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The power of stories-Why this project was born

Oftentimes we talk about Africa as if it was only one country, forgetting that it is a continent constituted by 54 countries, with all their singularities: the colors of their landscapes, their cultures, theirs richness, their people and the stories of those people, like yours and mine.

This is how the script of this project’s trailer starts and it’s the best way we found to contextualize the project.

To explain why the Sierra Leone Yoga Project was born, we have to tell you three stories

The story of Tamba Fayia (T-Man) a Sierra Leone’s civil-war survivor who overcame his trauma through the practice of yoga and showed hundreds of people how to start to get over their own traumas.

The story of Ana, a Spanish development worker who arrived to Sierra Leone to work for a project and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share her passion for yoga with that community.

And the stories of Fanta, Mahmudu, Saccoh, Alie, Mohamed, Abu… a group of youngsters from the small town of Kabala who, in 2013, were studying their senior year in high-school and after class gathered to study, support each other and to discuss about their topics of interest.      

One common thread linked these stories together, and it was yoga.

In November 2013 Ana contacted T-Man, yoga teacher and visible head of “Yoga Strength Sierra Leone”, and discussed with him about finding a way of creating a bigger community of yoga practitioners around the country. He was the only yoga teacher of the country at that time and he taught classes in the studio they had in the National Stadium in Freetown, as well as in the slums and in a mental hospital. Both were convinced that yoga was a tool that could be useful to strengthen communities, empower practitioners, promote a healthy lifestyle and it could even become an income source in the future. 

In January 2014, the first 4 students, young boys and girls from Kabala, started practicing with Ana. During six months they had two or three practices per week on the terrace of a guest house overlooking the town and surrounding mountains, the group grew to 15-20 students per session and the interest about yoga kept on increasing. 

During the months of summer of 2014 the Ebola outbreak that started in Guinea Conakry (the biggest outbreak in history) expanded to the neighboring countries, including Sierra Leone. Many projects had to stop because of health security reasons, including ours. Ana abandoned the country, reunions were forbidden to prevent the risk of contagion, so classes in schools and universities were cancelled, and of course, so were the yoga classes.

In December 2014, T-Man got sick, he couldn’t be treated on time because the health system was totally collapsed by the Ebola outbreak and he passed away.

All his work and the hopes for the yoga community in Sierra Leone seamed to fall apart and it felt that all his ideas would be forgotten.

Luckily after some time and thanks to one of the students reaching out to Ana, we discovered that they hadn’t forgotten T-man, that they had kept on practicing what they remembered from the yoga classes and that they sometimes shared the practice with other people from their communities. 

These are the reasons why Sierra Leone Yoga Project was born: we want the yoga community that rose between 2013 and 2014 in Sierra Leone to not disappear, and to keep on growing. We want to continue writing this story.  

Our goal- Expected results

Strengthening the yoga community in Sierra Leone.

-At least 10 young men and women from different regions of Sierra Leone will become yoga teachers, they will be empowered to share their knowledge and even generate some income by teaching private or group classes. 

-A documentary movie will be recorded during the whole process to give visibility to the situation faced by people in Sierra Leone (especially young people) and to show how yoga can be a tool for self-knowledge, self-empowerment and community cohesion. 

Our plan-Activities description

Stage I

At this Stage, Ana Cortés (the yoga teacher who started the classes in Kabala) and Iris Rangil (photographer and videographer) will travel to Sierra Leone with the following goals:

-Meeting with all the former yoga students, monitoring how their practices and their teaching skills have evolved and give some workshops for them to improve their own practice. 

-Visiting the yoga communities in Freetown and nearby regions to identify candidates for the teacher-training program and hosting classes for them.

-Establishing a place to set up the teacher-training program (if possible with accommodation facilities in order to provide a place to stay for the future trainees). 

-Shooting video and photographic content that will help the project advance through to the next stages and will, as well, make society aware of Sierra Leone’s youth situation. 

Stage II

The second stage will have the following goals:

-Yoga Students in Sierra Leone: keep up practicing and sharing the practice in order to improve the quality and not to forget the things learned during Stage I.

-Edition and release of the first documentary.

-Using the documentary as a means to get sponsors for Stage III.

-Preparing the materials for the teacher-training program and finding the adequate teachers who are willing to go to Sierra Leone in Stage III.

Stage III

This Stage will be prepared in-depth during Stage II and its main goals will be:

-Hosting a Teacher-Training Program in Sierra Leone for at least 10 boys and girls from different regions of the country, who will become yoga teachers and will be empowered to share their knowledge with those in need and help them earn their own livelihood by teaching private or group classes. 

-The second part (but most important one) of the documentary will be recorded and edited. This documentary movie will give visibility to the situation faced by people in Sierra Leone (especially young people) and show how yoga can be a tool for self-knowledge, self-empowerment and community cohesion. 

If you have any question about the project, any suggestions or you want to collaborate, do not hesitate to contact us!