So, what’s you move?

dance4life are extremely proud to announce the launch of their new exciting, interactive platform!

Young people all over the world are getting into action to stop HIV! Making a move to change the future. To share these amazing moves, dance4life has created an exciting, interactive platform, called the movement.

Take a look…and prepare to be inspired!

Young people are sharing their personal stories, their activities…a worldwide response to the HIV and AIDS  pandemic.  Young people standing up and making a stand. Making a move.

With half of all new HIV infections among young people under 25, we need to take action now. That’s why we want to involve you! So, tell us, what is your move? go towww.dance4life.com/movement !


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Three girls on a mission!

As promised, here’s a report from a couple of my colleagues visiting Zambia to explore restart possibilities for dance4life Zambia…read and enjoy!

“The mission: Having met with a number of possible implementing partners over the past few days, today it is time to go external and let everyone know that dance4life Zambia is still here!

The team: Kate Pruce, regional programme manager Africa, Zganga Mvula, international youth council member and Susan van Esch, manager youth involvement.

So here we go: first stop, the National AIDS Council to meet with the Executive Director. It was quite a wait but worth it, as the meeting gave us the chance to learn more about the national strategies and plans and discuss how dance4life aligns with them. Equipped with this knowledge (and a packet of stroopwafels – dutch people know what I mean :-)) we went for a meeting with the Dutch embassy, a regular on our visits to the countries. As unfortunately, due to the new plans of the Dutch government, Zambia is no longer one of the core countries for the Dutch development aid, our meeting focused on identifying embassies that would continue the work on youth and SRHR. This turned out to be quite a challenge as due to the global situation and changes in government around Europe, many more countries are changing their funding portfolio and stepping out of Zambia. Odd –  as yes, there are quite some economical developments in Zambia, but this doesn’t seem to trickle down, and definitely not to the people in the rural areas.

The next visit however cheered us up. As a true dream team, we presented dance4life in Zambia to the country director of UNICEF who at the end was jumping in his chair with enthusiasm! And what a good coincidence that UNICEF is just looking into working more around comprehensive sexuality education for youth. That is exactly dance4life! Energised and hopeful, we left the office for an afternoon with the dance4life Zambia ambassadors Mix Master, Rizen Rizon, Hezron, Lulu and Matthew who manages the singer Rachel. Cactus unfortunately couldn’t make it, but luckily we did manage to meet him the following day to get his input. This was the first time all ambassadors were together in the same room and what a great energy it created with some many creative minds together! Different ideas on using art to empower youth, a greater involvement of the ambassadors in the project, on making dance4life known in Zambia tumbled over the table and led to a lot of laughter and innovative ideas to explore further. This was one of the first times dance4life organized such a sessions, but is definitely one to be replicated in other dance4life countries.

Inspired and fulfilled we ended the day, ready to continue our mission the next day!”

Thanks Susan! So, where will the next stop be for dance4life ? Keep tuned to find out…

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Goodbye, Malawi. It was GREAT to meet you!

Before we cross borders to visit Zambia, here are some final thoughts from Anouk as she reflects on her personal journey and says her goodbyes to Malawi…

“Hello again! Sitting at Java Café at Kenya international airport, I look back at the incredible journey we’ve made in the last couple of days. Although it’s just been seven days it feels like I’ve had enough impressions for a lifetime… Where to start?

We left Consol Home on Friday but still spent a whole day there. We had a pretty bumpy ride to an even more rural area: it was extremely romantic driving through the beautiful Malawian scenery with yellow acacia trees and thatched roofs on small huts, colorful clothes hanging to dry in the sun, children playing with sticks and stones. Looking closer though you find the clothes all torn, the bellies of lots of children big from hunger oedema, men sitting washed out under trees, women working the land and struggling for some kwachas. We arrive in a small community where we are welcomed by one of the chiefs who will take us to one of the many sick people in the region who are supported by Consol Home. We meet the fragile and exhausted looking woman in front of her house. We kneel beside her and talk. She doesn’t know how old she is, she has been sick for four years now, doesn’t take medicines because they make her feel even sicker… She’s a widow, as is her young daugther. Although she doesn’t say so, everbody knows the husband died of AIDS. And she is also HIV positive. During our talk seemingly the whole community joined us and looked at us strange white people… as we leave we’ve mixed feelings about what we saw and heard. Since being in Malawi we heard so many scary stories, about rapes, domestic violence, and the curious and sometimes deadly traditions traditional chiefs of the many tribes Malawi counts still hold. Did you ever hear about the ‘sexual cleansing’ ritual? As a girl becomes a woman (first menstruation) men consider them ready for sexual intercourse and ‘initiate’ the girls by letting experienced men sleep with them immediately. Quite horrifying. Considering the fact that most of the tribes still do polygamy this is a ‘successful’ way of spreading HIV and ruin every girls future. Boys undergo a somewhat similar ritual: they are circumsized and encouraged to start having sex with they girls that underwent this so called ‘sexual cleansing’. You could of course call these tribes ‘stupid’ but in terms of culture I think its to ‘easy’ to just do this. It’s a matter of really getting the message across to the  traditional chiefs that surely they can hold on to some of their traditions but others have to be replaced. And that takes lots and lots of time, patience and diplomacy. It’s great to see that organizations such as NOVOC also invest in this!

When we said our goodbyes in the afternoon to our many, many new friends in Namitete nobody could hold back their tears although I sincerely doubt the crowd present understood our tears ;-).

We arrived in Mabuya Camp later that evening and instead of the nsima, red beans and pumpkin leaves (real local food) we were used to in Namitete we ate spaghetti bolognese: welcome back in town…

Our programme on Saturday was a visit to Ministery of Hope, a crisis nursery which is strongly supported by the church. We were welcomed by one of the managers and after a short introduction divided into two groups to visit the nursery.

This was what I saw when I entered the 3,5 x  3,5 room: two beautiful tall African men lying on their back on the floor, both of them with a baby on their belly, cuddling and playing with big smiles on their faces. I must say I was stunned: I don’t see this very often at a Dutch daycare centre let alone was I expecting this in Malawi, a country that from a cultural perspective is very macho. Almost all of us were immediately pulled to the small, sweet babies and it didn’t take long before everybody (including Barry) was holding one of them. As we were cuddling and feeding the kids and during helping around cleaning and cooking we  heard about how lots of women lose their lives in Malawi during or quickly after giving birth, because of complications during delivery and because many women suffer from HIV. Also domestic violence resulting in death are causes of the many orphans in Malawi. Normally 25% of the babies in the crisis nursery is HIV infected though during our visit none of the babies present is (luckily!). It is just heartbreaking to realize these babies are growing up without a mother. For the fathers who are still around it is most of the times impossible to keep the child because of lack of money to provide for the necessary formula (powder milk) now the mother is gone… So if the baby is lucky, they bring it to Ministery of Hope. We hear and read some heartbreaking and horrible stories of babies who are left to die. And I meet the tiniest baby I’ve ever seen: a three weeks old boy looking like a very premature baby, struggling to stay alive. He was just left behind and somebody who found him brought him to Ministery of Hope just a day ago. I’m happy to see how well and loving these orphans are being given shelter.

During our stay I also realize that these adorable little creatures make a person soft and eager to donate. Much more than a obstinate teenager, already hardened by life who is less ‘huggable’ than a little baby. It seems unfair… But I too am soft to the bone by seeing and touching these innocent babies.

After these intense hours at the crisis nursery we decide to end our trip together with a visit to the famous Malawi lake. Although timing was a little bit challenging (everyone had assured us it was a one hour drive, but we should have calculated African time which means it was double) the drive to the lake was incredible to me: I fell in love with the Malawian landscape, hills and mountaintops, yellow and earth colours, the most beautiful sunset. It is such a huge contrast seeing, smelling and feeling this beautiful landscape and at the same time realizing the extreme poverty in which most people live in and which affects so many people, also in terms of HIV and AIDS…

I feel so privileged though, to have been able to be part of this physical and spiritual journey.

Anouk”

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Back down to earth with the dance4life crew in Malawi…

It’s been a great week for dance4life.  With the news that ambassador and supermodel Doutzen Kroes will be jetting into space, AND that dance4life will be the lucky recipients of one golden space flight ticket to auction off, we spent most of this week in orbit! Money raised form this fantastic ticket will be able to put thousands more young people through the dance4life schools programme!  But, coming back down to earth, there is also a lot to tell…let’s start off with a return visit to my colleagues visiting Kenya and Malawi.  We already heard last week about their fantastic welcome in Kenya.  Let’s now follow them to Malawi…

“Imagine this: pitch dark night in rural Malawi, no electricity. Only the moon and thousands and thousands of stars  and some torches to bring some light, the sound of crickets, and eleven white people spending the night there alone in two classrooms with two guards to watch over us. We are surrounded by 23,000 of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. I feel completely safe and extremely grateful to be here.

Wednesday, we arrived in Consol Home Orphan Care (CHOC) which by the way Madonna is supporting (she actually adopted her two Malawian children from one of the CHOC projects). So the dance4life crew is already working on ideas of how to get Madonna involved as an international ambassador and sponsor!

When we arrived at CHOC we were welcomed by a huge group of kids and youngsters from neighboring villages. In no time we were all dancing, clapping and gesturing together. Most of these kids lost one or both parents of AIDS. They live with one parent or with extended families. Because most of the families cannot provide for these orphans (more mouths to feed, more kids that have to go to school) these consol homes were founded to provide for these youngsters, aged between 2 and 20, during the day. Here, they offer life skills programmes, pre school care for the youngest and classes for the older kids. They provide for one meal at the end of the day. They facilitate so called sharing groups for somewhat older girls and boys (from age 10 onwards): ‘girls voices’ and ‘boys actions’. During these sessions they share all kinds of personal stories with the group. For girls, it’s mainly focused on empowerment and coping with personal trauma (rape for instance). For boys, the main focus is on behavioural change. It is hard to talk directly about how these youngsters are affected by HIV and AIDS. Because of fear of stigma, kids are told at the funeral of a parent that they died of diarrhea, pneumonia or an accident. They do know a lot about HIV and AIDS though, and feel safe enough to talk in the group. But together with some strange white ‘azungus’, that’s a little bit too much. Pretty extreme also to hear a four year old commenting on HIV and AIDS related issues.

One other focus point of  CHOC is to support for so called ‘Granny’s’, widows and/or grandmothers that have to care for lots of these orphaned children. In most cases this is very hard. So they provide groups for these granny’s too. They work in the CHOC garden, where they grow vegetables which their ‘kids’ can eat in CHOC (so less mouths to feed). CHOC believes in creating self supporting networks so they invest in involving the local community in setting up these consol homes.

Thursday, we visited a community were such a consol home is being built. We actually helped a little bit together with all youngsters present by passing through bricks which the men subsequently were building the walls with. Very special moments there, singing , humming and working together: we felt really connected and hated the fact that we had to go after a couple of hours.

There’s lots more to share, but my battery is almost finished and everybody is already sound asleep! So I will go to sleep too. Zikomo (thank you)! Till soon, Anouk ”

Thank you Anouk, for sharing these special moments. Next stop for the blog will be Zambia, where two other colleagues are looking into re start possibilities…keep tuned in…

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dance4life has not been standing still…

It’s been a while.  But that doesn’t mean we have been standing still – take, for example, my colleagues from dance4life Netherlands, who are, as I write, on a project trip to Kenya and Malawi, together with dance4life ambassador and DJ Barry Paf.  Also on the trip are two young people, Sanne and Eline, who did some amazing fundraising for dance4life and are now privileged enough to see with their own eyes how their money is being spent!

Director of dance4life Netherlands, Anouk, gave me this update of the trip so far…

“We started out with ten people at Schiphol airport on Sunday morning. Most important travellers being Eline and Sanne, students from Groningen and Hellevoetssluis and Barry Paf, one of the Dutch ambassadors. All excited and some of us with just a few hours sleep (Barry!)…. anxious to get going. In Nairobi we met up with Jet, who will be staying in Nairobi for two months to research possibilities to have a Sensation edition in Kenya. It was already pitch dark when we arrived in Nairobi, so no clue about the scenery till the next morning. After a short night we left early for our ‘one day programme’  with dance4life Kenya. During our half our trip to the school we drove by Kibera slum,  one of the biggest in Nairobi. Incredible scenery, unimaginable for us to realise that 200,000 people are actually living here… Edwin, one of the dance4life staff in Kenya, explained that in these slums the risk to get HIV infected is obviously very high.

Arriving at the Nile Road Secondary school, although it is holiday time, at least twenty agents4change were already waiting for us. The amount kept growing and within half an hour more nearly 50 young people had arrived. After some hilarious icebreaking games, pretending we were attacked by lions or crocodiles, it was time for some serious sharing. Representatives of 4 schools prepared a welcome song, dance or play to introduce themselves and their culture. We were all moved by a poem about AIDS and its devastating impact on life in Kenya…  We could definitely improve our Dutch introduction skills here and prepare a more creative way to introduce some of our cultural values! But, we do have the drill!! And what a blast it was to do it together with the Kenyan agents4change!

One thing that is so amazing is the fact that all Kenyan agents4change are so extremely proud of being an  agent4change and they all take it really seriously!

During the day we had group sessions and talked about youth related issues and about the meaning and impact of being part of dance4life.  One that came up a lot was the fact that Kenyan youngsters just don’t talk about sex with their parents, and if parents happen to find a condom in your possession it’s very likely that you will be punished severely. A clear no go area. It was hopeful though, that lots of youngsters do get some information about reproductive health and rights in schools. But still, going back to their communities, it is a big taboo. A huge step forward was the revelation that youngsters who went through the dance4life programme felt the need to confront their parents with what they have learned and in a way ‘educate’ them. Isn’t that courageous and great! During these conversations, more and more youngsters opened up and felt free and respected to share personal thoughts and stories. After a long, hot and intense day of dancing and talking, sharing and hugging we said our goodbyes to at least 45 new Facebook friends! Some of these friends still had to walk 20 kilometers home so they could save the small amount of money they received for their transport to spend it on more basic needs. Can you imagine walking 40 kilometers a day to get educated?

I am in the plane to Malawi now. We left Jet behind and met up with a STOP AIDS NOW! colleague and fundraiser Marjon. Looking forward to this new experience. Till soon…

Anouk”

PS. Check out the blogs of Sanne and Eline,  on: sannedance4life.waarbenjij.nu & elineaardse.waarbenjij.nu (in dutch)

 

And, for more photo’s go to facebook !!

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a peek behind the scenes with the dance4life communications team…

Young people all over the world are taking action within their communities to contribute to halting HIV and AIDS. It really is quite awe inspiring. But how do we let the rest of the world in on this amazing collection of personal stories? And, how do we ensure that these young people, whether in Kenya, Peru or India feel part of a global movement : that they can draw inspiration from the power of the masses?

The communications team’s key task this year is to indeed give the agents4change vehicles to “showcase” their activities and to draw inspiration from others.  Hence, the development of a so-called ‘social platform’…a dance4life story book, written by, and for, young people worldwide.

So, where do we start?

Since we see internet as the best low cost channel for storytelling we’ve decided to develop an online platform. You can see this as a stand alone website which links to Facebook and other social networks like Hi5, Vkontakte , Hyves and Twitter. Young people can post their stories, share their experiences – and connect with the world.

So, problem solved! Or not…? In countries with low internet penetration and low computer access (which is the case in many dance4life countries) we cannot reach all young people through the online platform. That’s why we decided to look for alternatives…

Mobile technology

After the buzz around social networks the new buzz word seems to be mobile. Especially in the developing world. Mobile technology and mobile phone use in the developing world is quickly increasing. Young people are considered enthusiastic adopters of mobile phones and avid users of text messaging. By the end of 2008, Africa had 246 million mobile subscriptions -and mobile penetration has risen from just five per cent in 2003 to well over 30 percent in 2009 and still rising (with internet penetration around 10%).

So what are the next steps?

To start off we put together a task force to work out possibilities for specific countries and services. Those are numerous.. of course we can sum up all the possibilities etc. but why not ask the experts themselves? Our agents4change; the young people at the heart of what it is all about!

So, this will be our first (baby) step; we will set up a poll (possibly surveymonkey) and distribute it through our own social media channels. Talking about empowering young people…

Interested in the results? Have any tips? Keep checking this blog or contact Martine at m.keukenkamp@dance4life.com!

 

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The dance4life international meeting : one youth council member’s story…

On the 14th of February, the week long international meeting kicked off in Amsterdam. dance4life representatives from 27 countries, and the dance4life youth council members spent 5 days planning, brainstorming and exchanging ideas. It was an inspiring week!

We were all very proud to have members of the youth council at the meeting for the first time. Their presence and input during the week brought a very valuable dimension to all the discussions. One of the youth council members, Zganga Taonga Mvula from Zambia, shared her experience of the first couple of days of the week with us :

“The Youth Council meeting kicked off with a wonderful feeling of excitement because everyone was  happy to see everyone else.  This was followed by an inspiring welcome from Eveline (Director of dance4life international), she started by  stressing how important it was  that we had attended the international meeting  and  how it was in

correspondence with one of the UNAIDS outlook Breaking news which said  ‘young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution’.  She mentioned how happy she was that we were being involved  because as  young people we have the greatest potential!

We started the meeting with a session in which  Natasha facilitated  on the dance4life platform, as a tool to help drive the movement (awesome!).  This was met by a positive response from the youth council members (obviously), as mostof the youth council felt it  was a great way to show- case activities by agents4change and other people involved/interested in dance4life(whether young or older) as well as exchange ideas and be heard.  In the same discussion, for the purpose of reaching even agents for change who are unable to access the internet, an offline newsletter is to be developed as of this year (yet another brilliant idea).  It will document stories of activities by agents 4change and dance4life activities that drive the movement.

With regards to evaluating, the NCO youth council relationships were analysed through the experience youth council members shared.  To help us achieve our goal or even just our plans, we need to identify who the stakeholders are, and devise how best we can work with them to drive the movement. We wrapped up Monday with dinner as YC.

Today (Tuesday), we had an interesting day at dance4life International office. We had a photo shoot and a session about time management. Then we reviewed and re- worked on our individual country plans where possible. After that, we looked at the transition and changes made regarding the next youth council year. In the evening, we had a beautiful dinner at a pancake-restaurant(surprisingly dinner was not just pancakes), it also turned out to be an actual karaoke boat as well. Boy did we have an amazing time out there whilst singing The Final Countdown, Barbie Girl, Paradise By the Dashboard Light, Wannabe and other instant classics. Definitely memorable!”

Thank you Zganga, for sharing your story! And your wonderful voice during the karaoke!

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