Ballet Is Giving Boys In Kenya’s Slums A Chance to Get Out

Thirteen-year-old Shamick Otieno left behind a one-room house in Africa’s largest slum to start taking an intense 10 ballet classes per week at the Dance Center Kenya in Nairobi.

Otieno is from Kibera, a sprawling and densely populated slum in Nairobi and the largest in Africa. Four years ago, he was taking dance classes with Annos Africa, a nonprofit that brings arts to kids living in poverty when his instructor noticed Otieno’s talent. He was offered a scholarship that now covers his housing, school fees, and dance training.

Living away from family has been hard for Otieno.

“The family was very poor. It was not easy,” his mother, Joyce Tawa, said. Even though she had her initial doubts about Otieno dancing, she now hopes his classes will be a ticket to a brighter future.

And there’s reason to believe that could happen. Otieno’s mentor, Joel Kioko, is also from the slums. He trained through the same program and now has a full scholarship at the English National Ballet in London.

Kioko and Otieno inspire each other and both hope to return to the slums as professional dancers to give other kids the same opportunities.

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