Updated: Jun 8
If you read my previous blog post about my trip to Africa, you'd know that my visit to The ChezaCheza Foundation in Nairobi was one of the best days of my life! As much as my classes fulfill me, I knew there was more I could and wanted to do through dance. The visit deeply inspired me, and I am incredibly happy that it resulted in a collaboration.
About The ChezaCheza Foundation
ChezaCheza means playful in Swahili. ChezaCheza is a Kenyan not-for-profit, founded in 2018, that provides weekly dance therapy sessions to build strong minds of children living in marginalised communities. Through ChezaCheza classes, children learn how to express themselves, release stress and build confidence in safe spaces through community-based coaches.
Children in these communities endure a stressful environment that includes crime, abuse, violence, and hunger. The availability of culturally appropriate, enjoyable, and accessible services to support children's mental health and wellbeing is lacking. By offering children weekly dance therapy sessions, the foundation helps them develop important social and emotional skills, connect with others, express their emotions, and gain confidence. Children can navigate the challenges of life and make responsible decisions by having fun, letting go of stress, and learning to cope with emotions.
ChezaCheza works with young, community-based coaches who contribute to the program and serve as role models with a comparable background to the kids. Children learn how dance can be used as a tool for expressing feelings, releasing stress, and developing confidence in their safe and stress-free learning environments they create in their community. Children at ChezaCheza go through a structured curriculum that combines Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), Social-Emotional Learning, and mindfulness meditation to learn more about self-awareness, managing emotions and stress, communication, collaboration, self-esteem, and empathy.
Pictures from ChezaCheza - Jeneffer and Meshak
About the Collaboration
I had the honor of dancing and interacting with the kids when I visited the foundation after following them on Instagram for months. The kids were so friendly and cheerful. When one of them asked how long it took me to create a choreography, I replied, "It takes a while because I want to make sure I get it right and out of respect for the culture, and it doesn't come as naturally to me yet." After leaving the Foundation, I knew I wanted to contribute in some way, so I thought, why not have them choreograph for us in Singapore? I pitched the idea to one of the founders, Collins, who agreed to work with us.
Each month, one child will be in charge of creating choreography for us to use in class. The money they receive each month will help fund their education, but it also allows them to teach, improve their communication skills, boost their self-confidence, and connect with people outside of Africa. As a brand, "Afrowithjeevi" has always stood for the values of dance, connection, and pushing boundaries; this collaboration brought those values to a whole new level.
About the Choreographers
Meshak Omondi, who is 15 years old, was our first choreographer. He is the man behind the song "Kuna Kuna," which has everyone in class smiling from ear to ear, and we even decided to do a flashmob near Marina Bay Sands using that song and his choreography. The best news is that he is now attending school! (Check out the screenshot below)
Jeneffer Nyakaru is our second choreographer. She is 19 years old and was born and raised in the Nairobi slums of Kibera. She enjoys dancing and creating choreographies because it allows her to unwind and connect with herself while also allowing her to explore her potential as a dancer and creative. We can't wait to dive into her choreographies to songs "Rush" and "Angela - Remix".
If you would like to know more about The ChezaCheza Foundation, you can follow them @chezachezadance on Instagram or check out their website at https://chezachezadance.org/