Dance4Life is a youth project with the slogan “I want to live in a world that values health!” The program is led by Champons4Life – young men and women trained to facilitate group sessions – Journeys4Life – with their peers or younger children, helping them reach their full potential and adopt more conscious and responsible attitudes towards their own and others’ health and relationships.
Dance4Life was first held in Kazakhstan in 2019 with support from UNESCO IITE, when the program trainers adapted its content for Kazakhstan and trained the first cohort of Champions4Life. But as the COVID-19 pandemic required adjustments to the project, the Dance4Life trainers and Champions began to explore new and creative ways to deliver the program by taking it online. Despite the challenges, the program engaged 120 young people in 18 Journeys4Life over 18 months.
By the spring of 2021, the project needed to train new Champions and to upgrade its online journeys. Thus, in May 2021, certified international Dance4Life trainers from the Moscow-based Focus Media Foundation that has been implementing the program in Russia for many years and helped launch it in neighboring countries, came to Almaty.
Future Champions4Life were selected in two stages: first, they were asked to fill out an online application form and to make a short self-presentation video, and then they met in person with the project implementation team and were offered an assignment to assess their public speaking and communication skills. A few applicants were selected for further training, while the others were encouraged to try again next time.
Trainers Alexander and Polina spent five days introducing the future Champions4Life to the program and helping them practice the skills needed to facilitate Journeys4Life for small groups of 5-7 teens. The youngest trainee was 15, and the oldest Champion was 20.
The training was anything but boring: the Champions engaged in intense discussions and group assignments, practiced music and dancing, roleplay and interactive learning techniques. Besides being lots of fun, this helped the trainees improve their knowledge of reproductive health and learn ways to prevent HIV and other diseases.
I can feel how these five days changed me. Now I am more confident about myself and my abilities. I worked in small groups and learned important information about reproductive health, personal boundaries and more. My outlook on certain things changed in a positive way. Studying together was fun, and I also learned a lot from my peers. I am glad that I decided to participate in this project. Many thanks for this really useful experience to the project organizers and the international trainers.
Darina Nuralieva, new Champion4Life
For two more days, the future Champions were trained online. Over the seven days, the participants learned the content of the Journey4Life guidebook and how to use it and became confident facilitators capable of maintaining the group’s attention. An important focus of the training was the language, including the meanings of technical terms and a discussion of stigmatizing and discriminatory phrases which are sometimes used without awareness and must be avoided. As a result, the trainees learned to use ethical and correct language, further developed their public speaking skills, and improved their literacy in sexual and reproductive health.
The training for Champions helped me learn more about the project. For the first time, I was in a totally safe, non-judgmental space, where every opinion was respected. The trainers modelled for us how to facilitate a journey but left enough room for our creativity and avoided setting strict rules. These days were among the most productive and emotionally stimulating in all my life. And more importantly, this training is just the beginning of my participation in the project.
Alina Glushkova, new Champion4Life
A few current Champions4Life who already have experience with facilitating journeys attended a second-level training designed to update their knowledge and study particularly challenging cases. The trainers noted that the current Champions had advanced their professional skills since the previous year. The more experienced Champions supported the new participants while building further competencies, which made it possible to create a strong team of Champions4Life by the end of the training.
The refresher training for Dance4Life Champions was really successful. I learned new things from my peers as well as the trainers, got a new perspective on the trainings, saw my mistakes, and found solutions to address them. Now I am filled with energy, and I have met new people. Heaps of positive emotions, everything was so cool! I am ready to continue the journey with renewed energy, working to make the world a better place.
Alexandra Efimova, current Champion4Life
A total of 20 Champions have been trained. Today, preparations are underway to launch their first Journey4Life sessions. At this stage, 50 participants have been recruited into the program, and a total of 400 to 500 young people are expected to benefit from the journeys before the end of this year. Each participant who undertakes the Journey4Life will be issued a certificate awarding them the title of an “Agent of Change”.
It is great that there are cool projects like Dance4Life. I don’t have the words to describe my emotions after taking people on a Journey4Life. Lots of positive thoughts and a high motivation to change myself and to help others change for the better. Change always begins with ourselves. If I can change myself, I can also make a positive impact on someone else’s life!
Dilyara Enikeeva, current Champion4Life
In addition to facilitating journeys, Champions host live broadcasts on their Instagram page @dance4life.kz to discuss things that concern teens and young people, such as the challenges of growing up, first romantic relationships, health and safety, gender stereotypes, relations with parents and much more.
I completed the Dance4Life training, and I can say that this experience is unforgettable. These few days have helped me to become a better person, to love myself more and to live a more conscious life. I am really happy that there is a project such as Dance4Life, and I am happy to be a part of it.
Ekaterina Kostyuk, new Champion4Life