Dance with me.

 

Imagine you are a teenage girl or a boy, you are young, smart, beautiful, talented. You aspire to play, laugh, create, perform, achieve. Yet, you live in an informal settlement or a slum area in Nairobi. The streets where you live are not safe. You need to do an extra effort to get a decent education, school fees, stationary, textbooks. You don’t have easy access to … things, things that a teenage kid in a developed country would take for granted. So you need to work harder to… just to be able to be a normal kid. Except that you are not, you are exceptional.

I met this exceptional boy. I met this exceptional girl. A whole group actually. They call themselves Thunder Squad. They live in distant areas in Nairobi, Tassia, Embakasi. They are young, talented, passionate. They are a team of sixteen kids, aged between 14 and 25, majority of them are at high school level. Four children are aged 6 and 7. They dance and sing and write and act. And their dance will steal your heart.

I met Thunder Squad in a distant area in Nairobi. VIP and Nash, who are a journalist and photographer, working as freelancers, invited me to participate on one of their Sunday gatherings. During the weekends VIP and Nash invite Thunder Squad to their office and work with the kids, talking, helping them for school and offering them free and safe place to rehearse, sing, dance, perform. We went to visit VIP on a hot Sunday afternoon. The bumpy stony roads with no names slowed us down, the driver said, “Once it’s raining, it’s impossible to come here, streets are flooded”. It took us 1 hour to drive just a few kilometers, because of those roads. We were late and worried that it would be difficult to call a taxi in this distant area, so we asked the driver to wait 10 minutes just to say hi to the group and go. We stayed close to an hour and it was hard to leave… The Thunder Squad danced and played for us, we left hungry for more, so we promised we’d be back. Soon.

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One concept that fascinates me ever since I joined Save the Children in Kenya, is the concept of child empowerment. More than half of Kenyan population are children. 19 million children below the age of 14. 8 million aged 15-24. These are truly amazing numbers, my home country, Bulgaria, has 7 million citizens in total. And as trivial as it might sound, these kids today will drive the future of this country tomorrow. They will live in this future. We all have the responsibility to give them a voice to influence it, to empower them, to give them an opportunity. This fascination is what brought me to VIP and Thunder Squad.

To finish this blog, I have a story to tell. Recently my colleague Marta sent me a link to a short movie for a training I want to organize with Save the Children. A blind man sitting in a big square, begging for money. A sign next to him said “I am blind, please help”. People were passing buy, reading the sign, moving on. He barely got some pennies. One woman stopped by him, took his sign and wrote something at the back. Placed it back, moved on. The blind man was puzzled. But then money started flowing. More and more and more. Later the woman came back, the blind man recognized her, he asked her – “What did you do to my sign?” She said, “I wrote the same, but different words”. The sign said “It’s a beatiful day. But I can’t see it!”

So let me tell you this story with different words. Once a wise man told me, success is when the opportunity comes and you are prepared to grab it (A life lesson I’ll always remember, Juan!). Live is far from easy here. Those kids have talent, and ambition and they don’t take things for granted, they work hard to succeed. They are prepared, they just need the opportunity. And you, dear reader, can be this opportunity for them! Allow them to perform at your events. Sponsor their education. Sponsor their art.

For more information you can contact Vip Ogola (NaMeD Afrika Studios, namedafrika@gmail.com; +254-722755485), or Jay Okotch (jackuyat@gmail.com; +254-70478008).