Members of the Movement: Maura Manzo

At buildOn, we celebrate the creative and adventurous steps that members of the buildOn movement take to support education and service at home and abroad. Our ‘Members of the Movement’ series highlights the vital work of these supporters are doing to help empower youth and end the education crisis. Meet Maura Manzo, co-founder of the Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Training in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and longtime buildOn supporter, as she shares her reflections from her recent trip to Malawi. 

Finding Family in Chitu Village


Meet my host family, the best host family yet. From left to right: Kingster (16), Tiwonge (12), James (6), Collings (8), Debolah (4) and Agness (19).

I called our house the Peter Pan house. As I sat with Agness one night, attempting to help her with dinner, I had the realization that Brittany Policastro, the co-founder of Beyond Asana, and I were being taken care of by children. It was the truth.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had with a host family. We’ve never stayed with a family that had this many kids. And these kids were amazing. They’d meet us at the end of the day and walk us home. They made our dinner. They cleaned the bugs out of our room. They learned to sign Boy George’s Karma Chameleon (long story). There were games and laughing and singing and dancing every night. With at least another 10 kids joining us.

Shortly after my realization about living out our version of the Lost Boys story, I realized the actual heartbreak of the situation. Our family lost their mother in November. Dad was still very much grieving. He’d work all day, come home, eat and go to bed. Agness and Kingster were forced to grow up very quickly to run the household. Debolah (the youngest) barely spoke a peep, until the dance circles formed, at which time she began to open up.

Joy and heartbreak, side by side. Thus is life. These treks always make the duality glaringly obvious.

Maura Manzo is a co-creator of the Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Training and the co-founder of Yoga Home in Pennsylvania. She is a dedicated buildOn supporter and has been on four school building trips with buildOn, most recently to Malawi in February 2015. Maura is deeply committed to building community, personal growth and global travel. Learn more about joining next year’s Beyond Asana Teacher Training and school building trip to Haiti here.