In case you haven’t heard. . . in about a week I’ll be standing on another continent.
I’ll be on the other side of the world, surrounded by things and people I do not know, have never met, and that will forever change my perception of the world. I will be so far out of my comfort zone that I’ll be smack dab in the middle of it, actually.
I can’t.fucking. wait. to get there.
My journey to Cape Town South Africa March is a seva (selfless service) safari. There I will be a part of a team that will partner up with the Earthchild Project to work with the community and offer training to local youth leaders, empowering them with skill building experiences and employment opportunities.
I am honored to be a part of such a tremendously impactful program. This trip offers us an opportunity to provide service to an area of great need as we use the transformative power of yoga to change lives. I am beyond humbled to be able to participate in such an undertaking.
But not everybody gets that.
“I don’t pay for other people’s travel” I have been told, by a family member no less, when I asked about making a contribution to my fundraising campaign (each member of the trip has a commitment to raise $4,000 for the Africa Yoga Project, a number which I am getting ever closer to reaching).
“Like people in Africa need yoga” scoffed another.
Clearly there are some misconceptions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and also, quite clearly, what exactly yoga is and why people do or don’t “need” it.
I’m not upset with my family or others who share their sentiments. Yoga is not a part of their lives, nor do they wish it to be. However, they voice a concern that I believe held by many:
“what’s the deal with a service trip, anyway? Isn’t that just a way to travel and do a little bit of work while you’re there to make it look good?”
Um. Nope. Not in this case, anyway. Not with this organization.
If you’re a yogi, a traveler, a lover of movements and foundations that generate big, powerful and positive change, it might seem strange to you that someone wouldn’t understand what kind of endeavor this is.
You might, for instance, understand how yoga really does work. You might get how it generates an inner strength and knowing unlike what anything else can. You might know what it means to give someone the gift of the practice, to share and bear witness to the shifting of a soul and that will in turn impact the lives of others a hundredfold.
If you’ve traveled to third world countries you might know what real poverty looks like, and how having job skills and training gives people the tools to get out of it. You might know that when a team of dedicated people come in and put forth an effort to break down barriers by offering their love, support and labor so that they may help to elevate the lives of a community, the world changes, for real and for good.
You might understand why the trip is called “be the light.”
You might have seen the documentaries in which students and teachers involved with the Africa Yoga Project articulate how their lives, and in turn the lives of their family members, radically changed as a result of the work that AYP does. You might even have heard one woman talk about how it literally saved her life.
You might have read how AYP serves over 6,000 people a week at more than 80 locations. You might know that members of a seva safari do things like build schools and playgrounds and help make communities safer, healthier and more peaceful.
So yes, I get to travel. Yes, I get to do yoga. Yes, I think that’s pretty amazing and I’m not here to argue that it doesn’t provide a benefit to me. It most obviously does.
But you know what else I get to do? You know why I’m really going? Because I get to make a difference. A real one. I get to help make the world a better place doing something I love with amazing people, and I get to show my children what it looks like to care about something bigger than me enough to do something.
The mission of the Africa Yoga Project is to educate, empower, elevate, and employ youth from Africa using the transformational practice of yoga. This is not a foundation designed to benefit its founders; the funds we raise go directly to AYP, where about 30% is used to fund the safari so we can train teachers, free of cost to them, and the remaining 70% goes directly towards AYP programs, projects and manpower.
It’s travel. It’s yoga, but more importantly, it’s work; good work.
This trip— this journey of selfless service— it means something, and not just to me.
Thank you for your support and your contributions, be they financial, physical, emotional or just positive energy and thoughts— they too mean something, and also not just to me.
Together, we are creating something big. Something good. Something beautiful. A yield from which the dividends will never expire.
It seems almost inadequate, and yet at the same perfect then, to say, again,
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