A group of young people in Central Asia has created the perfect dance mix for turning despair on its head and giving hope to youth
10-year-old Tereza cannot read or write. Like thousands of young people in Central Asia, she’s never been to school. She sells bread, earning about £1.71 a day. Drugs, crime – and most importantly hopelessness – are a constant temptation.
Civil war and natural disasters have left many people in Central Asia in poverty and thousands of children and youth without schools, job prospects or hope.
Founded 10 years ago, Youth Life gives youth at risk a chance to rise above their circumstances. The leadership team comprises a few men and women in their 20s who are passionate about reaching their peers.
Tom, a UK-based director, says: “If we see the needy and hopeless, we are the ones who are called and equipped to do something. Maybe we can’t answer all the questions and change everyone’s lives, but we certainly help some and change some. And if we all do a little it adds up to a lot.”
Currently, more than 6,000 young people and their families have received physical, social, career and spiritual support from Youth Life. Each week, 1,500 kids participate in youth clubs, where programmes varying from education to breakdance seminars give them a chance to build relationships and avoid the distractions of the streets.
Breakdancing, in particular, has proved a great way to attract young B-boys and B-girls (boys and girls who breakdance).
Break (danc)ing down barriers
The key to their success is creativity, and a commitment to integrity. Ira, a teenage girl, resisted the clubs at first, but over time, as she saw the consistent lifestyles and character of the Christian leaders and youth, she turned away from a life of self-destructive behaviour.
Another major factor is the fact that Youth Life leaders have all ‘been there’. Each of them was at one time hopeless until someone reached out to them with the love of Jesus. They in turn are able to share the hope of Jesus in an empathetic, loving way.
Grisha, 23, is one example. At the age of 11, he was living on the streets following his parents’ divorce and then the death of his mother. Through a local orphanage, he heard about Youth Life and started going to one of the clubs.
After giving his life to Christ, he began volunteering for the organisation. Today he runs a club called Amazon, which is attended by 35 young people. He also heads up a breakdance team and last year he graduated from university as a qualified English teacher.
Another youth leader, who uses his skills as a breakdancer to reach out to young people with the message of Jesus, says: “I used to breakdance and it was all about me. Now I have purpose. I dance to help others and I dance for God.”
A future and a hope
Thanks to the efforts by youth, for youth, long-term transformation in Central Asia seems certain. Tom reflects: “Things have grown and made an impact way beyond what we expected. It’s wonderful to see young people who once attended our clubs become Youth Life leaders.”
Due to security issues, names have been changed and specific locations omitted.
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