Anona Community: Meet our founder, Chongo Bwalya

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

Anona Wellness Profile: 7/10


PART ONE: Getting Familiar with Chongo

1. Tell us about yourself!

My name is Chongo Bwalya and I'm a 24 year old trying to figure out my life! Professionally, I studied Accounting & Finance at Carleton University, and I've been working within the accounting/consulting industry for the last two years. Aside from that, I fell in love with yoga two years ago, and I'm currently in training to become a certified yoga teacher (I graduate in a month!).

2. What does your typical day look like? Do you have any hobbies or special interests? What do you like to do for fun?

These days, my life is all over the place, so there's no real 'typical day'. However, a typical day usually involves full time work, doing some form of work out/yoga class after work, and studying. Sometimes I swap the workout and studying to hang out with friends, volunteer, or watch makeup videos on youtube.

In terms of hobbies, I really love physical exercise and I really love yoga, and most of my free time is spent doing either of those things. I try to travel at least once per year and I love trying different cuisines. I also love being around people in different social situations.

3. How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?

My dreams have changed a lot. When I was younger, I got really into health/fitness and decided I wanted to be a nutritionist. In grade 11, I decided to shift to accounting, and in university, I always thought I'd work for a big consulting firm and then somehow become the CEO of a big company.

It's interesting because my interests (health and business) have stayed the same, but what I want to do with those two things has changed, and almost merged into one. I still love business and I would still love to lead a company one day, but I don't think I'm as interested in working for a big corporation after experiencing it firsthand. Instead, I'm realizing that my greatest passion relates to helping people, especially immigrants and people of colour, seek healing. I think there is so much misunderstanding within so many diverse cultures and communities when it comes to trauma and healing from trauma, and I would love to contribute towards the cause and normalize that discussion. And this brand is a huge part of me doing that.


PART TWO: Cultural Background

4. How closely do you identify with and affiliate with your culture? How assimilated into mainstream culture do you think you are compared to the members of your family?

In terms of cultural background, I'm from Zambia. However, I unfortunately don't identify strongly with my culture because I haven't really been exposed to it. I've only travelled back home twice, and never learned the language. When I was younger, there was a pretty strong Zambian community around me, but with time, its kind of dispersed and I get no exposure to it anymore, which is pretty sad.

I think me and my family are pretty assimilated into mainstream culture. There are some traits that my parents have that are definitely not fully aligned with the western world, but in general, my family has been very open to the culture here and I think that's a large reason why I'm not too familiar with my own culture. It's a weird position to be in because I'd like to feel more connected to my culture and it makes me really sad that I'm not.



5. What comes to mind when you think of wellness?

When I think of wellness, I think of doing things that are unique to you to improve your life in some sort of way. I think its more than the physical aspect, and that it has several layers (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.). I don't think its guaranteed to improve your life or make you happy, but I think that engaging in wellness activities can help to develop healthier coping mechanisms and a healthier mindset, which can help to better deal with life and the challenges it brings.

6. Do you think that wellness and associated activities are typically well understood/accepted within your culture and overall community?

To an extent, I do. I think at least in my family and my social circle, wellness is a topic that we're starting to become more familiar with and engage more in. However, I think it's taken a long time for us to get here, and it's taken a while for us to get over the stigma that often surrounds certain wellness activities (such as therapy). I think we've still got a lot of work to do, but I think things are moving in a much better direction with respect to wellness.

One thing I will say is that certain wellness activities are more accepted and understood than others. I think things like going to the gym and meditation generally seem to be better understood and people tend to be more open to them, but things like yoga and therapy are seen as things that aren't meant for us (immigrants and people of colour).

7. What wellness activities do you typically engage in (if any)?

At the moment, the wellness activity I engage the most in is definitely yoga. It was kind of my gateway into the wellness world and has opened my eyes up to a multitude of wellness offerings. I'm also really into journalling, physical exercise (gymming, running, hiking, etc.), and music. I've also tried therapy in the past and found it really helpful.

8. Are there any activities that you’ve always been interested in trying, but haven’t tried yet?

Meditation. I really want to get better at actively practicing it. I know the benefits but I find I often make excuses for not including it in my schedule. I also want to do more therapy, since I've only tried it for brief periods of time.

9. In a perfect world, what wellness activities would you like to see more of in your community?

If I had to pick a few, I would say yoga and therapy. Yoga because I love it and I think there's a heavy stigma behind it that deters a lot of people from realizing the multitude of benefits it can have, both physically and mentally. I think a lot of people in my community could really love it if they gave it a try, but there are a lot of barriers present (cost, representation, lack of understanding of the benefits, etc.).

On a similar note, I think therapy also has very heavy stigmas behind it, but is such a powerful tool. There are a lot of additional barriers to trying therapy (namely cost), but I think regardless of what you have been through in life, there is something to gain from it. It should definitely be way more accessible, especially here in this society.

#founder #anonastories #anonawellness

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