Charity organisation Awareness Through Dance plans Kilimanjaro trek
Founded by dancer, confidence coach and speaker Megan Preston, Awareness Through Dance (ATD) is a unique new organisation with two main aims: to provide a support network for performers and to facilitate charitable work through the arts to fund local and global projects. Its mission statement is “Encouraging dancers to develop personal and leadership skills addressing both their careers and global issues”, and its core values centre around developing a community for dancers to help build confidence and self-sufficiency in a physically and emotionally demanding industry that revolves around audition processes and judgement on aesthetics.
Professional dancer Emma Dodds, one of the first people involved in the charity, found the support sessions invaluable: “These meetings helped me so much in that they gave me a chance to be heard without any judgement, and were a chance for me to realise that so many people have gone through, or are going through, the same experiences as me. The feeling of support and community I get through these sessions has been invaluable in helping me to approach my career and my life in a more positive and secure way.”
Further to the career support provisions, the charitable work the organisation is planning also helps people grow in other ways, such as in leadership and confidence. On 4th September, ATD launched the Leap to the Peak project, where a group of 20 professional dancers will travel to Nairobi in Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to collaborate with African communities and raise funds for the development of schools and education, ultimately undertaking the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro. Adam Illsley, a dancer involved in Leap to the Peak, says he jumped at the opportunity:
“We as a nation take so many things for granted and the ability to have what we dream of comes too easily. There are children in the places we are going to who don’t get any of that and that’s why I am fundraising and also climbing the summit.”
ATD is working in collaboration with the charities Giving Africa and Movement for Hope on this project, and it involves three ambitious initiatives. The first aims to engage in cross-cultural dance collaborations with Nairobi youth exchanging native traditional dance styles and international dance styles and the second aims to deliver donated basic medical equipment and clothing to Nairobi hospital and raise awareness for existing neurological conditions in the community.
For these two first initiatives, ATD will be working with Movement for Hope to teach dance in Nairobi and spread awareness about neurological and spinal conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. The main goal of this partnership is to raise awareness of neurological conditions globally. The third initiative is centred around fundraising with Giving Africa to help finish building a secondary school in Gourcy, Burkina Faso, the most illiterate country in the world, by donating the prior funds raised in the UK.
In the run-up to the expedition, which will take place from 24th June to 7th July 2013, the team will be working hard to reach a fundraising target of £100,000. Each team member has a personal target to raise and, as Emma explains, this involves fundraising around earning a living.
“I am still working as a freelance dancer and dance teacher, as well as working in a part-time job as a waitress whilst undertaking this project. Everything has to be balanced very delicately. It’s my understanding that the other dancers are the same, and whilst we all hope to attend and take part in the majority of the group fundraising events, we all understand that sometimes real-life responsibilities will get in the way. I plan to fundraise through craft sales (I paint and make cushions and other arty things) and I hope to bring together all the local Brownies in my area for a massive dance event.”
The group have all committed not to take on any dance contracts overseas until the conclusion of the project. Emma describes why she’s willing to make this commitment:
“I think for me it’s all about bringing positive change in the dance community, in the way that dancers can come together, provide support for each other and make a positive impact on the dance industry, an industry often deemed as selfish, by raising money and awareness for Giving Africa and Movement For Hope, two great charities.”
The fundraising begins in earnest from October with several events already planned:
- 4th October – The Colour Works – Behavioural profiling event. Discover why you do things and understand why others may do things differently. In support of Giving Africa. Venue TBC, time: 7.30pm-9.30pm
- 13th and 14th October – UK B-boy Championships World Finals. In support of Movement for Hope, members of the Kilimanjaro team will be volunteering at the event to spread awareness about neurological conditions. Islington and Brixton.
- 17th November – Fundraising dance event at Pineapple dance studios. Workshops from top industry professionals in support of the Kilimanjaro project. 1pm-5pm.
- 18th November – partnered with Movement for Hope, this is a dance workshop for sufferers of Parkinson’s. Studio 68, Southwark. 12pm-1pm.
Emma Dodds is keeping a blog diary on the project and you can follow the team on twitter @KilimanjaroTrip. Updates will be posted via Twitter, blogs and the Just Giving pages to let people know about fundraising events, and if you’re interested in getting involved contact Megan at ATD on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information about Awareness Through Dance click here. You can donate to the team’s fundraising activity here or you can find Emma Dodds’s personal page here. The other charities can be found here at Giving Africa and Movement For Hope.