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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dramatic Need, South Africa and Rwanda

Annually, over 2,600 children are impacted in rural areas of South Africa and Rwanda through the visual and performing arts programs offered through Dramatic Need. Professionals in a variety of arts fields volunteer their time and talent for three to eight weeks. The volunteer-led workshops are based around the particular expertise of the volunteer, be it drama, visual arts, music, film or dance.

In South Africa, at their permanent base - the Piet Patsa Community Arts Center - their full-time staff maintain a sustainable arts program year round that volunteers contribute to during their stay. Programs at the arts center impact a variety of different people in the local township and farm communities, including orphans, street children, school youth, teenage moms, a local group of beat poets and un/under-employed single women.

Dramatic Need currently has links with 19 schools in South Africa and Rwanda, reaching almost 5,000 school-aged children in some of the most impoverished and isolated parts of rural Southern Africa. While the arts are part of the official curriculum in South Africa and Rwanda, the reality is that most rural schools have neither the funds nor the materials to make the most of the arts syllabus.

This is where Dramatic Need comes in. Through their artist-led workshops they augment whatever arts education already exists in local schools. They stress that volunteers are not teachers and are not replacing existing arts education or educators.

The Dramatic Need program is very much a cultural exchange, with volunteers learning as much as the children they are working with. They are not "importing" theater, music and art to South Africa, but simply enabling children who may have very little in life, to utilize and take ownership of their own talents and abilities. In doing so, volunteers will be helping to foster the children's self-confidence and ability to express their emotions in a positive way.

Many of these children are familiar with the expression of emotion through violence, be it sexual, domestic, ethnic or gang-related aggression. The provision of a means of self-expression or an outlet for frustration that is non-violent and creative is one of Dramatic Need’s major aims. Dramatic Need is a not-for-profit charity and relies upon volunteers and donations in order to keep reaching these children. A little money from donations or Dramatic Need merchandise goes a long way, and they greatly appreciate your support. Visit their website or become a subscriber to teir Blog at and find them on Twitter!

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