Learning a new trade or hobby can be an effective way of making new friends and becoming accepted. But some paths to integration are more unusual than others.
In Ecuador ballet is not only a creative way to boost self esteem but can also lead to a job! Every day David makes the journey from his home in the slums to his local dance school. He is swimming against the tide in a society where male ballet dancers are not easily accepted.
David is one of 25 slum children admitted to the school because of their outstanding potential -and just like Billy Elliott, they face cultural prejudice about male dancers. Dance Professor Codalmis Rodríguez laments that: “Unfortunately, there is prejudice in Ecuador. But the truth is that traditionally, dancers were all men. They even dressed as women to represent a couple.”
In Turkey, Eyup Bilgi University’s Arts and Culture Management Programmes offer an environment of inspiration for students and the wider community, including migrants. It helps them communicate, know each other better and integrate more fully into society.
The university campus is available to all local residents making it an open space for arts and culture. Dilara is 17 and has been coming to the university’s workshops for 18 months. Guitar classes are very popular. Said Neslihan Oztürk, the youth programme coordinator: “These workshops aren’t meant to produce perfect musicians or professional actors. It’s a way for young people to meet and talk. We are mainly interested in how these youngsters express themselves in the workshop, and whether this leads to further learning needs. If someone wants to go further, to accomplish a dream, then it’s a success.”
In Spain women who have suffered domestic violence now have the opportunity to overcome the trauma they endured and learn a new way of earning their living. It is all thanks to the ‘Proyecto Vivir‘ centre. There they learn skills while their children attend the nursery.
In the last 10 years more than 600 women have died as a result of domestic violence in Spain. It is a huge problem and many organisations are working to stop domestic violence. In Valencia a centre provides training to more than a 100 victims of domestic violence.
The Deputy Director of the foundation Fina Tomás explained how it works: “We realised that when we paid their rent or their water or electricity bills, the poverty continued. We weren’t giving these women dignity. We wanted to help these women and their families, but in exchange for some sort of learning.”
For the women who attend the centre, learning pottery or painting are the first steps towards feeling worthy and able enough to build a new life.