The heat and dust were all over. The drumbeats were fast and the dancing was in a frenzy. The small children who were playing ran to watch and ended up dancing themselves. Unmindful of the warm atmosphere and even the audience around them, at least 30 children in the World Vision Bidibidi child-friendly space (CFS) were having fun of their lives performing the traditional bwola dance.
“I learned it from my older sisters and my aunts”, 17-year old Alice says. Alice was part of the dance group named Care Loving Club in her village in South Sudan before the war killed her parents and brought her fleeing to northern Uganda refugee settlement. “I love dancing. I also love the larakaraka community dance which brings the community together”, she adds smiling as she wiped the sweat in her forehead.
Chid protection team member Charles Kidega said the children dance the larakaraka especially when there are visitors. “Everyone in the community can dance it. It is a unity dance that is even part of a welcome the royalty in their country”, Kidega says. Alice arrived at the settlement last August 2016 alone and now lives with a family who took her in. “It is hard to live without my parents. The rest of my 10 siblings were left behind in South Sudan”, she says.
Recent UNHCR Report as of July 2017 states that at least 63 percent of the refugees who fled South Sudan are children below 18 years of age. The brief gloom in Alice’s face was replaced by a bright smile when she was asked to return to the group who started dancing the larakaraka for countless times. Picking up her whistle, she led the children and took over the drum.
Kidega commends the children’s skills and passion for dancing. Most of the time, at least 30 children come to join daily but sometimes it can be as high as 50. “It is a good way for them to always remember their tradition and at the same time meet new friends and learn together”, he says.
World Vision’s Child Protection Coordinator Richard Talagwa who is overseeing the Bidibidi CFS said at least 2,500 children were registered in the settlement and over 1,000 come to join the activities daily.
“We have included dancing, singing and drama in our activities because they help in the mental health and psycho-social wellbeing of children. These relaxes their minds, relieves them of any painful situation and they enjoy the entire experience”, Talagwa says.
He adds, “The activities are also part of the Uganda educational curriculum and encourages healthy competition in the district and national level, thus, giving the children a chance to show their skills. The South Sudanese culture is also very passionate on traditional dances and songs and we see that in these children.”
Alice adds wryly, “I hope the leaders will come into a common understanding so we can all return in peace. I want to be a nurse someday”.