Co-founder Francis Odhiambo was raised in the largest slum of Kenya, called Kibera. He is a talented dancer who knows the difficulties of growing up as a child in this area. There are many problems such as crime, violence and drug abuse. He did not know how to handle his environment and navigate life here. All he wanted was a safe space that gave him the right tools to handle his challenges.
Luckily, he found a mentor and started to give children in his community what he lacked growing up – a safe space to express yourself and guidance by a mentor. He started teaching children to dance, and it quickly became so popular that children knocked on his door every Saturday morning, asking him to come and dance with them.
After some dance classes, Francis noticed the changes in their behaviour, more positive attitudes, self-esteem and improved communication skills – he knew then and there that dance had the power to transform lives.
In 2018, Cherrelle Druppers came to visit one of Francis’ classes and recognised the immense potential of Francis’ work. As a development professional, educator and dancer, Cherrelle understood the importance of dance and started to dig deeper into how Francis’ work could be more structured and able to reach more children.
Together they founded ChezaCheza and started working on a curriculum that could support children in navigating their challenging environment. The innovation of ChezaCheza is a dance therapy class that combines DMT, SEL, and mindfulness as essential building blocks for change.
ChezaCheza Dance Foundation addresses the mental health crisis amongst children in marginalized communities in Kenya. Chronic stress, violence, and adversity are the prevailing conditions for these children, leading to compromised mental health and development. The stark absence of culturally appropriate, enjoyable, and accessible mental health services escalates the crisis – affecting an estimated 1.3 million Kenyan children. These mental health challenges disrupt the children’s natural progress in brain development, affecting learning, and decision-making abilities and sometimes segue into adverse behaviours.
ChezaCheza’s mission, thereby, is to facilitate safe, therapeutic, and culturally-appropriate spaces through dance to support positive change by improving their coping mechanism, self-confidence, while equipping them to overcome personal and societal adversities
To create access to safe spaces for children in marginalised communities where dance supports their mental health and well-being.
ChezaCheza wants to equip every child with the capacity to make responsible life choices and realise their full potential.
Francis is an award winning youth leader with various awards in Kenya for his work in marginalized communities in Kenya. His passion has not gone unnoticed, he has been numerously selected to be part of different international fellowships and conferences focused on Education and social entrepreneurship. Francis is also a Global Youth Ambassador for Education. He is an Educator who is hugely passionate about using dance to promote social-emotional learning and life skills in Education.
Cherrelle has an MSc. in International Development and Bsc. in Education. ChezaCheza bring together her passion for art, education and youth development. She is interested in creating and implementing innovative learning solutions that ensure at-risk children from resource-limited communities get the skills to thrive.