Art, beauty, movement, culture, release – dance can be many different things. For Daniel, whose father abandoned his family when he was eight years old, dance has been a refuge, helping him to find his path to a better future and a place to belong.
This is Daniel’s story of how dance and his sponsor helped him become the young leader he is today.
“Dance is a refuge. It has allowed me to unite the family [after my dad left]; it's a space where members of my family who share the same passion and taste for dance can come together. Through dance, I can connect with other people, and while I dance, I forget all the problems.”
17-year-old Daniel is a leader in his family and his community in Ambato, Ecuador. He says his love of dance, which was fostered through World Vision’s child sponsorship programme in his community, is a healing channel that has helped him transition from the timid boy his father left behind to a young man of strength and purpose today.
“My dance group means love and respect for the culture and tradition of my people. Dance rescues the customs of the ancestors and involves more adolescents and young people to get to know and transmit our culture,” he says.
When they dance, Daniel says he and his dance group connect to their community and the layers of Andean culture handed down to them over generations. He says it connects them to a rich sense of identity that transcends the realities of the poverty many families in his area deal with day-to-day.
“I was about eight years old when my father abandoned us.”
Daniel knows firsthand the struggle to find identity and self-worth through the lies of poverty, which tells children facing circumstances beyond their control that they are worthless, insignificant. Daniel’s mother, a seamstress, says she fought each day to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of her three children after her husband left.
Child sponsorship helped Daniel and his family take back so much that they had lost – food and financial security through supplies to help them grow their own vegetable garden, emotional support through parenting classes for their mum, and love and care from Daniel’s sponsor and the World Vision staff and volunteers who supported them.
It was in this process that Daniel rediscovered his love for music and dance.
Today, Daniel leads a community dance group, performing in festivals across the region, as well as a local youth group focused on teaching children their rights and how to protect themselves from harm of exploitation that’s common in his area.
Daniel and his family are thriving. He’s even been able to face COVID-19 with greater confidence, even though it forced him to complete his second year of high school through virtual classes like so many other teenagers around the world, and it temporary halted his dance group, too.
As the world begins to take stock of all that has changed over the last few years and the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, Daniel is choosing to focus on his community’s strengths and his future.
“My community is very united and supportive. It is very beautiful. I want to become a social worker to help others and to be able to work with girls, boys, adolescents, youth and older adults so that their rights are not violated any more and they feel protected.”