earthchild Project was asked to write a wishlist of items that would benefit their programme. To the Earthchild Project’s delight, Off the Mat, Into the World decided to make dreams come true and granted them funding for their largest request, a yoga studio for the children at Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha.
Below are some images of the absolutely wonderful day that the group from Off the Mat visited the Earthchild Project at Sakumlandela School to celebrate the new yoga classroom.
We were the first to arrive at the school and were greeted by a small group of enthusiastic little Yogis eager to show us their moves! The connection between Earthchild and OTM was said to be quite unique as they were the only NGO visited by OTM who incorporate yoga as part of their programme.
When the kids started getting a little too hyped up, one of the more experienced volunteers suggested that they meditate….
The Earthchild teachers and students arrived to welcome and an emotional thank you to the OTM group who had travelled from the States. Nokuphiwo Jada from the Earthchild project, teaches lifeskills and yoga at the school but was previously only able to teach yoga outdoors due to the lack of indoor space and was overjoyed at the news. One of the older Earthchild students volunteered to lead a short meditation to bless the day. It was so inspiring to see the kids that have been in this programme for only a few years, passing on their knowledge and mentoring the younger ones already.
Then it was time for some fun ice-breaker games for everyone to get to know each other. The Americans suggested an introduction song and boogie which got loads of laughs and put everyone in a great mood for the rest of the day.
A number of teachers from Off the Mat, Into the World took turns to lead a wonderful yoga class for everyone which was such a treat!
There were some really fun positions for the kids. Here you can see tree position ‘being blown in the wind’ and an animal impression, looks like a lion doesn’t it?
Then time for some partner yoga. I’d never seen this before, particularly to see the adults and kids working together. Everyone loved it!
Nokuphiwo wraps up the class and everyone is very relaxed.
The kids then proudly took their new friends to show them their vegetables and worm farms which they look after at the Earthchild Project gardening club. Food grown here gets put towards nutritious meals for the kids during the school day. It is quite remarkable to see this abundant haven in Khayelitsha which is usually seen as sandy and devoid of greenery.
The final activity of the day was to paint the big gift! Everyone got stuck in to paint the outside of the new classroom with bright colours and happy pictures.
Nearing the end of the day, it seemed to be more fun to paint each other than the classroom and Suzanne, one of the Directors from OTM, really got into the spirit of the day and let the kids get very creative!
Bottom Right: Suzanne Sterling (OTM Director), Janna Kretzmar (Earthchild Project Founder & Director), Seane Corn (OTM Founder & Director).
I don’t think anyone wanted to leave at the end of the day and goodbyes were said with gifts, grace and great big hugs!
One of my favourite images of this day has been put forward for the 2nd Devayani Calendar (2013). If you love the Earthchild Project and this image, please join the Devayani Facebook page and vote for it to be in the calendar before the end of July 2012!