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Ali Humanitarian Awardee Paige Elenson On The Africa Yoga Project

Africa Yoga Project

This week, I’ll be talking with the 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awardees. We start with Paige Elenson, who will accept the Ali Humanitarian Award for global citizenship at the ceremony next weekend.

Elenson is being honored for her work co-founding the Africa Yoga Project, a movement that empowers the youth and women of Kenya to learn, contribute, and change their lives through yoga. A native New Yorker, Elenson moved to Africa in 2007. You can hear our conversation in the media player above.

On what she's learned from working with young Kenyans, and the impact she's made:

“That experience of understanding how happy you can be inside — even when outside circumstances are so challenging and difficult — really was my own introduction into my own yoga practice. Being open to be self-resilient, being open to happiness coming from the inside — they taught me more than I'll ever teach them.

"But what I was able to offer them was my own experience on how to be successful in the well-being industry. And in Kenya, there's a 70 percent youth unemployment rate and many youth are hustling to make a dollar a day. Since that first trip 10 years ago, I've been living here and we've trained over 200 yoga teachers and our graduates from our training program — our three-year training program — make about seven times more than minimum wage. So, they're making $10, $15, $20, $30 a day when most people are making a dollar or two a day hustling."

On what it means to be recognized by the Ali Center:

"I have to be honest: It means a lot more to me today than he did when I found out about it because I've been spending almost every day learning about Muhammad Ali's work. And each and every day I find out more about Muhammad Ali, I'm more blown away and honored by the recognition."

The Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards ceremony will be held at the Marriott Louisville Downtown, Saturday, September 23. 

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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