At the start of 2021, many of us hoped that 2021 would be better than 2020. Hoping the world would go back to 'normal' and that Covid-19 would leave to be a distant memory in our existence. Unfortunately, waves repeatedly came back, and a new variant appeared. The pandemic and its aftermath laid bare many cracks in society and revealed the already existing vulnerability of children, especially those from under-resourced and marginalised communities.
Yet, if uncertainty makes the future unknowable, it also makes creativity all the more vital. It was a year of implementing new ideas, focusing on what we have instead of what we don't—using our creative thinking skills to make new moves and create more impact in the lives of our ChezaCheza children and families. As the cherry on top, Franco got awarded Creative Youth of the Year in Kenya, affirming that creative thinking amid waves of uncertainty is one of the most important skills we can have.
Proudly, we present our Annual Report 2021 which showcases our impact on the communities we work in. Click the Project Report below to read more!
Last month was mental health awareness month, and we want to continue to highlight the importance of mental health. More children and youth are experiencing depression, stress, anxiety and we even see rising numbers of suicide in Kenya. Especially children living in the communities we work in experience a multitude of challenges that lead to stress, anxiety, drug abuse and violent behaviour. Growing here up is tough, but growing up without the resources and support you need is even tougher.
At ChezaCheza, we support emotional well-being through dance therapeutic methods in our classes. We do an emotional check-in, practice meditation & mindfulness, and stimulate self-expression through dance. Some children need additional, more intensive mental health supports and therefore we have an absolute amazing counsellor named Joyce (see picture). She has been working with us for almost 2 years and we are grateful for the emotional support and guidance she gives. She has an office at our centre, which means children can drop in to have a chat, ask for advice or have a full counselling session with her.
Let's continue to raise awareness for mental health and remove the stigma of therapy and 'asking for help' in our communities. Taking care of your mental health is so important and can benefit every area of your life. So let's talk more, listen more and show empathy to those around us. And remember, it's ok not to be ok :)
Our new dance centre in Kibera has given us much more space to think about other opportunities and activities to provide to our ChezaCheza kids. We want to see them grow, learn and evolve every day! One of those opportunities we can now provide is the ChezaCheza GIRLS! program, which started in May 2021. This program was specifically designed in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, some children were hit harder than others. For example, the pandemic showed an increase in sexual assault and teen pregnancies among young girls. It highlighted the existing challenges that girls face, and therefore there is a need for support programs that focus on young girls, which can provide the knowledge, skills, and tools to mitigate the risks that girls face.
The ChezaCheza GIRLS! program selected 40 girls between the ages of 13 and 18 who have participated in the ChezaCheza program for over one year. We have invited a different female expert each session to come and explore the topic with our girls. On Sundays, 40 girls come to dance, meditate and engage in different learning activities from our female guest expert, who will share her insight, advice and knowledge to empower and inspire these young women!
A major milestone was reached at the start of the program. We started with a workshop on menstrual hygiene, which focused on the importance of menstrual hygiene and debunked some important myths and addressed taboos. Girls should not have to be ashamed of their period. The session ended with handing out Afripads - reusable sanitary pads that can last a girl one year. This means that a girl can go to school, even during her period and not have to worry about the financial burden of buying sanitary pads.
We will keep you posted on the impact of the program on the lives of these young women.
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