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JOHANNESBURG — Cape Town-based Jessica Bester and Nastasha Coetsee quit their previous daytime jobs to launch a dance school in Gugulethu. The school targets giving a sense of hope to underprivileged children in the township while teaching them valuable life skills. In this interview, Bester and Coetsee tell us why they decided to launch the initiative. Take a listen. – Gareth van Zyl
Gareth: It’s a pleasure to welcome Jessica Bester and Nastasha Coetsee on the line from Cape Town. Now, Jessica and Nastasha, you guys are the founders of a dance organisation called Move for Two in Gugulethu. What is Move for Two exactly?
Jessica: We’re a dance school, essentially, working in Gugulethu with underprivileged children there and the name really comes from the idea of there being two people that move. We’re both passionate about movement, we’re passionate about being able to give children the opportunity to move. But obviously, it’s a privilege to take dance classes as well. So, essentially, Move for Two came from the idea of one community moving for another community – that is, someone has moved its heart to give it to enable children to move in body.
Gareth: Why did you decide to start this? What was your personal motivational factors behind this?
Nastasha: I think that both Jess and myself both have a call to teaching. Both of us have been teaching for a long time. But even when I was a little girl, I just wanted to work with communities that are less privileged. And I really think it just got to the point where we both of us felt the calling to leave our permanent jobs and really just take a step in faith and do this.
Gareth: What were your permanent jobs before this?
Nastasha: So, I was a dancing teacher at a high school called Norman Henshilwood in Wynberg.
Jessica: Before this, I was running a dance school, but freelance teaching at four different schools with contracts. So, we both left those jobs to start Move for Two.
Can you tell us more about the kids that you’re trying to help there in Gugulethu? In terms of their backgrounds and the kinds of struggles that they go through, and why they would come to an organisation such as yourselves?
Jessica: So, the kids there are based at two different centres. The one centre we are based at is a school called Bonga Primary, and then we’re at another community centre called Tankiso and Masikhanye Centre, and from Bonga we work with Grade-1-4s, and we run dance classes as an extra circular. it gives them something to do to keep them out of trouble and off the street, but these children really have nothing. To come to a dance class or even paying for it is something that is quite foreign to them. They respond to our lessons in just a really beautiful way. They’re always full of excitement to come. We’ve only been going since the beginning of this year and the teachers at Bonga Primary have said that they have a noticed remarkable improvement in the children’s academics … and most of them come from homes where they don’t have a mother and a father at home who they’re living with. A lot of them are living with just a ‘gogo’ and then like five cousins or just a single parent in a one-bedroom facility, a little house or a shack.
Nastasha: I think the circumstances that we see them coming from even on a daily basis, help us to understand something new that happened at home or even just get to see another side of the child, especially in terms of where they come from or what they don’t have.
Jessica: And also in terms of what they have to face at such a young age. Our little ones are Grade 1’s and the kinds of struggles that they have to put up with are immense. We have kids from around 14h00 to 15h00 in the afternoon and they’re late because that’s the first meal that they get. So, they run home or they run to the little shop and go and get a meal. Then they come in late and they apologise for being late but they hadn’t eaten the whole day.
Gareth: Can you tell me more about the age range of the children that you have there? So, you’ve mentioned that you’ve got kids from Grade 1. So, does it go right through to matric, for example?
Nastasha: So, the school that we’ve partnered with, Bonga, some of them are as little as 5 turning 6, and then going into Grade 4, which would be about 10 or 11. Sometimes we’ll carry them on so we’ll be 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s so, then they’ll get a year older. Then the kids that we teach in Phankiso, like we said, we’ve got a junior class and a senior class. Our juniors are little. They are between 6 and 8, and then the oldest boy that we teach is 16. So, that is quite an age gap but he’s in a class of his own with other girls and boys of his age.
For somebody who wants to help out or get involved, how can they get in touch with you guys?
Jessica: They can visit our website Movefortwo.org or follow us on Instagram or follow our Facebook page and they’ll all link up. We have email addresses and numbers that you can contact us on. Obviously, the biggest need at the moment is just funding because it costs R450 a month, to sponsor one child to dance, and so, we have a donate page on our website and obviously, we want to get businesses involved and companies that can sponsor us with larger amounts but essentially we also want to give to the individual. Like we said in the beginning, the hearts behind it is that people are moved so that our kids can move.
A good friend of ours, pro bono, shot a video for us and he came with us into Gugulethu for a few days and we just explained a little bit more about what we do and the call for action. So, it’s really just saying like we said: it’s R450 a month to sponsor a child… We’re going to launch that video soon and we really want to try and get individuals to sign up to support a child for a year. So, that’s a big drive that we’re going to have and launch soon.
Jessica and Nastasha, thank you so much for telling us about Move for Two and I wish you the best of luck with your project.
Thank you so much, Gareth.