Young Leaders honouring our teachers this Mandela Day

This year, Earthchild Project took a different spin on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018. While there were many organisations and individuals who supported us through donating money or giving time in support of Earthchild Project, our facilitators, junior staff and Young Leaders chose to give back in a creative way, where it really matters! And so, they created The Pamper Your Teacher Day for all of our four schools in Khayelitsha – a special day just to honour our unsung heroes who devote so much time and energy to nurturing our earthchildren.

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EARTHCHILD PROJECT AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT – SCHALK VILJOEN

Over the years, there have been a number of really special yoga teachers who have dedicated a lot of time and energy into supporting Earthchild Project and being a driving force behind the work that we do. In order to honour these people, we have initiated an Earthchild Project Ambassador Programme. And we are proud to introduce you to our first ambassador, Schalk Viljoen. Schalk teaches Jivamukti classes in the Darmstadt, Mainz, Frankfurt & Basel area of Germany. We caught up with Schalk to find out more about his yoga journey and why he cares so much about Earthchild Project.

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The Earthchild Project 3rd annual Teachers Wellness Convention

Earthchild Projects’ 3rd annual Teachers Wellness Convention was held on Saturday 24 February 2018, and it was a huge success. With workshops ranging from healthy cooking demo’s to stress management, hormone balancing techniques, water saving tips and advice on how to follow your purpose and passion, the day was packed with wellness and holistic living education.

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Waste-Free Solutions in Yoga

I will admit – in the yoga world, practitioners are for the most part, simply trying to practice self-love and care for other living beings – this is after all, the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.” We’re doing the best we can in using yoga for health and goodness. Right?

We could do better. First of all, we can start the painful journey of looking inward and realizing that most of us are, to a certain extent, hypocrites in our yoga world bubble. When we begin our yoga class, we sit our toned bums (thanks yoga!), dressed in plastic material, on our PVC mats. Our practice of yoga is at the heart of our good health – and yet in the first few seconds of our daily practice we are breaking some SERIOUS health rules, not to mention the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.”

Not only our clothes, but also the very physical foundations on which we practice are doing monumental harm. I’m talking about our mats. The more I research, the more disturbed I’ve become. Most yoga mats are made from PVC, short for polymerizing vinyl chloride. Simply typing that word – “chloride” – makes me think of that new mat smell – and subsequently feel a bit ill at all the times I’ve deeply inhaled it. Not only are PVC mats bad for our own health, the production of this material can be deadly for others. Yes, you read that right. PVC plants pump an excruciating amount of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. When its entire life-cycle is considered, PVC releases more cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere than any other product. Each kg of PVC requires about 17kg of abiotic materials, mostly petrochemicals, as well as 680 liters of water and 11.6 kg of air (which of course is converted into greenhouse gases). PVC plants contaminate water around their facilities, causing serious damage on whole communities – most commonly increased risk of cancer and reproductive damage. All this so that your yoga mat can later go sit in a landfill for the rest of time. Woohoo!

Sorry guys. This is all quite depressing I know. Depressing but also crucial to meditate on when we consider our impact on the lives of others and our Mother Earth. But let’s cut to the positive part shall we? In terms of sustainable yoga mats, there is an increasing plethora of options out there. There are several companies completely dedicated to eco-friendly mats – most made from natural rubber from rubber trees, jute (a natural fiber), organic cotton, or thermoplastic elastomer (synthetic BUT has high potential for recyclability and uses less energy to manufacture). We have got to commend these brands for really trying to find a more sustainable options for our beloved mats. However, what if you could kill two birds with one stone?

Anna and Sophie, the founders of hejhej-mats, are doing just that. These two young women have managed to create a closed-loop, fully sustainable yoga mat – creating a healthy sustainable mat that ALSO uses old waste. Most of us are slowly waking up to the reality of waste on our planet – the landfills, the islands made entirely of trash. The hejhej goal: to create a mat in which the production alleviates the excessive exhaustion of resources. No new materials, only the use of old waste – “thereby tackling the problem of waste production and resource scarcity of our planet.” While other sustainable mats are still using natural rubber – which requires cutting down rubber trees – hejhej-mats makes use of one of our planet’s increasingly growing resource – waste itself. Completely closed-loop, hejhej-mats are made from waste, used long-term, recyclable, and then used for production again. What’s also great about their mats? They’re functional (not missing that much-needed slip resistance that many sustainable mats lack), and also quite beautiful. Because they are made from varying types of waste, each mat differs slightly in its appearance, making each unique.

When we sat down with Anna last week, the crowdfunding campaign for the production of hejhej-mats had just met its initial goal that morning. When we asked her about the conceptualization of hejhej mats, she told us of her and Sophie’s completion of their Masters in Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden (not only charming but intelligent too!) as well as their visit to an exhibition by Turkish artist, Pinar Yolda. Yolda’s artwork accused yoga practitioners of acting hypocritically since most of them practice yoga on unsustainable plastic mats, which end up in oceans or landfills. The exhibition impacted the two women, and they immediately set to work with the conceptualization of the circular hejhej-mat. Talking to her over coffee made it obvious to me how passionate and driven these two young German women were. You know those people whose entrepreneurial spirit captivates you and makes you want to jump onto their boat? Anna and Sophie are that.

I’m excited for where hejhej-mats will go. I’m inspired, and jumping onto that ship. Or I guess in this case, a hejhej-mat.

Go check them out on their website or crowdfunding page to donate, support, or simply learn more about hejhej-mats and sustainable closed-loop designs.

https://hejhej-mats.com

https://www.startnext.com/en/hejhej-mats-closed-loop-yoga-mats 

Connecting souls across cultures through yoga

@adidasZA
@adidasWomen
@chelseykorus
@cliopajczer
Photos by Niquita Bento: @xx_niquita_xx

It was such a joyful pleasure and privilege last week to be connected to three international yogis – Adriene Mishler, Clio Pajczer, and Chelsey Korus. To be able to host these three beautiful women was humbling and genuinely made for a really fun Friday! In partnership with adidas, these women made the trip halfway across the world to check out Earthchild Project’s work and to do some yoga with our Earthchildren in Kkayelitsha.

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The Spinach King – A beacon of hope in the midst of Khayelitsha

The community of Khayelitsha, where Earthchild Project is present in 4 schools, is a very special one. The children are happy, smiling, and eager to learn and practice yoga, but their living and home situation is not always ideal, with some areas having families of 8-10 people living in one shack and having to walk up to 200 m for running water. Khayelitsha is one of the fastest growing townships in Cape Town and is prone to all different types of violence. Earthchild Project aims to help the children living in this environment to realise their potential and to create new possibilities for their lives.

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Earthchild Project 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

“It’s hard to believe that this time 10 years ago the very first seeds of Earthchild Project began to sprout. Three young ladies with a big idea and lots of energy and passion started out in two Cape Town schools. It’s been quite a journey with many lessons, challenges, highlights, connections and growth… and a journey full of the gift of working with thousands of very special children. This journey would not have been possible without YOUR support and the incredible ‘eco-system’ of relationships that have developed over the years. We would like to say a very big THANK YOU to our donors, partners, teachers, schools and volunteers… it has been a privilege working with you all and we are deeply grateful for your ongoing love and support.”

– Janna Kretzmar, Founder and Director, Earthchild Project

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A new year with new adventures

2016_Amanda Norrlander-1-14It’s hard to believe that we are almost through the first month of 2017, while some of us feel like we were still getting used to writing 2016 in our diaries! What with technology and social media, things sure do seem to be speeding up. It’s at times like these that we need to remind ourselves to take a step back, a deep breath in and to just be present in the moment of possibilities for the new year ahead.

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Honouring our Earthchild Project Activists

Whether it be two young cousins from Cape Town selling coffee outside their school, an avid hiker from Johannesburg who decided to dedicate climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds, or even three young ladies from America who set a goal to sponsor 150 yoga mats; our activists know how to make things happen! We are so grateful for the support we received from these incredible women in 2016, that we wanted to honour them for their successful Activist Projects.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Lucian Engelbrecht

©Amanda Norrlander

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number five is Lucian Engelbrecht who is 12 years old and in Grade 6 at Harmony Primary School in Lavender Hill. This young boy made me smile from the very first moment he stepped into the room where we conducted the interview. Lucian possesses such great energy and his humbleness and love for what he does shines through his whole being.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Carin-Lee Williams

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number four is Carin-Lee Williams who is 10 years old and in Grade 4 at Hillwood Primary School in Lavender Hill. To say that Carin-Lee lights up a room when she starts talking is no exaggeration. Her passion and confidence radiates from her within, and she attributes her inner light to yoga and her experience with Earthchild Project.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Sisonke Sifo

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we will be highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Sisonke Sifo is the second of our dedications to the youth. Sisonke is 9 years old and attends Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha. She is a talented young yogi who is excited to share her story, which she starts with a huge smile on her face.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Big Dreams in Khayelitsha

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we will be highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Liso Nokhona starts off our dedication to the youth and if you haven’t heard yet, he is a legend in Khayelitsha.

A year ago, Liso was introduced to yoga and since then he dreams of becoming the youngest male yoga instructor in his community.Without hesitation or apprehension, he takes any opportunity to guide his class through a few rounds of sun salutations.

Wasting no time, Liso is working towards gaining more teaching experience in preparation for the future. Unbeknownst to him it was way overdue to learn about the impact yoga has made on his life.

liso-pictureQ: What does yoga mean to you?

Yoga is my future. This is my first year doing yoga but I love it. It will help me go other places on an airplane like New York City or Los Angeles. My friend has a sweater with those cities.

Q: Of all the exercises & sports, why do you want to teach yoga?

I teach because I want my class to know how you can do yoga & maybe they can eventually teach the rest of the class too. I enjoy the activities of yoga because it makes me healthy.

Q: How does your community receive yoga?

Well, my parents have said, “It’s nice that you want to teach yoga my child.” Limakatso is my classmate that helps me when I mess up.

Q: A lot of women do yoga so do you think you will influence young men to try it?

Yes, it will help them to see how you can do yoga and they will give to other people.

Q: Lastly what is your favorite pose & why?

Butterfly is my favorite pose because I like butterflies in the spring.

Q: Could you describe yoga in two ways? 

1. Yoga is my future

2. It will help me travel to new places overseas

After the “formal” Q/A interview, Liso offered to guide me through his favorite sequence of “yoga activities” starting with butterfly pose, transitioning through all the warrior poses and then finishing with tree pose. As the interview officially came to an end, he looked up at me with the most charismatic & confident smile, “Do you have any more questions for me?”

As this school year winds down, let’s remain committed to sharing and encouraging the dreams of the youth. In addition, stay connected with us to learn about the next Earthchild spotlight and details regarding our 10 year anniversary! #CelebrateECP10

Dominique Camille is an Earthchild project intern working in the schools and the office. She is a yoga teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area deeply committed to social justice and liberating expression. 

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