Our work with vulnerable youth

dance4life dedicates much of its time to working with vulnerable youth, specifically those in the adolescent children’s homes, juvenile detention facilities, and remedial schools. These are some of the youth most at risk for STI infections, including HIV, unplanned pregnancies and sexual violence, yet they are often forgotten in SRH interventions. Through our monthly sessions at the detention facilities, our vulnerable youth internship, birthday and summer programmes, dance4life aids in empowering and building the self esteem of these most at risk youth, giving them the skills needed to make positive life decisions. Through this work, dance4life has identified gaps in social services and basic support which threatens this group’s future success. As such, targeted programmes to address these gaps have been implemented. These include: 1. Educational Support Programmes (remedial reading programme, CXC tutoring programme); 2. Transitional Support Programmes (internship programme, employment workshops).

1. Educational support programme:

Remedial Reading Programme: We have found that many youth at the Children’s Homes and juvenile detention facilities lack the basic literacy skills needed to succeed in school and negotiate the realities of an increasingly information-based world. Research has shown that children who do not learn to read proficiently are at higher risk for later school failure and behavioral problems; moreover, they are more susceptible to a host of negative life outcomes once they reach adulthood. Further, poor reading skills are correlated with delinquency and diminished economic prospects. dance4life seeks to ensure that all children within these institutions are given the opportunity to either become literate or increase their literacy level. Qualified volunteers skilled in youth reading conduct weekly one-on-one sessions with identified children using remedial reading toolkits.    

CXC Tutoring Programme: We have observed that many youth at the Children’s Homes leave school without many CXCs, some with none at all. This increases their likelihood of negative life outcomes, limiting their potential to gain employment and escape the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, with limited resources these children often lack the educational support that they need. The dance4life CXC tutoring programme partners with qualified CXC tutors to provide additional support and preparation for CXC exams.

3. dance4life birthday initiative:

dance4life feels strongly that the celebration of birthdays is fundamental to the development of identity and fostering positive self-image and self-esteem. Something as simple as a birthday cake can show a child that he or she is cared about and important. Sadly in economically challenged times, birthday cakes can be an unaffordable luxury for Government run Children’s Homes, when compared to competing priorities. Many of the residents have never had a birthday cake, nor any significant birthday celebration either while in the Homes or prior. dance4life supports the Children’s Homes by providing personalised cakes and traveling to both adolescent homes throughout the year to celebrate the birthdays of each resident with evenings of fun and games. 
 Recognizing similar gaps in the juvenile detention facilities, dance4life has expanded the birthday initiative to include monthly celebrations at the juvenile detention facilities. We believe that this small act will, overtime, have a tremendous positive impact on the self-esteem of these youth and ultimately, their lives. 

2. Transitional support programme

Internship programme: In addition to our regular internship programme, our vulnerable youth internship programme targets young people transitioning out of the Children’s Homes and juvenile detention facilities, providing them with work experience that helps them build their CVs, gain confidence and skills working in an office and in the field, and helps them gain the discipline that employment requires. Work experience is recognized to be a critical component of preparing youth for transition into adulthood. Many young people leave these institutions without any academic or vocational qualifications, and with little support or guidance on safe, sustainable means of gaining income. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the dance4life internship programme affords youth a safe space to learn that they have options while reducing their susceptibility to high-risk situations and behaviours stemming from a perceived lack of choice and/or low self-efficacy. 


Employment training workshop: Employment Workshops are held annually with residents who will soon be transitioning out of the juvenile detention centers and into the community. Juvenile justice employment training interventions have been shown to reduce recidivism and increase job prospects for residents. The dance4life employment training workshop, with support from partners, contributors and employers, provides job readiness training and connects youth with potential employment opportunities. Youth from these institutions often face the challenge of stigma, self and societal. This workshop provides youth with tools to overcome this stigma, and connects them with open-minded employers. 

4. Juvenile detention monthly programme

Research has shown that offering rehabilitative services to juvenile offenders improves community reintegration and reduces recidivism. Lack of resources however, has limited the number of structured skills-building interventions offered to the youth at the juvenile detention facilities. Further, the Government Industrial Schools are seen as private institutions and therefore do not receive any government funding for important resources such as school text books. Recognizing this gap, dance4life conducts monthly skills-building sessions at both the male and female institutions. Unlike our annual summer programmes which follow our skills4life curriculum, the monthly programmes focus on content identified by the youth and the school principal, including but not limited to: anger management and conflict resolution training, confidence building, sport, music, theatre, arts and crafts, and current events. 

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