Phan Y Ly

Theatre for development- from a vietnamese practitioner's view

Location: Vietnam

Born in 1981, Phan Y Ly is the first Vietnamese woman to study MA Theatre for Development. She has 4 years of experience in development work and community theatre with UNDP, international organisations in Vietnam and abroads. Ly is now a freelance consultant on using arts for individual and social transformation in Vietnam and a co-moderator of the Art for Development Vietnam e-list. Besides community work, Ly is also the founder of SameStuff Theatre, a contemporary theatre group based in Hanoi.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Youth Drama of Hope in Kibera, Kenya - Introduction

In November 2004, as part of my MA course in Theatre and Media for Development in University College Winchester, UK, I was required to do a three month project that would extend the knowledge and skill that I acquired during the course. For me, that should be a place where there is demand and need and “hunger” for new skills.

I avoided contacting large, well known non-government organizations, for they have been so traditionally structured and hierarchical. I was looking for a community who can decide for themselves and negotiate directly with me instead. I was focusing on the African continent, simply because I had never been there!

My keywords for searching on Google were “theatre, drama, community, development, Africa”. It was like a search for a needle in the ocean, not only this combination of key words were hard to find, but also those results that actually matched only showed that of well established organizations whose worries are more on funding than on new skills, and the decision makers are definitely not those who are hungry for what I could offer.

My luck arrived when offered a wonderful directory of different categorized organizations for each region of the world, among them is the list of “Community Organizations” in Africa. And I found this:

“Kibera Community Youth Program
A youth programme formed and run by youth from the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, which aims to education youth and slum dwellers about drug abuse, illegal firearms, domestic violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS, using sports and dramatic arts and via networking with other organizations”

The link to their website gave me both excitement and admiration. On the computer screen was a very simple web page with basic information about the group’s vision and activities. Despite of the amateur feel of the site, the commitment and determination of the young people clearly shone through. One would not believe the website was set up by those living in the slum! “Edutainment” was repeatedly mentioned in the programme page. They also called it “Theatre for Development” where they go out in the community with skits and plays to act in the community based on a particular theme: “This is used as an edutainment approach where we pass information while entertaining the audience.” Beside funding and equipment, the group also described “new skill” as one of the areas they have been seeking. Fredrick Ouko, a 23 year old coordinator of the group, proved his determination through a series of articles he wrote and submitted on many other development websites that I later found.

My request to work with them on the use of theatre in community development was greatly welcomed. We exchanged about four emails each day for three months, explaining our situations, hopes, fears, and expectations. Every time I expressed my concern for their lack of financial stability and questioned their commitment, Fredrick would end his reply email with “I am sure I won’t be the one to disappoint you, and you can mark my words. It is hard to trust someone having not worked with him/her in the first place, just get it from me that I respect your comments and look forward to close involvement.”.. (to be continued)


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