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Rising to the Top
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Rising to the Top

When you think of Nairobi's slums, performance art probably isn't the first thing that comes to your mind. But the Sarakasi Trust isn't a normal organization. It's working with impoverished Kenyan youths to train them as dancers and acrobats, a process which gives young people self-belief and helps them fulfill their potential both on the stage and off it.

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From "Endeleza," a documentary film by Ana Cetina.

Learn more about the Sarakasi Trust.

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

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Nairobi, Kenya
MOSES MBAJAH [Sarakasi Acrobat]
My full name is Moses Mbajah, and I'm an acrobat in the circus. Back at my mum's place, they didn't have nothing at all, nothing to eat ... everything. And then the group which I was with, they had this idea of, like, it was easy to get access to people's houses and get a stereo, get a TV, and then go and sell it. And that's what I had to do and bring to my mum, and then at least they had something, something to eat. They just didn't care, even if I was just going to be caught, or what. At that time, I thought it could have been, even in a way, better, because I didn't have food to eat, and, if I'm being taken to the police, at least I could get something to eat.
PELEGIAH NDIRANGU [Sarakasi Dancer]
I've lost so many friends along the way, some are prostitutes. When I actually go home to visit, back at my place, I find so many of my schoolmates with kids. They look two times older than I am, and, when I look at them like this, I'm like, "God."
MOSES MBAJAH
The person who owned the house, we just passed each other, like [whistles], and, then, we heard the footsteps, that is, someone is coming, running, and when he came out, he was yelling, you know? Like, at that moment, if you are being yelled at, "You're a criminal," people will stone you and burn you. Stone you to death and then put a tire on you, and ... From a distance, I could see. I stopped, and I could see back, what was happening, and there were a lot of people in that place, and if one of my friends could have been caught there, he could have been killed. That was the day that I decided, like, this is not going to be happening anymore.
RUDY VAN DIJCK [Founder, Sarakasi Trust]
We started in Kenya some 20-plus years ago, and like, I think everybody who comes to this beautiful country, went on safaris and appreciated beautiful landscape and animals, of course, and then we also started to have an eye for the people and the culture, and we felt we should do something and try to help. So we started with street children rehabilitation work, and we realized that there was a need for finding something, a tool, that would keep those street kids, girls, boys, with very bad backgrounds, in the homes.
MOSES MBAJAH
What I saw first is the people who came and introduced acrobatics and [inaudible] and started recruiting. I was being taken to the performance and I was like, "What?" These people, the ones who do this and they're doing ... they are so huge, big ... if they can do it ... they really rocked me. Because they are things which I'd never seen in my life and I saw that at that time and I was like "Wow! I'd like to do that."
RAHIM OTIENO [Sarakasi Staff]
The most special thing about Sarakasi is the outlook towards these people, how they view the artists, what they're recognizing, probably in a situation other people would deem hopeless. They try and reach out and get whatever bit of hope there is in these people, kind of like ignite it again and have them believing in themselves again. That, to me, is special.
MOSES MBAJAH
Working in Sarakasi has made me have my own room, where I sleep. The fruits of it is, like, I'm getting paid and I'm able to sustain myself with my family. I can just provide what I have, and we can share it. Not a lot of boys of my age can do that. But I'm just proud of myself at this moment, that I'm able to do something like that.
PELEGIAH NDIRANGU
Sarakasi has helped a lot of people, you know? There are so many people who have passed through Sarakasi and out. And out there when you meet with them, they live way better than they used to live before they came to Sarakasi. I think I've grown to be confident, to be outspoken, and self dependent. And this is really a great deal, you know? But, yeah, I really mostly thank Sarakasi for that.
MOSES MBAJAH
If we give all those people in the slums an opportunity, there wouldn't be all that poverty around here. If you're born an Einstein, and you never have the chance to read a proper book, if you're in fact a Bill Gates in your mind, but you never get a dollar to invest in anything, you're never going to make it. There's so much talent out there.
MOSES MBAJAH
My acrobatics, I like it. It's something good. It has made me a positive man.
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From "Endeleza," a documentary film by Ana Cetina www.endelezafilm.com