She sits in class trying to focus. The teacher is talking about our alphabet and numbers, but she can’t see why any of that is important because she has bigger problems. She is homeless. Why doesn’t matter, because what’s done is done. She has no where to return to after school. At first, she and her mother stayed in their car, hoping things would get better. Soon, her mother found a shelter where they could stay for a little while, but either way… a car, a hotel, a shelter… none are home to her.
I recently applied for a grant through the Pepsi Refresh Project. I asked for $5,000 to reach out to the children of our community, currently living in shelters, to teach them the art of dance. The idea of homelessness brings about a certain image: An adult, ragged clothing, holding a paperboard sign asking for help/work/food/prayers. The children of homelessness are not seen, but do exist.
According to the National Center of Family Homelessness, one in every 50 children will experience homelessness. That’s 1.5 million children. Of those children, 58% of them worry they will have no place to sleep. By the age of 12, 83% of those will be or have been exposed to a least one serious violent event. Children of homelessness are 4 times more likely to be developmentally delayed, and their self-image can be severely damaged in the meantime.
Why do I believe dance can help?
Dance holds a special power to those who watch a performance, and to those who perform.
Dance can melt away insecurities and disbelief in oneself. It shows you that you can, regardless of any situation, emotion, twist of fate… you still can be active, be productive, be stellar and successful.
Dance replenishes what is lost. If you feel you’ve lost the ability to smile – a child dancing and happy will make you smile. If you’ve lost the ability to believe – dance will guide you back to believing. If you’ve lost the ability to let go, dance can do it for you.
Dance teaches confidence. Standing in front of anyone can be overwhelming and nervewracking, especially to families who feel they have nothing to stand up for. Dance will prove that not only do you have something to stand up for, but you have something to dance for: Your family, your future, learning from your mistakes and moving forward.
Dance teaches discipline. Dance encourages children to work as a group while pushing them to be the best they can be as individuals. They must mesh as a group, while instilling within them healthy competition to better themselves individually as well.
Dance reminds you there is something bigger than yourself. While our problems may be big, our community and our support systems are bigger. Dance instills faith in people, programs, projects, families that are far more powerful than any current problem. Dance reminds us that we can overcome and we can recover.
Dance is freeing, and loving, and accepting. Dance is something to experience by yourself or in a group and it’s something that can be passed along.
Dance creates memories, physical strength, emotional stability and spiritual awareness. It’s something these children can carry with them always, while teaching them how to accept and deal with life struggles.
Maybe my application for the grant will be accepted, and maybe it won’t be. I will keep trying, and I will keep believing that this project is possible.
My application has moved to the second round. If it progresses to the next round, it will be open to public voting. I need your help to make this project move from idea to reality.
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”