YJ People’s Choice Seva Award scholarship nominee, Good Karma Awards
Director and Co-creator, Africa Yoga Project
When native New Yorker Paige Elenson was on safari in Africa in 2006, she saw young men doing handstands and decided to join them. “I had a true experience of feeling connected to people I didn’t know through the practice of yoga,” she says. In 2007, after they invited her back to teach them yoga, she was inspired to start the Africa Yoga Project (AYP) with famed yoga teacher Baron Baptiste “to educate, empower, elevate, and catalyze employment for African youth.”
AYP trains young, marginalized Africans to become yoga teachers and professionals, creating new economic opportunities for them by tapping into the multibillion-dollar global wellness industry. The organization’s goal is to unlock participants’ innate capacity to transform themselves and their communities and to make yoga’s wellness benefits accessible to low- and middle-income communities.
Today, through Africa Yoga Project, more than 6,000 people participate each month in more than 250 free community yoga classes a week across five countries in Africa. AYP provides scholarships to many of the people it trains, and it currently employs more than 100 young people who teach yoga throughout Kenya. The organization has also trained more than 200 teachers who live in other African countries, including South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Rwanda. “Close to a quarter million people per year throughout Africa get free yoga classes through our program,” Paige says. Up next: Opening six new social enterprises, including a yoga fashion company, a yoga retreat company, and a kids yoga program.