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In the face of the glaring lack of mental and emotional health programmes for South Africa’s children and youth, entrepreneur Juanita Naidoo Rea created eduSOIL, a social enterprise on a mission to make a difference. Today, it is helping the most vulnerable young members of society to deal with stress in their daily lives.

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What does your company do?

At eduSOIL we nurture the mental and emotional health of children and adults through holistic stress reduction with mindfulness, yoga and change-making programmes, predominantly in South Africa and India. eduSOIL is a hybrid social enterprise, comprising of eduSOIL Consultancy Pty LTD and eduSOIL Education NPC. We conduct for-profit programmes through eduSOIL Consultancy Pty LTD in the Education, Private, Healthcare and Corporate sectors that in turn fund eduSOIL Education NPC Social Development programmes in at-risk communities. We run a Holistic Stress Reduction Clinic at Mediclinic Morningside, Johannesburg and also conduct programmes at customer locations in Johannesburg, Durban, online and in India. Our services include Workshops, Courses, Retreats, Weekly classes, After-School programmes, Wellness days and Training in Mindfulness, Yoga and Change-making.

What inspired you to start your company?

I am Juanita and it took me 34 years to say the word rape out loud. My trauma is the root of my empathy and compassion for others in suffering. As a teacher, I helped students heal and learn through anxiety, distraction and difficulty, so it upsets me that 50% of students drop out of school and university each year in our dysfunctional system in South Africa, in the face of the glaring lack of mental and emotional health programmes for our children, our youth, for us all. In the initial four years (2011-2014) one of my team members and I, volunteered our services and products across 8 countries, with a primary focus on at-risk communities. During this time individuals, NGOs, schools and businesses who had direct experiences of the benefits of our services asked us to offer them commercially.  In 2014, I realised that instead of running a voluntary association, creating a social enterprise would sustain not just the team, but also increase our social impact by providing commercial services. Hence, the birth of the hybrid social enterprise called eduSOIL - because we believe Everyone Discovers Ubiquitous Seeds Of Infinite Love, when they have access to a safe space to experience Mindfulness, Yoga and Change-making and learn how to Pause, Breathe and Heal.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

We all experience stress and need help to feel healthy, heartful and whole. This is evident in a range of sectors. In the Private and Social Development Sector, at least 3 million children in South Africa are affected by toxic stress and experience loss of development potential. An estimated 21 South Africans commit suicide daily, with stress being a significant contributing factor. In the Education Sector, the prevalence of stress-related illnesses was 15.6% for hypertension in a cross-sectional study of 21,307 educators from public schools, and depression affects as many as one in every 33 children, also interfering in their development. In the Healthcare Sector, as many as one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety and depression, while even mild depression reduces motivation to follow treatment plans. 57.14% of Allied Health Professionals suffer from emotional exhaustion due to extreme demands of the healthcare environment. In the Corporate Sector, employee absenteeism costs the South Africaneconomy between R12-16 billion annually, largely attributed to workplace stress, burn-out and employee ill health. The statistics go on. Let's face it. We all face some form of stress which affects how we live our lives. Children and adults lack access to holistic stress reduction interventions that nurture their mental and emotional health, while suffering from a range of stress-related conditions like anxiety, depression, fatigue, burn-out, ill-health, inattentiveness and reactivity to difficult emotions and situations.

Tell us a little about your team

We have a diverse range of professionals from South Africa and India serving on our boards. In South Africa we have a holistic development expert, an attorney, a financial manager, a specialist physician, a pharmacist and entrepreneur, a school teacher and a former corporate executive turned social entrepreneur. In India we have an ethical marketing entrepreneur and consultant, a film-maker and an operations and communications executive. We are a team of 3 full time staff members, including myself. The other 2 support the eduSOIL garden all the way from India through their digital marketing, communications, planning, operations and CSI assistance.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

When I look back at my journey, I see school teacher, spiritual aspirant and social entrepreneur as stages along the way. I have 11 years of teaching experience at government and international schools in South Africa, South Korea, the UK and the Philippines. Waking up to my inner voice, I then left my job and life as I knew it and spent the next few years teaching secular meditation in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, South Africa and the Philippines as a spiritual renunciant. eduSOIL seemed to create itself, driven by a wish to empower learners to ignite a love for learning and realize their true nature. There was no business plan, budget or charged services or products. The motivation to help drove all activities and within 3 years, I had worked with about 35 volunteers in 7 countries to engage roughly 6000 children and adults in secular meditation. eduSOIL has become a hybrid social enterprise that provides mental and emotional health programmes through Holistic Stress Reduction-with Mindfulness Yoga and Change-making programmes. I have received Spark* Change-maker (2015) and LifeCo UnLtd (2016) awards, receiving financial and non-financial for my social enterprise.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

eduSOIL aspires to nurture the mental and emotional health of children and adults in multiple sectors through Holistic Development Programmes and Holistic Stress Reduction Clinics. We aim to provide ME time e-learning tools to schools and the general public; engage unemployed youth as trainers, agents and franchisees with tablet-hosted curriculum; and grow eduSOIL Schools where we teach Gardening, Entrepreneurship, Mindfulness and Compassion alongside sport and academics, so we may take some ME time to pause….breathe….and heal. At eduSOIL we believe in a world where everyone is healthy, heartful and whole - a world where children and adults are empowered by holistic practices and reformed policies in the Education, Healthcare and Social Development Sectors, that enable access to training in Mindfulness, Yoga and Change-making and other Holistic Development curricular that promote mental and emotional health.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

The moments when children and adults pause, breathe and heal. To get to those moments, my team and I need to swim through an ocean of barriers and to summit a mountain of impossibilities. Those moments drove me towards the actions required to launch a hybrid social enterprise and learn how to manage it. As a hybrid social enterprise that nurtures the mental and emotional health of children and adults, through mindfulness, yoga and change-making, those moments are what I live for.

What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

Ask your heart. Ask yourself every single day, what is it that is most precious to you-what are you alive for? Interrogate yourself. Find all your faults and see them as unpolished diamonds. Love yourself enough to see and speak the truth. Then do everything that is possible and impossible to make it happen. Live each day as you die at any moment. Start today, in this moment-it is all you have.

Source: Lionesses of Africa