Since 2008 MotoMoto Circus has been working to engage, support and empower street living youth in Kenya through the medium of Fire Dancing or Poi. This program has taken an extreemly alternative route toward working with street kids. By realizing that these children need to be engaged in something that will allow them to respect themselves.
MotoMoto is Swahili for "Exciting" and is also a play on words, as "Moto" in Swahili means "Fire". MotoMoto is what Kenyans call fire spinning or Poi. Poi refers to both a style of performance art and the equipment used for engaging in poi performance. As a performance art, poi involves swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns. Poi artists may also sing or dance while swinging their poi. Poi can be made from various materials with different handles, weights, and effects (such as fire).
Training: We take our students through ten levels of training - incorporating life skills, focus areas and other support services. While it is slow process with many setbacks, by the time students reach level ten (usually within a year) the children have changed noticeably and have started to teach others. Performing not only give students self esteem, it helps them learn to work together and build trust.
Nearly all of our students start our addicted to drugs. Most common is glue sniffing, where glue is sold cheaply to kids in plastic bottles that they hold in their mouth. It causes the kids to not feel hungry and called "Nyama ya Barabara" in Swahili, which means "Street Meat". Sniffing glue causes dizziness, loss of coordination, muscular movement, slurring of speech, mental deterioration, hallucinations and finally drowsiness which can lead on to coma and respiratory failure. Most developed countries requires glue manufacturers and importers to add mustard seed oil or another deterrent to glues containing toluene or other substances that street children sniff. This is a simple solution to the glue program that the Kenyan government should implement now. For instance this was made law in Guatemalan in 1996. Help us pressure the Kenyan government to enact this!
Our goal at first is to give them a challenge, namely poi spinning. Spinning poi well takes focus, which is hard to achieve when intoxicated. Even while non-intoxicated it is quite common to hit yourself in the face, testicles and breasts. Students learn through pain and peer pressure very quickly that this is not something you can do while sniffing glue. Once a student reaches the level of actually spinning fire-poi they receive a level of attention and respect that they have never had before. This sense of accomplishment and deserved respect is a key in drug rehabilitation and feeling the internal strength to leave the streets.
Before performing with fire our students are given a safety course, and our instructors are always on hand with blankets and sand to put out burnt hair. We only burn with lamp oil, which is not easy to light and doesn't not explode under most circumstances. While burns from fire poi can and do occur, these children get beat nearly daily on the streets but other street living people and the police.
Food: The boys in our classes are either on the roads begging or stealing in order to find money for food. The girls in our classes are being raped frequently and are selling their bodies for food. In order to take their minds off the search for food, we feed our students after each lesson. The food they get is a whole home cooked meal of rice, potatoes, beans and vegetables, by a mother that has helped street youth for over twenty years.
The funding to pay for our instructors, food and materials comes 100% from Burners Without Borders who have been amazing supports and guides. We are always looking to expand the program. Right now we are only offering 2 classes a week because of funding and would like to see this every day of the week! Please visit Burners Without Borders if you would like to help. Besides the great help we get from Burners without Borders. We are looking for help with donations of kevlar and old poi sets. We are also looking for volunteers in 2013. If you can teach poi or want to learn poi - think about doing it in Kenya!
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