This charismatic woman, Vuyelwa Rola, does not leave anyone unmoved. She truly has the power of words and she proved this during our interview at Yomelela Primary, where Vuyelwa is a teacher. We sat on two chairs in the school’s beautiful garden that is run by local “mamas”. So much beauty surrounded us with leafy greens sprouting along with the beauty in Vuyelwa’s Earthchild Project story.
“The society we’re in, it’s a society that has a lot of noise…The children come from homes that are abusive so when they are with Earthchild Project they really feel calm, they really feel different.” – Vuyelwa Rola
I’d like to start by asking how long you have been involved with Earthchild Project? I started in 2009 when I was working at Sakumlandela Primary School. When I found out about Earthchild Project I got interested since it has a great impact on kids. I fell in love with Earthchild. Us teachers, we weren’t forced to take part in ECP but I just felt like I am related to this. I saw the impact of it. When the children are going to Earthchild activities, they can’t wait. Whether they are going to yoga or they’re going to the garden or they’re going to worm farming, they get so excited. So I just wanted to experience what exactly it is that really excites them when they’re about to leave the classroom.
If I would say “no, you’re not allowed to go” you’d see their faces, they’d be furious. They would just answer ”miss, you can’t do this. Oh, please miss, whatever that you ask us to do tomorrow we will do it” because they would really want to go. I thought that I cannot deprive these children’s lives. I just want to free them and let them go to this.
I didn’t understand it at first so I attended the activities and I thought, “No wonder these kids are so free when they’re going to these activities.”, because it changes our minds, their minds and they feel different. The society we’re in, it’s a society that has a lot of noise. Some children come from homes that are abusive so when they are with Earthchild Project they really feel calm, they really feel different. So I got touched when I saw these kids loving it.
Noks [Yoga Facilitator with ECP] and the team decided that even teachers that were interested could go to yoga as well. It was twice a week. We felt calm. Sometimes we fell asleep.
Was this yoga only with the teachers? Only the teachers. We felt like every depression and every stress we had during that day disappeared. I’d feel light after that. As if everything was gone.
I had to change to a position at Yomelela Primary, so I said to Noks that this school would love to have these activities as well. Even if it’s only one class of yoga. I said that we don’t mind as long as Earthchild is doing something here in our school. I felt that it changed the kids lives. So I felt that if Earthchild could come here, the team could make a huge difference. So they came.
I was so grateful when they came.They firstly introduced yoga and later on they introduced worm farming and gardening. Within a short period of time, these children are like crazy with these programmes already. If they miss these programmes, they feel like some part of their life is missing because they didn’t attend yoga or they didn’t go to worm farming or they didn’t do gardening. It already has an impact on their lives.
The children even instruct themselves without my coaching. They can stand in front of each other and just continue with the yoga class. They don’t become so loud and they respect each other because they know that yoga is about that quietness, about yourself. You have to meditate, you have to concentrate so they respect each other.
This society, I am telling you, we are so challenged as teachers because you find that as much as we are teachers, sometimes we are social workers, we have to deal with the psychology part of the learners. The learners are coming from different homes that are so disadvantaged. So having opportunities like other children now when they attend the programmes, they forget everything that happens at home. They just focus. It’s so fantastic. I’m really grateful. When they asked me to talk at the AGM, I felt like I could talk the whole day because I really see the end products of Earthchild Project.
After having Vuyelwa tell me her Earthchild story, we had a little photo-shoot in the garden while talking more about the children at her school, the love for yoga, and what ECP is doing. It got me thinking…throughout my three months in Cape Town and with ECP, I have heard so many stories and seen so many excited faces. I believe we are all in need of having that little “extra” in our lives. Something that brings us away from old patterns and strict rules. Something that, instead, sets our spirits free and allows for creativity and emotional space. We humans are so much more than “just” students, teachers, interns, directors, managers, etc….we are multifaceted creatures and in some cases we need to learn how to set ourselves free. Thank you Vuyelwa for contributing to Earthchild Project and for giving this space to your students. I have a lot to learn from you.
Interview & Photos by Amanda Norrlander, Intern