“Healing and Impact through Movement”

Article by Jason Otoo.

I’m Jason Otoo, CEO of the ‘Odikro’ Royals Dance Company, Ghana, and the lead dance and healing instructor for the ‘Beauty For Freedom’ summer program aimed at combatting child trafficking in Ghana.  Working with the Beauty for Freedom team this summer has been nothing short of professional and impactful. When I got the e-mail from Monica Watkins, inviting my outfit to join their team on this life-changing experience, I couldn’t help but jump at it. The email was very detailed and practical, and that is what sailed us through every day we spent impacting the lives of those amazing students in Winneba, Ghana.

My Personal Perspective on Working with Students:

I have worked with students/kids on many different projects and in different places including the States. These kids from different backgrounds interact differently, leaving so many eye openers for me when our programs are over. Enculturation processes are different worldwide and things get tough with issues of cultural differences, language barriers and the ideologies formed on both the sides of the benefactors and beneficiaries of programs like this one.

Students are fun to work with in general (if you understand the modes of transmitting and receiving information lol). People think once you are on the teaching end, you have to just give and keep giving because students/ kids are to receive. But let’s open our eyes and rethink the word ‘impact’. We would realize it deals with effects/affects that are not tilted toward one side. As a caregiver, an instructor or literally a teacher, opening up to benefit from your target group only goes a long way to help you gauge your satisfaction of their growth and helps you to receive from them as well, all the real warmth that comes with their everyday gratitude to you.

Students/kids are definitely smarter than we think them to be, even though we know for a fact that kids do crave structure.  It is only when we understand the true meaning of freedom even in the creation of structures to guide kids that we are able to better cater for the deepest needs of these kids without smothering them with what we think they need. That space for negotiation on both sides to improve on what they learn, coupled with the relationship we have with them is priceless. Working together especially with Beauty for freedom to reach out to these kids has broadened my perspective on how to be around and with them, to maximize productivity, and also to be able to convey whatever message or skill I have to share with them, with great reserve because some of the kids sure are a handful, but that does not take away the fact they need love and they deserve a place amongst their peers.

How I Feel about the Impact I Made and the Impact that BFF is Making as an Organization:

“Jason, George, Ishmael, you guys did awesome today”. “Can we give it up for our dance team, they totally rocked it, did you see the kids?” Whenever I think Winneba, I think the kids, and these comments keep me smiling sheepishly lol. I mean I do have fond memories of the eventful nature of our dance and healing morning warm-ups, to the main classes where the kids had to learn songs in other Ghanaian local languages, and they proudly sunk and killed the songs with happiness. We used to laugh so hard during song learning times when they would think they were singing it right so they amplified the sound.

It was gruesome at some point lol, but for encouragement sake we had to keep our faces straight and not laugh too hard. It was great during the time when they would laugh at their own selves for doing “justice” to those beautiful songs. The impact for us in the dance and healing class was the ability to get them to foster trust and the bonds of sibling-hood. The feeling of seeing a finished piece we created together with their inputs also went a long way to boost their confidence. I was so proud of how much impact we had had on the kids in that short time frame. I am proud of, and grateful to BFF as an organization on the overall impact they continue to make on these kids and for us the instructors to have richer life experiences.

The Impact that This Experience has had on Me:

My experience working on this project has humbled me a lot. Being a local and having the opportunity to work with foreign benefactors and local beneficiaries helped me to gain a deeper insight into the perceptions, preparations and the work culture of the BFF team. I have learned a lot in addition to my managerial skills and I have come to appreciate not just the love and time that goes into the whole program, but also the responsibility that it comes with. I think I have also become more aware of the fact that kids are individuals and as such require a mode of communication that caters for the collective as well as their individual needs. BFF has made me a better person and I am and will always be grateful.

Beauty for Freedom Healing Movement, Dance and Drumming Workshop

Thank You again to all of Beauty for Freedom’s Sponsors and Supporters for #ProjectGhana 2019. If you would still like to make a donation, please visit: www.beautyforfreedom.org/donate

We look forward to exhibiting the work of our students soon. Stay tuned @beautyforfreedom