The school year is starting in Cambodia but a quarter of the kids that come to Tiny Toones have never been in a public school. The rest often can't afford the fees or have to help support their families instead. Some are already working by the time they're five years old.
But over 200 kids come to Tiny Toones everyday because it's fun, it's creative and it's free. Not just to dance but also to learn English and Khmer, computing and math and to enjoy the freedom just to be kids for a while.
Cambodia has one of the world's youngest populations. More than 40% are under 18 years of age, over 20,000 live and/or work on the streets and 10-15% never enters a school.
Tiny Toones' students are aged 5-24 and come from the poorest areas of Phnom Penh. They are vulnerable to substance abuse, exploitation, gang involvement.and HIV/AIDS. They face multiple barriers to educational progress as a result of their backgrounds, the costs involved, and being compelled to earn money themselves.
Tiny Toones Dance School grew out of the interests of the very young people who are the most vulnerable and least engaged with traditional education. The dance classes build confidence, self-esteem and a positive sense of identity as well as acting as a pathway into classes in English, Khmer and computing. Our students become part of the Tiny Toones community and our dancers perform throughout Cambodia and beyond. Their achievements are an inspiration to others growing up in the slum areas.
These kids visibly change: coming from the most impoverished and vulnerable backgrounds you see their confidence, motivation and self-esteem all improve beyond measure. They learn to be creative and to enjoy learning English, computing and other key skills. They learn to look out for others and what it means to be part of a community. Ultimately, Tiny Toones moves kids away from destructive paths - such as drug abuse and gang involvement - and gives them new motivation and hope for the future.