Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Global Village
By Karryn Miller

Dancing 4 Kids
A grassroots NPO keeps its promise to help AIDS orphans in Africa

Photos courtesy of Red Baklava

“Dance is a universal language. Dance is freedom and dance is life.” So said Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s renowned archbishop and opponent of apartheid. Tutu’s feelings are embodied by Dancing 4 Kids (D4K), an organization dedicated to helping South Africa overcome its problems.

“The dancing element of our NPO is kind of a metaphor for ‘moving’ towards helping kids,” explains Chrissi Theodorakakos, D4K’s director of funding and business development.

The group got its start in February 2008, when Theodorakakos and photographer Red Baklava went to South Africa to meet with former antiapartheid activist Patrick Chamusso. After a friend of Chamusso died of AIDS, leaving two daughters behind, he and his wife founded Two Sisters, an orphanage that now houses 76 children—and uses funds from groups like D4K to keep going.

But the history shared by D4K and Two Sisters is even more compelling. Chamusso’s tale of rising up against apartheid was told in the 2006 Hollywood film Catch a Fire. The movie inspired Theodorakakos and Baklava in their efforts to raise money for the children’s home.

Following the initial trip, D4K held an exhibition at Fujimamas restaurant showcasing photographs from the South African journey. Theodorakakos continues to sell the photos (some featured here) from her home, with the money from sales going directly to the orphanage.

After the exhibition, D4K teamed up with Waseda University to stage “Dancing 4 Two Sisters.” This show combined performances by the Austrian Ballet Company Tokyo, Japanese “beatboxer” Afra, and musician (and occasional MetPod contributor) Stuart-O with a student-led presentation on the AIDS situation in South Africa.

“Our goal is to raise money for the [orphaned] kids as well as to create awareness of their existence,” says Theodorakakos. “There’s this fear of AIDS, but with the right support and medical care people with AIDS can live the same life as us.” The children supported by Two Sisters have lost their parents to the disease, and some are HIV-positive.

The D4K team’s new fundraiser is slated for March. “Our next event will be about children helping children,” Theodorakakos explains. As details start to take shape, she is on the lookout for volunteers. Currently, the group has no paid employees and sometimes ends up sponsoring its own events.

Despite its tiny staff, D4K has big plans. “We hope to expand overseas to Europe and South Africa. It seems that even though we are such a small group, our trip to South Africa was not just inspirational—it somehow turned us into a vehicle, a driving force that spreads the news about what we saw in so many different ways.”

Theodorakakos recalls: “I will never forget the day we said goodbye to Patrick. When I gave him a hug he said, ‘Please don’t forget about us.’ Earlier, he had mentioned that many people visit the orphanage, but when they leave, he never hears from them again. I was sad to hear that and I reassured him that we would try our best to help his children. This is what we’ve been doing since then. We are trying to keep our promise.”

To learn more about D4K or to get involved, email chrissi@cocoa.ocn.ne.jp or see www.dancing4kids.ning.com. Check out photographs from the Fujimamas exhibition at the D4K website or at www.redbaklava.com. The photos can be purchased by contacting D4K at the email address above.

Village Voices

■ With spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to lace up your jogging shoes and start training for Paracup, a walk/run to raise money for NPOs supporting children. The 10k event on April 29 is being organized by Parasaiyo, a Tokyo-based NPO that works with a Filipino orphanage, and the money raised will help support a number of other organizations as well. Three thousand runners and some 500 volunteers are expected to participate. The entry fee of ¥4,500 (jr/sr high students ¥2,000; younger free) includes a T-shirt and certificate of completion. If you’re not interested in running but still want to lend a hand, a donation of ¥2,000 will buy you lunch—and you still get the T-shirt.

April 29, 10:30am start. Tamagawa cycling road course (see website for map). Online registration at www.paracup.info/2009. Sponsorship opportunities available. Registrations accepted through the end of March.


■ If you’ve already signed up for the Tokyo Marathon on March 22, then you’re also eligible to register with the Tyler Foundation and become part of the Shine On Marathon Challenge. The locally based NPO battling childhood cancer is raising money for phase one of the Shine On House in Tokyo—a support center for families of pediatric oncology patients—by getting Tokyo Marathon runners to ask friends and families to donate money. The Shine On pledge team is invited to take part in tandem events like pre-race training and an after-party, and participants can even win prizes for fundraising efforts.

See www.tylershineon.org for more information. KM

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