KAYLA NIELSEN /// GLOW FOUNDER, HUMANITARIAN, YOGA TEACHER & TRAVELER
A little over a year ago I received an email from Kayla asking if I would be willing to host a donation-based yoga class to raise awareness and funding for her nonprofit organization, Go Light Our World. As we all know, the universe works in the most mysterious ways, and this email had found me at the perfect time. I was looking to add more service work into my life and although we had only chatted a few times via email, I instantly felt a connection with Kayla and the mission of the Go Light Our World Projects.
Like I said, Kayla and I have yet to meet face-to-face, but she’s one of those people who feel instantly like family. I could feel her positive energy radiating out through every email. She is honest and genuine and incredibly selfless. Her passion and drive to give are inspiring. At times I wonder if she ever sleeps, because she manages to juggle so many different roles with an astonishing ease and grace. She’s supportive and compassionate and exactly what comes to mind when I think of a Goddess. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this girl from Lake Tahoe, so read on to find out more about this Goddess and her Projects that are lighting up the world!
Name? Kayla Nielsen
Where are you from? I’m from a small town in the foothills of South Lake Tahoe called Placerville. I grew up in Northern California, and moved down south to San Diego for college when I was 18. Besides traveling the world, I’ve been living in San Diego on and off ever since.
What do you do? I like to say that my PAID job is a full-time, I specialize in children with special needs, learning disabilities, and social disorders. However, my passion work lies in the running my own non-profit organization called Go Light Our World (GLOW). I’m also a certified yoga teacher, leading private lessons, pop-up donation classes, and retreats purely as a fundraising source for GLOW rather than a source of income for myself.
How do you manage to juggle a busy schedule with so many roles? My yoga and meditation practice is certainly my sanctuary amidst the busyness of life. I have several other creative outlets like: making jewelry, writing, and aerial/cirque arts; which help to make keep me balanced.
#1 Daily Health Ritual you never skip? Handstanding! (preferably on the beach with a blazing sunset)
Talk about Go Light Our World. How did it begin? What sparked this drive to serve? What are your goals? I always knew I wanted to be a teacher since the time I was just a small child. What I didn’t know, however, was that I would abandon my dream of simply teaching within the confines of just four classroom walls soon after graduating from University. In 2010, I decided to take a year off before going back to school to earn my credentials. During this time, I went to Africa (Ghana) to teach in elementary and middle school English for three months.
My life was forever changed.
I realized my passion to help others was much fiercer than my desire to continue teaching. I never went back to school, but instead pursued my interest in the world of service by working for several local organizations; soaking up as much knowledge as possible in an effort to nourish my vision of one day starting a nonprofit of my own.
Ironically enough, GLOW– which is inspired by light- was actually born in the dark. During this same time, I was involved in an abusive relationship that ended explosively on my 24th birthday where I ended up in the hospital, and the guy in jail. After, another year of my life was dedicated to a court battle for justice.
And I lost.
I was consumed with negativity and bitterness. It was so comforting and familiar to be angry. A week after the verdict, on one of the countless snowy strolls with my dad, he set me straight by saying, “you can continue to let that relationship and that horrible incident to dictate your life by being sad or hurt or confused. Or, you can let it go, move on, and do whatever it is you want to do. You’re young, healthy and smart- you can do anything. You want to go back to Africa, and start your own non-profit? Then go. Do it. Your spirit can light the world if you let it, but you have to let go to move forward.”
So I did.
I bought a one-way ticket to Kenya, got an apartment, and began implementing GLOW‘s first projects immediately. At the time, my focus was not specifically on solar, but rather all sustainable solutions to poverty. Unfortunately, my dreams shattered once again as I was driven out of the country due to multiple hospitalizations to an unknown insect allergy. I was warned that these violent bouts of sickness would eventually lead to my own death should I chose to stay long-term. So, I allowed that dream to remain broken-by choice- without putting up the fight it so desperately deserved.
About nine months ago I decided to take my 10-year-long yoga practice to the next level by signing up for teacher training. During these months of self-examination and growth, I feltGLOW‘s light begin to burn a little brighter within me. Finally, to the point I could no longer ignore it. Despite what I conceived to be failures from my time in Kenya, I chose to resurrect my dream and pursue it full force in conjunction with completing my certification. Everything has progressed above & beyond what I ever could have imagined.I’m still in awe at the community that has formed as I walk along my undeniable path of truth. It’s been five years since the first time I stepped foot on the sacred soil that only the Motherland can claim.
Since then, I’ve been back five times, I’ve worked in four countries, and I’ve experienced love deeper than I’ve ever known before. The funny thing is, my childhood vision of being a teacher was true, after all. Maybe not in the traditional sense- as I don’t teach English or Math or Science. But I do teach love. And I do spread light.
As far as my goals go- well, I’m already living my dream but in real life- which is still sometimes a trip. I set specific goals in terms of NUMBERS, I wanted to raise enough money to distribute 1,000 lights in my first active year of operation, and I’m pretty proud to say that that number has almost DOUBLED, instead. Together, our generous community of donors has generated enough funding to provide clean, green, and limitless light to 1,800 rural homes across 5 different countries.
So, yeah, I’m really already living well beyond the confines of my goals- and I’m just open to both continually give and receive whatever is next as the organization grows.
What do you love most about being a “Goddess?” I love sharing pieces of my story and diving into the interconnectedness of all beings, all emotions, all instances in our lives which lead to another. I love to share about both the darkness AND the light- knowing that the brightness of my own flame wouldn’t be quite as luminous without first being nearly extinguished. I’m all about practicing mantras and positive affirmations throughout my daily life (and yoga practice, as well), but that’s not to say that I don’t fully embrace ALL emotions as they come. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far is to see each experience- and feelings from those experiences- as an OPPORTUNITY from which to learn. I’m just as grateful for the pain in my past as I am for the success in my present. And I know that the confidence I now have wouldn’t feel quite so sweet without first feeling the extreme opposite before. I’m not here to preach positivity without first acknowledging the negative, the difficult, and the sometimes downright heartbreaking instances of life, as well.
Best advice you’ve ever received? Probably from my dad on the day of that snowy mountain stroll
Best advice you can give to other women who want to change the world? Don’t doubt the power of your mind, the strength of your voice, or the ferocity of your heart. We are all meant to be heard. Speak.
Why do you think it’s important for women to empower other women? Because we RISE by LIFTING others, of course The same can be said from human to human, regardless of gender- we’re all walking each other home, so we might as well be companions before villains in another’s journey.
Any last words? I’m so honored to not only have the opportunity to share a little piece of myself and my organization, but also to have Caitlin as a long-standing backbone to this movement of LIGHT and LOVE without ever having even met one another in the flesh. It’s pretty wonderful to have the opportunity to connect and inspire one another even with oceans between.
If you would like to make a donation to the Go Light Our World Projects follow this link here. Be sure to Like GLOW on Facebook and Follow GLOW on Instagram to stay current with upcoming projects, events and retreats. Find Kayla on Instagram for some beautiful, positive and uplifting photos from her journeys around the globe.