I have known Sithule Biyela since our days together at Playing for Peace (now PeacePlayers International). I have always admired Sithule's commitment and passion for helping others but also her focus on health and wellness. Sithule has continued working on her personal fitness while also looking for a break in the fitness industry.
I met up with our friends at Africa Yoga Project earlier this year and they were kind enough to invite Sithule to apply for their scholarship which she won. We launched a fundraising campaign and with the generous support of our friends we were able to get Sithule to Kenya for her training. One of our major beliefs is in providing access and opportunities for youth to reach their potential and we are proud to make this possible for Sithule.
Sithule spent 200 hours training in Kenya to become a yoga instructor. Sithule is now back in South Africa looking for ways of impacting communities through yoga but also deliver yoga sessions to clients.
Thank you to everyone that contributed to our funding campaign to get her to Kenya. We are now helping Sithule teach yoga and sustain herself.
Read about her trip to Kenya below.
“No one makes it on their own”
My name is Sithule Biyela, I grew up in Lamontville, a township in Durban, South Africa. I have loved sports and being physically active ever since I can remember. As a young girl growing up, I thrived in doing activities that were not as accessible to other girls. I have always wanted to be in the health and wellness industry, even before I knew what these words meant. You see, as a young girl one did not see the health and wellness as a career.
Over the years, I have worked with some amazing organisations largely focusing on sport as a tool for community development. This kept me connected with my passion of using sport to help others.
However, I have always wanted to do something more, to be in the fitness industry and to do something different. Recently, I got an amazing opportunity through Reach Sports to apply for the Africa Yoga Project scholarship to learn to teach yoga. I applied and I was awarded a scholarship. Although, I did not know much about yoga and did not have the finances to get to Kenya, I trusted that this opportunity would be good for me.
On the 26 March I travelled to Kenya to gain my qualification as a yoga teacher. I was a bit scared to travel to Kenya because I didn't know anyone there, I was the only one from South Africa and it was my first time travelling out of the country, but I told myself to be strong and to go for it because I wanted this opportunity.
I flew to Nairobi and I was pleased that the Africa Yoga Project had arranged a driver for me to travel to the hotel. We were welcomed to AYP and introduced to the project and got to interact with other participants.
The following day out teacher training started. It was amazing being a yoga studio with around 180 people from 15 countries, learning the principles of yoga. The training was intense and challenging, we started at 8:00 in the morning and finished at 21:30 at night. I have never sweated like that in my life but I told my self that I know what I came for, so I'm not going when its hard, I'm going to push hard and work hard until I complete the training. There were times where it was so hard that some other participants quit. I knew that quitting was simply not an option for me; I have just come too far to give up.
The first week was an eye opener for me, being surrounded by wonderful people who care about making a difference and who were willing to share how yoga can help people was inspiring. I gained invaluable lessons such as learning to let go of the things that's were holding me back. It was a great experience for me, learning new things, making new friends, sharing ideas and learning to trust people. It also gave me a chance to grow as an individual and to be more self-confident.
On the second week, we travelled to Amboseli National Park, which is a 5-hour drive from Nairobi. People in Kenya are very lovely, they have Ubuntu ( a way of being that appreciates, respects and values humanity). Kenya is so beautiful, I loved it and I loved the way people are. When I got to Amboseli I felt so connected with that place since I love nature. We stayed in Safari Kilima Camp, which is so beautiful, and from my hotel I could see Kilimanjaro Mountain, elephants, giraffes, Zebras and all sorts of animals very close. It was like a dream passing that was like a dream to me.
On one of the days we went to national park in the morning, then visited the Maasai village. They had a school that was build but not painted and inside there were desks for kids to sit, then when we get there the Maasai community gave us a warm welcome and we got to do some volunteering work. This was an amazing experience, because I like to make a difference in other people's lives, making them think positively. When we finished volunteering I felt so good and I was happy because I knew that I made a small difference.
I believe in helping other people. To see the community happy the way they were after we finished helping out was amazing to me. Then they took us into their homes because they wanted us to see how they live with their families. I marvelled at how much they loved and took care of each other. I really respected them a lot and they are very strong.
During the last week of the training I also got a chance to experience new things, like travelling with the locals on matatus, which is not too dissimilar to taxis in South Africa. It was great and amazing.
I would like to thank all those who contributed to making my dream a reality. I am really grateful for all the wonderful support and this has truly been life-changing experience for me. That was my great and amazing experience about travelling to Kenya. I believe that in the end of each journey is a new beginning for new opportunities and new experience. I am looking forward to using my experiences to make.
At Reach Sports we are committed to giving youth access and opportunities to realise their potential on and off the sports field. In February, we had a training opportunity in Malaysia and enrolled a talented young South African facilitator to co-deliver with us.
Katlego Malaka, is an intelligent young man from Alexandra township, south of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is quiet, and unassuming. If you did not know any better you would not think he was a facilitator. However, give him an opportunity to work with people and he comes alive. His sheer love, enthusiasm and commitment to improving others and learning is refreshing. In Malaysia, we got to work with him and he was INSPIRING.
We asked Katlego to share his experiences:
Life has a way of giving us back for the good that we do to help others. I have been involved in sports facilitation for over 7 years, sharing my knowledge and skills with youth across South Africa. One of my greatest dreams was to facilitate outside South Africa.
When I got invited to join #TeamReach in Malaysia, I thought I was dreaming. I asked myself why me? Especially considering my upbringing and the fact that I have never facilitated internationally before. I had many fears and doubts, such as, what if I was not good enough? What if I let Mthoko down? What if I can’t do what he thinks I can do? However, on my way to the airport, I told myself that I was chosen amongst a group of great youth facilitators. I knew he must have seen something positive in me to give me this opportunity. I was flying to Malaysia to grow myself and help grow Reach Sports.
We at Reach Sports knew that we had made the right choice. We had selected Katlego from a group of youth leaders we have worked with and the skills he has demonstrated in leading and facilitating projects. We believe in his potential and knew we could trust him in working with important partners.
Malaysia was life changing in many ways and I felt like a child in a toy store, discovering all these gifts I had and the beauty of experiencing a new culture. I do not know anyone in my community who has been to Malaysia. The people and culture in Malaysia are extraordinary. I enjoyed that people of Malaysia believe in sharing. I learnt that people of Malaysia pray a lot even in schools they encourage their kids to pray. In South Africa I have witnessed Gender Based Violence against woman, the culture in Malaysia is set up in a way that woman are respected and are given equally opportunities as man. I grew up in a community where young people don’t respect elders and vice versa, but in Malaysia it was a different case, everyone respects one another regardless of their age, race, religion or gender.
Reach Sports was in Malaysia to deliver a training workshop for army veterans and teachers. The training was aimed at using the power of games and play to teach life skills in schools across Malaysia. This ambitious programme involves multiple stakeholders from the government, schools, community to create a programme that helps young people learn about 5 core values in a safe environment. The values are: Confidence, Integrity, Resilience, Teamwork and Respect.
We facilitated sessions to a group of veterans and teachers who were amazingly receptive. This was a fantastic learning experience for me and I was privileged to work alongside Mthoko. I learnt a lot about how to work with stakeholders, manage a bigger group and different ways in which you can get your message across to a large group of people who are speaking a different language. I valued the importance the veterans and teachers placed on gaining knowledge and this helped understand the importance of ensuring that as a facilitator I was skilled enough to be able to share the right information, in the right manner and at the appropriate time. I also gained new skills, different content and delivery methods around creating fun and interactive spaces for participants. The most important part was the feedback I received from, the training participants and Mthoko which I found to be constructive and helpful for my growth and development.
With the help of Katlego, Reach Sports was able to deliver training to close to 150 veterans and teachers over four days. We are grateful to our partners in Malaysia for the opportunity to work in Malaysia.
Although we had early starts and sometimes finished working in the early evenings, Malaysia was not all work. I got to make new friends that I would never have had the opportunity to meet. I also discovered I was an adventurous foodie, who is not afraid to try different cuisines. I was exposed to and enjoyed Malaysian traditional food a lot, they cook their rice and chicken so well. I got a chance to try Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Thai, foods I have never tried before. My favourite foods I tried were the Malaysian fruit called Durian, and a fried frog. I never thought I could eat frog, but it was fantastic, it tasted like 'chicken'.
I am an organised and an honest person, which has helped me follow a path of leadership development and facilitation. As a goal-oriented person, I am passionate about helping others to achieve their own goals. I am a strong believer in leading by example. To demand excellence from others one must strive for excellence in themselves. My community is very important to me and I want to ensure that my work contributes to improving my community. I always wanted to travel around the world and learn about what works well in other countries and how I could apply this in Alexandra and other communities around South Africa.
I believe the opportunity to travel to Malaysia will open more doors for me in South Africa and internationally in terms of facilitation. This opportunity has cemented my commitment to help others.
I would like to inspire youth in South Africa and beyond, to engage in Sports for Development activities. They don’t necessary have to coach but they can teach their peers about the importance of using fun and engaging physical sports activities to help kids learn about more than just sport.
We celebrate the power of sport to make a difference in communities around the world.