Croatian News Source: Glas Slavonije by Reporter Tomislav Levak
The management and the members of the dance group of Osijek’s National Theatre had their hands full – but full of doing wonderful tasks. They had to open, look over, classify and take care of the contents of many boxes that had just arrived from the USA. In those boxes were donations of ballet clothing and footwear costing approximately $51,724.
“These are two of the children whose worlds are changing as they discover themselves through dance.”
Mugisha Jean Paul and Zidane Ndatimana are two former street children in RDDC’s program run at FidesCo Rwanda in Kigali. Mugisha and Zidane are the same size and age – maybe even the same weight.
Just 14 months ago, Zidane was at the Centre when the dance program started for the first time. This kid was not interested in dance at all, but he used to come and watch through the window. I was surprised by his attention and concentration as he stared through the same window day after day; he seemed to be attracted to what was going on inside the classroom.
“Can you please explain what is happening now to me? This is a miracle.” – Patrick Bihoyiki, former street child attending school
On January 7th, 2013, the academic year started for primary and secondary schools in Rwanda. On January 9th, the fourth child from RDDC’s local partner, FidesCo Rwanda, was registered to attend Sonrise Boarding School, which is one of the most excellent schools in Rwanda according to student scores on the National Examination. Now RDDC is supporting four former street children to attend boarding school for multiple years. Patrick Bihoyiki has joined his colleagues – Jean de Dieu Niyigena, Eric Mugiraneza and Pierre Ngendananayo – in the same school. RDDC hopes that these kids will succeed.
In December 2011, RDDC officially established its partnership with FIDESCO, the organization that helps former street kids in Rwanda. Now, the organizations are celebrating more than one year of successful collaboration.
In the first week of December, specifically on the 7th, RDDC celebrated its one year of partnership with FIDESCO and recognized the biggest achievements accomplished to date: five former street kids are in full-time boarding school now; the IT program is running with multiple laptops; and the dance program is making a huge difference – not only have the kids benefited, but the instructors have as well. The instructors – me included – have had intensive training twice this past year: in August and in November. These were great opportunities to improve our technique and deepen our knowledge for teaching.
As I wrote in one of my earlier blogs about street kids in Rwanda, it is my opinion that, here in BiH, we have some other kind of street: social networks and television. – Sanja
It’s funny how time flies by and most of us aren’t even aware of it. We are always walking in the same cycle of our daily routines. Then, one day, we stop and look behind ourselves to see where we arrived and if we are satisfied with ourselves. But what will happen if we choose to look behind ourselves more often? To see what happened within and around us? Will we be more successful? And what is the success of our life? Once I heard a story with this message: „Everyone thinks depending on who he is.“ So, I think that everyone needs to ask himself this question more often and find his own answers.
“Sometimes it requires more than just words for people to believe in you.”
On the 9th of November, RDDC performed its original contemporary ballet called Darfur in the East African Nights of Tolerance Dance Festival. This ballet, choreographed by Rebecca Davis , was performed by three Americans and three Rwandans. Darfur is based on the conflict that happened in Western Sudan in a place called Darfur. (It was created before Sudan split into Sudan and The Republic of South Sudan.) It’s main purpose is to show how war destroys families beyond repair. We may look only at things which are tangible – things which are expensive to build, like infrastructure, the environment or people’s property – but the most important thing, and the backbone of all of us, are our relationships, families, and friends. All the rest stands because of the relationship between people and families working together.
“The most interesting part is seeing a different person emerge out of the person that you used to know; the new person is not the same as the difficult child that began the program.”
FIDESCO, RDDC’s local partner in Rwanda, temporarily houses street children while attempting to locate extended family members and re-integrate the children into homes. Usually, FIDESCO takes street children from “transit centers” around Kigali. Sometimes it takes a long time to trace where exactly their families are located while also trying to understand the reasons why the children left home to live on the streets.
Since RDDC started working with FIDESCO last December, we have not seen many children leaving the Centre all at the same time. Instead, they had been leaving only one by one. We have two classes that we have been working with at different levels: the first class is about 18 boys, which have been with us for some time; and the second class is about 20 boys of which 12 have been our most serious students over the last three months.
Sanja shares her experience teaching children in the ethnically-mixed area of Brcko District, located in the northern part of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After three weeks in amazing Rwanda, I continued my adventure going into a Summer Dance Camp in Brčko, which is organized by Firefly, a UK-funded NGO. I was sent there to meet with my Country Director Tanja R.Tarčuki and Assistant Matea Jevrić from RDDC and RINGO to lead a dance camp for one week. The week would conclude with a performance to show what we succeeded to accomplish with these kids and youth.
“When you watch him dance, you can see he is dancing his story of change. He respects himself and the rest of the boys respect him because of the way he takes himself.”
The RDDC program is becoming more successful in its desire to help street children through the arts. It engages children in a physical activity with social rehabilitation, and it makes children feel worthwhile and able to do whatever they hope to do in their lives. Every child at FIDESCO (the temporary shelter where the street children live during the RDDC program) has his story, and every one of them is bearing a scar from his history. It’s hard to understand many of them; they are unpredictable, which makes it hard to help them change their negative thinking about themselves. They cannot see their potential in doing something or how their natural talents can be activated.
Patrick is one of the boys that we have been working with for several months. Patrick’s father abandoned his mom, and his mom is not able to take him to school. Since Patrick was not going to school and life was hard at home, he turned to the streets. I have been working with Patrick since he started attending the RDDC program at FIDESCO – dance and IT training. At first, I couldn’t understand this boy because he could come and just sit alone – waiting for something to start. Whenever someone would try to talk to him, he would just look at you and say nothing in return. He was always angry, but not lively like any other 12 year old boy would be. He was always protective, but would never fight back whenever the other boys would try to interrupt his peace. Instead, he would rather cry and leave because he was not used to them.
The East African Nights of Tolerance (EANT) Festival is an initiative organized by Amizero Dance Kompagnie of Rwanda and sponsored by the Prince Claus Foundation. From November 3 to 10, 2012, dance companies from Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, the UK and the USA, have gathered together to present choreographic works on the themes of conflict-resolution and peace-building. Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC) is representing the USA with its production of Darfur: The Ballet at the festival.
by Rebecca Davis, RDDC/USA
October 23, 2012
In September 2012, Rebecca Davis was awarded a second Fulbright grant. As a Fulbright Specialist, she traveled to Ukraine to teach American pedagogical approaches to contemporary dance. Rebecca taught at The Crimean University for Arts, Culture and Tourism in the city of Simferopol. Over the course of four weeks, she worked with the faculty to develop a curriculum for contemporary ballet and she set five short choreographic works on the students.
“Полюбасу,” I repeated.
All the students laughed.
“But that’s right, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it’s so funny when you say it,” they chuckled between their laughs.
Welcome to a new cultural experience.
Sanja is one of RDDC’s dance teachers in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In August, she spent three weeks teaching hip hop and social work methods to the RDDC team in Rwanda. This was her first time traveling to and working in Africa.
“For some of these street boys, this is really their last chance to become someone.” – Sanja
With my first steps onto African land after exiting the airplane in Kigali, Rwanda, I became aware that I was stepping into my biggest adventure yet. Even though it was night and I couldn’t see most things, I could feel through the fresh air that this is the right place for me. I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking, “So, this is how you feel when you are ready to accomplish your dreams…”
“With a big smile, Eric moved to the dance floor because he knew that it’s only a few days until he gets to go to school.”
The month of August has been the busiest month of the ongoing program of RDDC with the children at FIDESCO. We received the international team of RDDC. It has been a great experience for the children because they had classes with four teachers every day with different choreography and new movements, which increased the interest of our regular dance program. You can imagine the children’s interest with four teachers every day and they don’t want to miss any of them because some of them are traveling from foreign countries just to teach them.
One particular interesting story involves two more kids who are joining school through the support of the RDDC program: Eric and Jado. These two boys started with the program since the very beginning.
Sanja writes about the team-building retreat for RDDC’s dance teaching assistants in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We all know quotes that emphasize repeating our knowledge to improve our understanding. This thought led our RDDC team in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) to use our free summer months to invest more time and energy in evaluating what we have done in past months and how to keep moving forward in order to progress. We had our first teambuilding retreat at the end of July and hope to repeat the productive experience again in the future. read more…
By Sanja Elezovic, RDDC/Bosnia-Herzegovina
July 29, 2012
“Children are not mean, so don’t try to fix them; instead, let’s change our attitude towards them.”
Sometimes I wonder what is the purpose of so many rules, regulations and laws – especially when these are only idealized lines written in a blind ink by someone else. We write down, we read, we highlight, we repeat and we give more attention to the written word rather than look around ourselves and realize what goes on in the world. My words, which might seem unclear or not defined, refer to all possible rights and privileges that are taken as “holy” and, speaking in legal terms, guaranteed to every child no matter what differences exist between them. Then, I look around and I see children unjustly treated by the society they live in. It is not always the case of society’s unjust treatment; it is also happening in families where children are not treated fairly due to ignorance.
This month, new children arrived at FIDESCO and entered into our Dance/IT program. In our classes, we have 17 of the 20 children who began with us (2 have left FIDESCO and 1 RDDC has sponsored to go to boarding school). Now, we have 20 new children as well.
Our dance studio is not large enough to accommodate all of these kids at once, so we were offered another classroom for the program and now we have two classes every day: one for the regular students, and the other for the new children. As a teacher in the program, this gave me a good picture that RDDC is doing work that is growing here in Rwanda.
By Sanja Elezovic, RDDC/Bosnia-Herzegovina
June 10, 2012
For nearly one year now, Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC) and its local partner organization, RINGO, have diligently and patiently worked with children at Egipatsko Selo every day. Egipatsko Selo is a center for disadvantaged children living in one part of the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH).
Through this program, children are exposed to the constant level of hard work and effort needed to learn new dance moves and develop socially-acceptable behavior. Many times we hear sayings that – through dance and movement – people can express how they feel. Each lesson requires certain rules and standards. The framework, which structures the whole group and which we give them through our dance lessons, creates a distinct and safe environment within where they can progress. This adds a whole new dimension to our work with a higher dose of complexity and challenges. read more…
It has been five months since the street children at FIDESCO (a temporary safe-house in Kigali) started their dance training with the Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC) program. Before RDDC came to FIDESCO, the kids didn’t know anything about dance; they never knew that if someone wants to be a dancer, they must train to become proficient.
I remember the very first day I was there – when this program was introduced. As a dancer, I believed that even though someone was not born with talent, that person could train and become a good dancer if he/she is committed and loves it. Once he gets an opportunity to receive good and proper training and he uses it well, he will get to reach his dream. Actually, I’ve seen many who didn’t know anything, and now, they have become professional dancers.
But when I came to FIDESCO, I was so disappointed. The kids seemed to be in love with it, but when we started, all I could see were shouting kids moving all over the place. I couldn’t keep any of them in one position. They didn’t seem to care about what Rebecca was telling them. They were very violent. The next day, I didn’t want to go back, but I had to. We continued with the program, but still my hope for these kids was little – not because they were not talented but because of their inability to focus.
April 28, 2012
Fode Chouaibou KEITA
The Gangan Center of Arts and Acrobatics is a training center for children living in difficult conditions in Kindia. It was created on March 24, 2008, in Kindia at Maison des Jeunes (the House of Youth). After creating a partnership with the American organization, Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC), the Center is now managed by a personnel team of three permanent staff – an Assistant Coordinator, an English Professor and a French Professor. They work every day from 8am until 3pm with the exception of Fridays.
While I am walking through the streets of my town, I like to watch people and their mannerisms. What always suprises me – over and over again – is how rarely I am able to see smiling people. This emptiness I see in adults is what holds me tight to childhood. If that is the only period when we know we are truly smiling and sharing it with others, I want us to always stay there.