Friday, 28 August 2009

Hip-hop dance therapy for orphans in Uganda - Jess Dexter

Jess Dexter, a Vancouver dancer, has worked for the last 3 years in Abramz Tekya's Breakdance Project Uganda -- in Gulu, Kampala, Ntinda and Gganda -- with university, primary & secondary school students, reform-school and street kids, and this year in hip-hop, capoeira and yoga with orphans at Niteo Resource Centre. This clip from a forthcoming feature length doc shows her at work:

About the "problem with Ben" in the video, she explains:
Ben was a man who had a "community project" called Kin Initiative. He was never supposed to house children...and for the last 10 years he has been, and the local probation officer knew what he was doing, but was just as corrupt. He didn't allow any of the kids' relatives to visit, nor the kids to visit them...Right now, for their first time, they are visiting with their respective relatives! It is really touching to also find out, only now, that 6 of them are related!!

This man was taking money from all types of donations including priests in Europe..There was never any accountability and he even bought land with this money! Safari trucks used to pass by the orphanage, watch the kids sing and dance, make a donation and leave.

Eventually his scam became obvious when he stole thousands of dollars from one American volunteer and slowly his empire crumbled beneath him. I came to Uganda to get the kids out of there because I had lived with them in 2007 and had made a lifetime commitment to them. When volunteers weren't coming anymore, and the money trickled in, he began to go mad... beating the kids for no reason, neglecting their medical needs, sexually harassing them and under-nourishing them. I went in there and pretended not to know any of this so that I could ask if I could take them for the weekend... Giving them dance classes and taking them to dance shows. He accepted to let me take the boys, but refused the girls... They got so angry they packed their bags anyways, getting him outraged which led to a rescue... They lived with me for 15 days until a home was found for them and are living happily and healthfully!

See also Jess Dexter's blog, her professional website, videos of Niteo Resource Centre, a Breakdance Uganda performance and rehearsal; the BC-based NGOs Niteo and that support her work. She recommends volunteering for which has projects on several continents.

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