Athleta Model-Athlete and yoga instructor Taylor Horton shares the inspiring story of her volunteer work with Kusewera at an orphanage in Malawi, Africa and the transformative power of yoga.
Tell us about how you got your start as a volunteer with Kusewera.
I was inspired by the tribal artwork hanging in my agent Karen Osborn’s office. After five minutes of discussing her work in Malawi, I became dedicated to the idea of joining her efforts. Africa had been a dream of mine since early childhood, and my mother had always hoped we could go and serve there together. With each visit to Malawi, our goal is to present and teach the kids life skills through sports and creative play clinics.
We were baking cookies at the village and while we waited the girls asked if we could practice yoga. I was thrilled! I took the girls through a ten-minute sequence and explained to them that yoga can be practiced anytime, any day, any place–and that each one of them had the power, within their breath, to change the course of their day. We all bowed to one another, gave hugs and high fives, and enjoyed our cookies.
How do you see yoga as a way to educate and empower?
It was incredible to see progress in just one class at the yoga clinic. Yoga ignites a power inside each of us – the question is, will you run towards the fire or away from it? This power is progress, from a micro-cellular level to one’s perspective on the day. If yoga were a staple of physical education in schools around America, I honestly believe children would grow up to be more healthy and disciplined in their habits, reflecting gratitude, love and self respect.
“Yoga ignites a power inside each of us – the question is, will you run towards the fire or away from it?”
Did you run into any challenges while on the trip?
It’s especially challenging to accept the lack of basic necessities available for the 170 kids at the village. It truly weighs me down to consider all the resources we have at home while these kids lack so much.
What was your biggest takeaway, or something new that you learned from this trip?
This summer proved to me that I must keep faith in human influence. I believe that technology has created a disconnect among Americans, and I hope to combat that by inspiring community activities, travel and service. I believe face-to-face interaction is the best way to progress as a person. The purpose is to serve, to exchange emotions and culture, to laugh and love with beautiful humans far different than those we know.
Do you see yourself returning to Malawi? How would you encourage others to get involved?
My future includes several trips to Malawi, as our non-profit has recently purchased 12 acres of land on which we’ll build a Kusewera Community Center and Sports Complex in 2016. I’m ecstatic to help build this facility and revisit my favorite faces for years to come. Through word of mouth we are encouraging people from all walks of life to join us, as we hope to make an impact on one of the poorest regions in the world.
Learn more about Kusewera and how you can get involved here.
Kusewera photos by Bryan Geli