‘My story during Lockdown’ by Jadene van Neel

The 1st January 2020 was a day of excitement, happiness and full of new year’s resolutions…and now we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. I never imagined that I would be living in a time that would bring the world to a complete lockdown. This is part of our history, it is part of what will not just influence my world experiences, but will shape the world experiences of so many children, youth and grown ups. We are going through this now not knowing what the new world will be like when this pandemic passes. While most of South Africa is in lockdown, people in my street and in my community are going about their daily lives. Everything is normal over here. Nothing has changed. 

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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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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.



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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Young Eco Activists raise 10 times their target!

Tuesday was a very special day for the Earthchild Project as we were invited to Micklefield Primary School in Rondebosch, Cape Town, where we were awarded a beautiful hand-crafted check for R20 002 from our incredible young eco-activists, Hannah Lea and Emma. Being invited to the school assembly was a true honour for us and seeing how compassionate and enthused these young activists are was truly inspiring.

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Young Eco-Activists Nurturing Eco-warriors

Cycle end, and they're still smiling.

Hannah and Emma Lea are cousins in Grade 6 together at the Micklefield Primary School in Rondebosch, Cape Town. As part of their school project, the cousins have chosen to raise funds for our Nurture an Eco-Warrior campaign by selling coffee, raising sponsorship for a challenging cycle, and appealing to friends and family. Read more

Yoga fundraiser at The Shala

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Last Wednesday we teamed up with our long-time partners and great friends at The Shala yoga studio to host a fundraiser for Earthchild Project and we’re thrilled to say it was a resounding success! Not only was it a beautiful evening but The Shala raised an astounding R11 600, which will sponsor 58 children’s weekly yoga classes for a whole year – how fantastic is that?! We were over the moon with this result and cannot stress enough how much we appreciate the support of everyone who attended the event. We hope that you all enjoyed it as much as we did!

The night began with a talk from our founder and director Janna Kretzmar about how Earthchild Project came into being and how it has continued to flourish over the last ten years. She outlined the work that we do and the ethos behind it, setting the tone for an inspirational evening and leaving the attendees feeling humbled and happy to be able to contribute. Tamsin and Mariah led the 43 yogis of all levels through a beautiful series of asanas, gently encouraging us to use our practice to (re)connect to Self, others and the world. Throughout the class they affirmed the importance of self-love and acceptance in a way that was truly empowering. We also were lucky enough to have local musical duo Agulhas in the studio with us performing live (and mostly improvised!) music, making the evening all the more special and the atmosphere completely magical. Hearing their soft songs drifting in and out of our consciousness while enjoying a peaceful savasana was utterly blissful!

We are so grateful to The Shala, whose on-going support is such a blessing to us at Earthchild Project. Holding events like this reminds us of the beauty and power of yoga in grounding people and teaching them to love themselves, each other and the earth, which is why we wanted to spread the love of yoga in the first place.

If you missed out on this event but would like to keep updated about our future events, please subscribe to our newsletter by providing your details in the form at the bottom of this link: http://earthchildproject.org/

Events in July – Share the Love of Yoga

There’s a range of events you can join to share the love of yoga through July and August in Cape Town and abroad… if you happen to be in the area, get in touch with event and join the sharing!

If you would like to host a fundraising event, please feel free to download our fundraiser pack and submit your event here: Earthchildproject.org/share-the-love-of-yoga/fundraiser-pack

Sharing the Love with Staff at Earthchild Clothing

Recently our Earthchildren from Khayelitsha teamed up with staff at Earthchild Clothing to Share the Love of Yoga by upcycling some of old yoga mats donated to project over the years.

The mats were transformed from “a little worn out” to beautiful and rejuvenated spaces for inspiration… which is really the purpose of yoga, if you think about it, the power to transform lives and communities.

Each staff member teamed up with a child, to collaborate on coming up with a design that was inspirational for the child and future children who will use each mat in schools around Khayelitsha.  Fabric and permanent markers were used. Take a look at the results!

Just R200 provides one child with weekly yoga lessons for a year. Find out how you can share the love: Bitly.com/shareloveyoga #ShareLoveYoga


International Yoga Day: Sharing the Love of Yoga

The recently inaugurated UN day, International Yoga Day on June 21, celebrates yoga’s ability to transform one’s self and society. Yoga is particularly beneficial for reducing stress and the impact of trauma experienced by children living in under-resourced communities in South Africa. And yet, yoga is accessible to only the privileged few.

“Yoga gives me so much relaxation. When I’m under pressure for exams, I remember to take a deep breath in and to concentrate…” – Lekhona , Grade 11

This is why for the past eight years, we’ve been teaching yoga and meditation to thousands of school children from communities in Khayelitsha and the Cape Flats. The children face stressful environments with daily exposure to violence, substance abuse and poverty, impacting on their ability to concentrate and learn.

Over the years, teachers have reported to Earthchild Project that yoga helps their students concentrate better, fight less and their academic results improve. The children often begin practicing yoga at home, and teach their peers and family. It empowers vulnerable children to transform their lives and communities.

This is the true power of yoga.  The power to create a new generation of young leaders whose dreams and ambitions are not to acquire personal wealth and power but rather to live consciously, make a positive difference in their communities and inspire others to do the same.

There are three ways to “Share the Love”:

  1. Donate – just R200 provides one child with weekly yoga for a year
  2. Share the Love on social media
  3. Hold a fundraising class

Find out more at Bitly.com/shareloveyoga

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