First off all I like to introduce myself and give you some background on what is going on here in The Gambia.
Both of my parents came from Indonesia but I was raised and brought up in Holland where I was forced into ballet as a school girl. Although I remember hating it, ballet has became my life long passion and something I can not live without.
After leaving school, I studied Sociology and Social Work which lead to me gaining a position with the major Refugee Organisation in Holland, Vluchtelingen Werk Netherlands.
After a few years I realised that I wanted to do something in the same line but in Africa and I moved to the Gambia about 12 years ago.
I settled down in a rural community in the South of Gambia and started my charitable organisation Makadif, as in Make A Difference with the aim of educating and inspiring the women of the area.
The organisation was funded by sponsorship and donations from individuals and SMEs mainly in Holland.
- In 2006 I created a micro finance initiative from which the women were able to fund, manage and run successful small businesses which are still benefiting the local community.
- In 2010 I expanded the activities of Makadif to offer free literacy classes for the women already involved in Makadif and any one else who was interested.
- In 2013, I instigated a family planning and reproductive health program through which we have also campaigned extensively to end the local practice of female genital mutilation.
- In 2015, I launched the Making The Pointe to promote the grace and beauty of ballet and to educate, entertain, inspire and motivate the young women of Gambia.
I am always on the look out for teaching aids and role models for our classes and with the meteoric rise of Misty Copeland and others it seemed a good idea to begin introducing ballet in to the proceedings.
By watching ballet DVDs, story telling, group discussions, listening to music and teaching the basic ballet steps it soon became obvious that the women were starting to enjoy the perfection of ballet and were keen to involve their daughters and younger sisters.
The story of Michaela DePrince’s journey from poverty in an orphanage in war torn Sierra Leone to prima ballerina at the Dutch National Ballet is particularly relevant to our girls.
She is seen as a ‘local girl ‘ and her portrayal of strength, self-reliance, confidence and power are the key elements of female empowerment that I want our girls to recognise and identify with.
The best way to create an instant and life long bond with ballet for these girls is to present them with their own pair of ballet shoes. At the moment we are relying on donations of ballet shoes from friends and relatives or well wishers and holiday makers who we have met along the way.
In the short term, my plan is to increase the number of ballet workshops that we hold and begin to recruit some girls with real potential,determination or ability for serious lessons.
I would be thrilled if you could offer us any support or even just guidance