Storm Joy Cookson uses yoga and mindfulness to help heal children living on the Cape Flats, where gangsterism and crime are prevalent.
The 23-year-old, who hails from Heideveld, owns Joy Ventures through which she runs a yoga practice. She works with an NGO named 2nd Chance which helps empower teenagers through various programmes.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 700 000 people die by suicide every year. That's an average of one person every 40 seconds. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds globally.
In South Africa, 9% of all teenage deaths are due to suicide and the numbers are increasing.
The NGO supports youngsters through behavioural programmes aimed at helping teens make better choices and offers coping strategies.
Cookson runs trauma-informed programmes at schools in Cape Town for the NGO. She also includes the use of mindfulness during yoga in her programmes.
“I educate the youth on understanding what trauma is so that they can recognise it,” she said.
“I then equip them with healthy coping mechanisms once we’ve established different types of trauma.”
From 2018 to 2019, she worked as a social auxiliary work intern at the trauma centre for survivors of violence and torture within the Department of Social Development.
It was here that she gained the vital foundation for the work in the NGO space.
Cookson was motivated to make a change and cross the barriers for healing in her community. Heideveld is an impoverished area plagued by gangsterism.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and this was my chosen outlet for fulfilling my dream,” she said.
Her goal is to inspire young people to see the best in themselves.
“It all starts within. Healing is important and that can only begin when we understand what’s blocking us from moving forward, or understanding the limiting beliefs we have,” she said.
“I want more people to see their inherent value by becoming change-makers and acting upon it,” she added.
Kimberley Reynecke is a former Norman Henshilwood High School pupil who attended a series of workshops with Cookson.
Reynecke said she learnt invaluable lessons from Cookson relating to various topics.
“She taught us about how to deal with sexual harassment, standing up for yourself and how to stand up for others,” she said.
She added: “She instilled self-motivation in me and taught me how to do affirmations and notice positive aspects of myself.
“I was in matric when she had these workshops with us and I felt so empowered because no one taught me the importance of valuing myself before then.”
The 19-year-old said one of the things that stuck with her was how important it is to be your own person.
“I remember her saying that just because your friends are cool with some things, doesn’t mean you have to be,” she said.
“That’s a vital lesson because so many things are accepted because everyone is doing it. That gave me the courage to speak up if I don’t agree with something,” she added.
“My friends and I were able to open up to her and be vulnerable because of the guidance she offered us.”
Cookson started her business, Joy Ventures, 11 months ago.
Her vision for the business was to provide a holistic experience to her clients.
“There are three elements to this. I want to make yoga accessible and affordable. Secondly, there are holistic healing walks for ladies once a month,” she said.
She added: “The third element is affordable and accessible functional gear, which I sell.”
The Heideveld-born yoga instructor said she recalls never having good wellness role models in her community, and she wanted to change that.
“Yoga was something holistic that resonated with me because it focuses on the mind, body and emotions,” she said.
She completed her training through Tegan B Yoga school over six months, where she hustled hard to pay the R26 000 fees.
“This was a big deal because I don’t earn a lot and never thought I could do this, but I saved parts of my salary and started selling hiking gear for women,” she said.
Cookson said she wants people to know that their breathing and emotions have an intimate relationship.
“You can’t separate the two. Being aware of these two is a doorway to understanding what you’re dealing with,” she said.
“Our breath is a tool we can use to regulate our emotions and our bodies is a tool we can use to process our emotions,” she added.