Life in Balance

Mauro De Bettio, Italy

Wearing brightly-coloured dresses, children dance through the labyrinth of shacks and narrow alleys in Kibera, the largest urban slum and one of Africa’s most desperate areas.

Nairobi‘s slums, with over 2.5 million people, represent more than half of its population, occupying only 5% of its area. And because of their constant population growth, there is an increase in unemployment, poverty, crime, scarcity of water and infections. Due to this heartbreaking scenario, children are the only ones who can afford to dream.

Project Elimu, translated “knowledge/education” in Swahili, is a non-profit organisation based in Kibera where Kenyan founder, and trained dance instructor, Michael has been teaching classical ballet since ‘09. He provides a safe space for children, giving them opportunities to fulfill their dreams.

The children become accomplished ballerinas, and at the same time discover their strengths.

“Most of them didn‘t even know what the word “ballet” meant, but it didn‘t stop them from discovering their great passion,” says Michael. Ballet provides a special path for these children who found “a life in balance” through their craft. Ballet is so much more than learning dance moves. It is mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Ballet provides a great outlet. Ballet has increased their self-worth and has helped these children to realize they can become anything they want to be.

The joy and focus I have seen on their faces tells a story far greater than words could ever express.

Discover more: Shortlist 2023