By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Founder of Dream Catchers, a dance academy for impoverished children in Nigeria, Ms Seyi Oluyole, has been featured on the popular CNN African Voices Changemakers programme.
The talented choreographer informed the American news channel how her own experiences help her to relate to children at her academy.
“After we had the whole financial difficulty and we were living on the streets, my parents were able to gather enough money for us to move close to the slum. So, when I go to that area, I realised that even though I’d had some hard times, what I’d gone through was nothing compared to what these kids were going through,” she told host of the show, Arit Okpo.
Ms Oluyole said she feels fulfilled giving kids a better life through dance, pointing out that giving the children hope has gone a long way to rehabilitate and transform their lives.
“Dance is just a means to give these kids a better life. Things haven’t really gone as much as I thought it would, but, I would say that we are definitely not where we used to be,” she said.
The self-taught dancer attended college in the United States, but returned to Nigeria to share her skills, feeling that she could make more of an impact by coming back home.
She stresses the importance of education to all the children telling the programme, saying “Some of (the kids) were not in school, the ones that were in school were not taking school seriously, so then I began to use dance as this tool to get them to do something serious with their lives. So, I would just tell them oh, if you don’t go to school or if you are not doing well in school, you can’t come to dance rehearsal.”
Ms Oluyole also helps in other ways. Nine of the children from the academy now live with her, which she explains is offering them a better environment.
She told CNN she realised, “How important it was to have kids leave the toxic community that they were living in”, but stressed that, “Knowing that I can’t really have all of them with me, sometimes, it makes me wish I could do more.”
Funding the combined cost of the dance academy and looking after nine of the children is not always easy. The academy raises its money through donations, performance bookings and Ms Oluyole’s part-time job as a script writer.
Ms Oluyole talked about how she found a creative way to bring attention to the kids and help raise money, stating that, “What I used to do was find songs where the music video was not out yet and dance to it and post on Instagram and try to tag that celebrity.” This led to the academy being noticed by Rihanna, and supermodel Naomi Campbell even came to visit, bringing with her food and school supplies for the children.
Apart from Ms Oluyole, CNN African Voices Changemakers also highlighted the work of a South African known as Gcina Mhlophe, whose passion for story-telling is inspiring children to open books.
She is one of the country’s most talented writers and during her discussions with the host, stressed the importance of education and highlighted the need for creative subjects,
“We don’t put enough emphasis or significance into how the creative arts or culture, or heritage can make a big difference in our education system. (…) There’s something empowering about somebody who knows who they are, who feels like their sense of self, their sense of heritage, and identity matters,” she said.
‘African Voices’ airs on Friday, August 16, 2019 at 0930 SAST on CNN International and also airs on Saturday, August 17 at 0030 SAST, 1230 SAST and 1630 SAST; on Sunday August 18 at 0500 SAST, 0930 SAST and 2000 SAST; and on Monday, August 19 at 0530 SAST.
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