rags to richesSometimes we meet people who remind us to stop whining about our lives.
Amidst unemployment, factory farming, poverty, global warming and all the other awful stuff going on in the world, there are still people who believe change is possible.
Paige Elenson is one of those people.
Africa Yoga Project
In 2007 Paige moved to Africa where she created the Africa Yoga Project, an organization that employs local Kenyan youth to teach yoga classes in their own communities. In a country where millions live on less than $2 a day and unemployment rates are at nearly 50 percent, this is no small feat.
The project takes youth from a life in the slums (literally), to a life of empowerment and liberation. Paige teaches lifestyle tools, such as adopting a vegan diet and learning power yoga, to more than 3,000 students per week -- at no cost to them. Most of these individuals are struggling to survive, living in unstable environments and have little food to eat.
kidsNew York to Nairobi
A native New Yorker and former Wall Street consultant, Paige seems an unlikely candidate for life in one of the poorest areas of Africa, but as I accompanied her on the bumpy dirt roads outside Nairobi to visit a school she had built, it was clear from the joy in her eyes that she is living her dharma and not looking back.
Philanthropy in Practice
Her school was filled with a swarm of giddy children awaiting their weekly yoga class. In a room smaller than most American bedrooms, they stood on tattered mats that had been donated from around the world.
At one point, a little girl rose up to teach part of the class. As she spoke with the poise and command of a seasoned professional, calling out updogs and downdogs like nobody's business, I realized that she would grow up with the grace, confidence and skills to express herself that every little girl deserves.
Becoming healthy -- both in mind and body -- isn't always an easy path. When we become conscious of our choices, we also become painfully aware of what's still broken. A new vegan feels discouraged in a family of meat-eaters. An overweight mom realizes how hard it is to squeeze in time for exercise. A hopeful environmentalist gets discouraged by the reality of disappearing rainforests.
In the slums of Africa, people like Paige remind us of one core truth about personal transformation and social change: no pain, no gain.
Following our dreams, whether they're big or small, is often the most radical and fabulous thing we can do with our time on this planet. It's the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others. If you need some further inspiration, you can volunteer in Kenya with Paige or support Africa Yoga Project by visiting www.africayogaproject.org.
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