Afriyoga, the organisation working to promote world class yoga in South Africa and its charitable arm, The Afriyoga Foundation, have launched plans to take yoga into township schools. Within the year, some of the country’s most disadvantaged children will be receiving free yoga lessons, in an initiative aimed at enhancing their welfare and health.
Working with the Western Cape Education Foundation which focuses on building basic numeracy and literacy skills among children, Afriyoga has been welcomed as the first organisation to be offering an holistic solution for children facing overwhelming and stressful challenges in their daily lives. In a community where teachers are regularly faced with a child who has not eaten that day, or one who was abused by an uncle the night before, yoga is being understood as an activity that might offer valuable coping strategies to children who have little recourse to outside help.
Armed with positive responses from education officials and head teachers in the townships, Afriyoga is now in the process of mobilising local South African yoga teachers to commit to a sustained programme of voluntary classes in selected schools. This programme will be supplemented by major events, held in the township communities and lead by the international yoga teachers which Afriyoga plans to bring to the Cape every six weeks or so from October 2006 onwards.
Starting on October 14th 2006, Afriyoga is launching its first yoga holiday for yoga holiday-makers from the UK and abroad. Aimed at people who wish to experience world class yoga in some of South Africa’s most beautiful locations, while at the same time becoming involved in the Foundation’s township work, the first trip will be hosted by Danny Paradise and Reema Datta. Further holidays have already been scheduled, with teachers Katy Appleton, Liz Lark, Simon Low and Andrew Eppler amongst those committing their support. In addition to teaching holiday makers and locals wishing to attend open classes during their stay, these teachers have all promised to spend voluntary time in the townships - giving the children access to a level of yoga which most yoga devotees could only dream of.
Most importantly, it is the sale of these yoga holidays which is helping to fund the Foundation’s work. A percentage of all the holiday revenue will go to the township programme. In a community where school fees for one child for a whole year can be as little as £3, it is hoped that Afriyoga’s input could make substantial differences.
While the main focus of Afriyoga’s fund raising activity is through holidays in South Africa, they are also planning UK based yoga weekends which will help support the townships. Discussions are underway with Alladale, a converted hunting lodge in the highlands of Scotland, to offer yoga activity weekends combining yoga with conservation work. Alladale is set in 23,000 acres of wilderness and is committed to restoring and conserving Scotland’s native flora and fauna - culminating in the planned re-introduction of bears and wolves to the area. Guests are invited to contribute to the lodge’s conservation programme while knowing that their stay in an exquisite retreat is also helping children in South Africa.
Other plans include presenting the Foundation’s work as a unique corporate sponsorship opportunity for any organisation wishing to support the initiative. Unlike many sponsored events, sports or activities, yoga is uniquely placed to cross all cultural, racial, religious, age and gender barriers. It can also make real differences to the individuals and communities which embrace it. Any company wishing to explore the corporate social responsibility aspects of the programme should contact Afriyoga.