The Earthchild Shala Campaign in Kayelitsha
26 March 2019
Written by Tarryn James
“My biggest dream for my community is that each young person gets a comfortable and safe space where they can really get to know who they are and what they want to make out of their lives” - Sikelelwa Waka,
Approximately 3200 children in Cape Town Townships receive regular yoga classes with the Earthchild Yoga Project, a non-profit organization based in Kayelitsha and Lavendar Hill, offering complimentary education to under-resourced schools. Through the practice of yoga and meditation, these young children are encouraged to connect with themselves as well as grow into conscious, confident and responsible children.
The Earthchild Project has identified the need for these children to have a space that is quiet and safe. They have teamed up with The Shala Cape Town Yoga School to build a Yoga Shala in the form of a environmentally-friendly classroom, which will empower these children to inspire dreaming and visioning
Siki Waka joined Earthchild Project back in 2008 as a 10 year old participant in their programmes. Today, she is a newly qualified yoga instructor teaching yoga to hundreds of children everyday. “For me it is a dream come true”, says Siki. As a graduate of the Earthchild Project program, Siki looked up to the facilitators and always knew that she wanted to continue being involved with the project . She is passionate about sharing her love of yoga with the young children who are beginning their yoga practice at such a young age.
Siki teaches at Ntwasahlobo, one of the school’s in Kayelitsha, “The biggest challenge is the space” says Siki, going on to explain that the school does not have a yoga room and that the yoga is often taught outdoors under a tree. “It is not safe for 50 kids to go outside and it doesn’t feel contained”. When teaching outside, the noise and environment often distracts the children, taking away their experience of the practice.
“When they come to yoga, it is a space where they can experience love and feel safe. The kids face many challenges like shootings every day and so when they come to yoga it is a time when they can release and tell their stories to us as they just need someone to listen to them.” says Siki.
The Earthchild Project was founded by Janna Kretzmar in 2007 with the dream of nurturing a new generation of conscious and empowered young leaders. “It doesn’t just end in the classroom” says Janna, explaining that the skills these children learn in the Yoga Shala are carried over by the teachers who are adopting the songs and meditations in the class environment. With supportive teachers, this project becomes a whole school intervention.
The goal of The Eartchild Shala campaign is to build an environmentally-friendly classroom which can occupy 40 children and their yoga mats. This Shala will not only be used for children’s yoga during school houses, but it will also be available for holiday programs and teachers workshops. This sand bag building is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, provides thermal insulation benefits and soundproofing form the noisy townships.
“The intention is for this Shala to become a safe peaceful sanctuary for the children.”
The Shala Cape Town Yoga School have become ambassadors for the Earthcild Project, with weekly community yoga classes and regular events to raise funds. Over the next 6 months, they will continue running yoga classes at their studio in Gardens, Cape Town, to reach the target of R300 000 by the end of February 2019.
Tamsin Sheehy, co-owner of The Shala, is extremely passionate about this campaign and believes that this classroom will epower the children and the school. “We are teaching worth through an intentional space”, says Tamsin, highlighting that this Shala will encourage these children to have big dreams, to connect deeply to themselves and feel safe.
If this resonates with you, and you would like to get involved, there a few ways to assist this project:
Donations through their GiveGain campaign
Hands on volunteers to build and paint the Shala
Attending fundraising events the The Shala Cape Town Yoga School
Planting of the gardens surrounding the Earthchild Shala
Attending the launch of the classroom and meet the children who will be practicing there