AS a yoga enthusiast trained in Kenya, Gergentia Brandi Shoombe decided to plough back in her community and established the vibrant Oshana Yoga Club, a non-profit organisation that takes yoga to those previously disadvantaged as a form of healing and fitness. While yoga to many is a slow-paced stretching fest with a bit of deep breathing added into the mix, for those associated with the club discipline is essence. In an interview with Confidente recently, Shoombe talks about her love for yoga, growing up in exile and owning a company that does alternative medicine to healing.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I am Gergentia aka Brandi Shoombe, a child of the veterans, born in Lubango, Angola during the liberation struggle of Namibia. I am a mother, a yogi, a sister, a daughter, and a community outreach activist. I am a self-starter and founder of Fulla holistic massage, home based company that does alternative medicine to healing including trauma/ counselling and Oshana yoga club a non-profit organisation that helps take yoga to the previously disadvantages as a form of healing and fitness recreational activity.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I was raised by my father. I did not have much memory of my mother. She left when I was a baby to study in Germany. I was very fortunate to have my father with me as having his love around nurtured me into a confident little girl. My father is blind and lost his arm due to war. I was always fascinated by how the man would walk day and night by himself, he knew the roads he travelled and he was not one for pity parties. That really taught me to understand that “one doesn’t always need eyes to see” and that eyes are useless if the soul is blind”. Dad did it all. He taught me to care for myself at a very young age. I could cook for myself, clean the house, wash my clothes, go to school and back before I was five. I remember I even burned part of our house in Kwanza-sul trying to cook. Because of my dad, I am a go getter, I am confident and believe in my own inner ability and God given talents. Because of him I raise my voice, I have an opinion and I know sometimes that is all I need with a little of courage to live the life I want.
Tell us about the establishment of Oshana yoga club?
I established Oshana yoga club on the 21 of June 2015 in Oshakati. OYC is a non-profit organisation that grew out of my passion for yoga and community philanthropy work. This passion was sparked by Africa Yoga Project while doing my yoga teacher’s training in Nairobi in early 2015. Upon my return, I had to make a choice to start the community work in Windhoek or in Oshana region. I believe that charity must always begin at home, so I decided I am moving out of the city. This desire in me grew even more when people told me Wambo people will never understand this lifestyle of mine, of yoga, meditation and vegetarianism. The more they said that, the more I was convinced. I decided to just do it for three months at first. But to my surprise, I ended up staying 11 months because I just couldn’t believe how much it grew. I went from having 14 people in my first class to 50 plus kids in the class. What I started doing with the OYC is mainly yoga with the kids. We did not have a venue but I connected with Sissy for Omaleshe who is doing great work with communities in Oshana. I was inspired. With no yoga mats, I will go and teach children yoga, nutrition and sometimes have fruit parties. I do outreach to the school of the deaf (Eluwa in Ongwediva) volleyball kids’ team, Omaleshe, and Oneshila i n f o r m a l settlement. Especially in the informal settlement, I saw a lot improvement as the kids grew to love yoga.
What changes have you seen in those associated with the club?
You see with yoga one has to tap into a self-inquiry state, especially how authentic we live and finding our austerity, integrity and we follow the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. There is no way one practices yoga and not attain self-discipline. With that in mind I saw kids grow from being grumpy, sad to shining and smiling. I did not feel like I was doing much, I just wanted to spend my time living selfless and helping kids to detach from habits which could otherwise interfere with their inner growth. I just wanted to start something that was not only helping me, but others without expecting nothing back. There is a saying, ‘if you want to find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others. Being one who had major issues finding myself in Namibia after moving from Angola, I could not have picked a better outreach settlement like Oneshila where I can relate to the life they live there. The changes were very much visible amongst the kids I outreached to.
What are challenges and opportunities facing the club?
The challenges I faced with Oshana Yoga is lack of support. It is like having many mouths to feed but so little food and so few hands to do the cooking. There were centres I could use in the north to avoid travelling long distances and save money, but the centres that are put up for youthful activities were being mostly rented out for churches/weddings and in this mix also sometimes they will ask me to pay an hourly rate for community work. Due to this, a lot of kids that could be helped by this initiative were left out. Another challenge is, there is no care for the caregiver. There seems to be no or little recognition for volunteers in our communities. Nobody is advocating for their needs and in the end, these good projects’ lifespan is under threat all the time. Just because I do volunteer work does not exempt me from paying for my rent, electricity, food or medical bills and school fees. One person can only do so much, but community activism and social responsibility must include all of us. There are so many companies with social responsibilities just on papers but you never see it out there. It is time both the private sector and Government support the chain for change from the grassroots and not just from the top.
What has life taught you that you wish to share with others?
Life has taught me to be humble, and to listen, especially to my own thoughts. Life has taught me that I am no island and because of this, I have learned to be kind to people I do not even know, especially when in need. I have learned not to feel sorry for my life or my situations and to face my weakness boldly with authenticity. I have learned to embrace my past, letting go and recognise my strength in the now. I have learned to appreciate people in my life, and I know now that no one can help everyone but everyone can help someone. I have learned, laughter is the best medicine and tears are not a sign of weakness but of life.
What advice do you have for the youth?
My advice to the youths out there is to find peace of mind in the world that is so busy turning all of us into robotic consumers. Our minds are cluttered with material needs, things that really don’t serve the soul. We are constantly accumulating material things to impress people we do not really like, things that connect us to the world so far away yet taking us further away from people closer to us. There has not been a lonelier generation than ours. Take a moment to become more conscious, take a moment to be more aware before deciding on aiming on higher income and living with lower morals. The youth must know that situations change, nothing is permanent. Within you there is a uniqueness that is willing to come out, your harmony, peace, love, joy and wellbeing is born within you. Make a decision to make a change in your life, make a choice to make a difference. Be that change that you want to see in the world.
Just what do you do for a little fun?
Spending time with my son and daughter any day is fun time for this mom. Getting to see the world through their eyes is just fun for me. Travelling and visiting temples is always on the top of my fun list. Dancing, and good food plus yoga and yoga retreats is what I can’t have enough of.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015