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Meet Africa Yoga Project

From a marginalised young person to a wellbeing professional, the life cycle of an AYP teacher is the secret ingredient to AYP’s success

October 16, 2020 

From October 12 to October 23, we are highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlisters who are ensuring inclusive economic growth and productive work for all through sport. Africa Yoga Project is one of them. Learn more about the inspiring work they are doing to create opportunities for youth to become self-sustaining leaders in communities across Africa. 

Africa Yoga Project’s (AYP) mission is to create employability opportunities for marginalised youth across Africa and to help its communities whilst doing so. Their focus primarily lies with the participants who come into AYP’s program and leave as certified yoga teachers. 

Youth in Africa suffer the highest working poverty rates globally at almost 70%. Mental health is traditionally taboo in Africa and tools for stress reduction are not accessible to the marginalised. The impact of lifestyle diseases can be reduced by physical and mental wellbeing practices. Therefore, the need for a mentorship program is high and AYP is here with the solution. 

Since 2009 AYP has trained 400+ yoga teachers across 21 countries in Africa. Through a three-year employability program, they teach yoga as a vocation to earn income and provide invaluable entrepreneurship and life skills. AYP teachers build their communities by leading free yoga classes, providing tools for mental and physical health and promoting change through service. Their training includes both paid and volunteer work for instructors to practice their skills and earn an income. 

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Julie Auma, Academy and Learning Coordinator for AYP illustrates the life cycle of an AYP teacher, laying out the steps from applying to the AYP Academy and eventually to graduation: 

Step 1 – Application 

Peter is from Kakuma refugee camp located in northwestern Kenya. Hearing of our training program, which is scholarship-based, he applies either by himself or with our support in filling out the application form. 

Step 2 – Application review 

On our end, we  go through the applications we’ve received and assess the level of need and community engagement that a person demonstrates. If everything goes well and we’re happy with Peter, we will move him to the 200-hour teacher training. 

Step 3 – Resident program 

Peter then attends the Resident program, which is a full immersion training that lasts 2-3 weeks. By the time he leaves the training, he will be able to lead a 90 minute class alone and call himself a yoga teacher. 

Step 4 – Community training 

The next step of the program is for Peter to return to his community in Kakuma and continue teaching yoga. He will set up free community yoga classes which will get him to practice the skills that he’s learned. It also gives him some experiential learning because he must now think like an entrepreneur and figure out how to get people into the class, how to lead the classes and how to make it different. 

Step 5 – AYP Academy 

Once he can prove that he can set up and run a successful yoga class by himself, we will put him into the AYP academy and through our network, we match him up with a mentor. The mentor’s duty is to be his cheerleader, motivate and encourage him. They also pay a monthly fee, which goes towards supporting the teacher. At this point, Peter is now able to earn a monthly income. 

Step 6 – In-depth training 

Whilst still receiving training and teaching his free classes, Peter will now learn the basics of yoga philosophy and methodology. He will learn that downward dog looks different for someone who has bone cancer or someone who is pregnant for example. With this further knowledge, he will be able to modify the practice in a way that works for everyone. During this time, he will also go more in-depth in his entrepreneurial thinking, learning how to create a social media page, write an email, learn how to recruit people, familarise himself with current yoga trends and learn how to write a proposal to an organisation to offer his yoga services. 

Step 7 – Internship and graduation 

Peter will go through this process over a period of three years. In his last year he will go into an internship with everything he's learned to put it into practice. Once he’s finished his internship, Peter will graduate from the academy. By this time, he would have already built his own business as a yoga teacher, have his own client base and maybe go on to work for a spa or hotel in the future. 

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AYP’s model of inclusion makes it so their wellbeing tools are accessible regardless of geographic or financial barriers, whether you’re from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya or Katine village in Uganda, you will have the opportunity to make a living as a wellbeing professional. 

98% of alumni and academy members felt they had improved not just their physical wellbeing, but also their mental wellbeing. “This is a number that we are really proud of, knowing that they’ve improved in some way from the training is rewarding,” says Julie. 

For the AYP team the “most rewarding part is seeing someone grow into themselves and become who they truly are. When we see people coming into the program and leaving happy, healthy individuals it is just the epitome of why we do what we do.” 

Africa Yoga Project’s supporting AYP to create greater access to employability skills and physical and mental wellbeing practices for marginalized communities' program is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Decent Work and Economic Growth category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s Shortlist and follow their journeys at beyondsport.org/journey 

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