DJOLE African Dance and Drum Company
Djole (jo-lay)
adj. or n.
    1. Much dance
    2. Spirit dance
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Children Teaching Children About AIDS: A Journey to Africa

Summer 2006
N. Charleston to Africa
Trip Update | Photos | Video

The proposed project, Children Teaching Children About AIDS: Djole Journey to Africa involves teaching a group of inner city, disadvantaged African American youth about HIV/AIDS and taking them to West Africa and South Africa where we will join with a non-government organization (NGO) called Nkabom Artists and Craftspeople to disseminate the lessons to street children who are at high risk or contracting AIDS, who may have AIDS, or who have lost family members due to AIDS.

The American youth are part of a West African dance and drumming company (Djole Dance Company) that was started as an avenue to get youth off the streets and away from drugs and crime. The NGO consists of artists who will mentor the youth and teach them to disseminate AIDS information via the arts across multiple villages in Ghana and in Cape Town, South Africa. Djole and Nkabom have had a 5-year relationship as Nkabom has been Djole's drum maker. In addition, the work in Africa will involve assisting Nkabom in start-up of building an arts and job training center that will give them a venue for working with disadvantaged and street children and pulling women who are in the sex trade off the street and into job training.

Finally, a large AIDS awareness arts event will be held in Ghana that will include multiple performing artists and bands and is co-sponsored by the Ghana Dance Association and the Ghana National Commission on Culture. This project has been embraced by Ghana and involves artists from all over the country.

Prior to the trip to Africa, Lowcountry AIDS Services staff will come to the Gethsemani Community Center and teach a specific AIDS curriculum to Djole youth and any adults going on the trip. This curriculum was developed in conjunction with the Red Cross. The children will also be certified in First Aid. In addition, College of Charleston students from the campus diversity program will brief our children on West African Culture.


Goal #1: Increase knowledge of HIV/AIDS among inner city African American youth and adults.

Action: In South Carolina, youth will attend AIDS information classes. In Ghana, youth will participate in daily workshops on the arts and how to communicate and disseminate information through the arts.

Goal #2: Create an opportunity for global learning and a cultural exchange through Djole international activities

Action: Take Djole Dance Company to West Africa to learn from the master drummers and dancers, to exchange cultural ideas, and to develop a relationship with children and families in these countries.

Goal #3: Provide health education regarding AIDS to street children in West Africa and South Africa

Action: In conjunction with Nkabom Artists and Craftspeople from Ghana and organizations through Archbishop Desmond Tutu's office, we will conduct street shows that teach street children about AIDS.

Goal #4: Complete a documentary of the trip for use in future teaching

Action: Our local televisions station partners and two filmmakers will accompany us on the trip to shoot footage for development of a documentary.

Goal #5: Apply the African technology of information dissemination through the arts in the U.S.

Action: Through our partnership with the Medical University, submit a grant to the National Institute on Mental Health AIDS division to conduct street shows focusing on AIDS awareness in neighborhoods in the U.S. to test the technology.

Gethsemani Circle of Friends was developed out of a need to provide educational, recreational, cultural, health, and family cohesion activities and social services in a high crime, inner city neighborhood. The programs developed and implemented by our organization are geared toward youth and senior citizens. The major purpose is to fund and implement prosocial neighborhood-based activities that will attract youth away from drugs, crime, and violence. The developers of the organization have worked together for 7 years. Gethsemani Circle of Friends was developed in October 2003 and attained nonprofit status April 2, 2004.

Mission Statement
To positively impact children, families, and senior citizens by providing quality programs that enhance education, health, and well-being.

Arts-Based Programs
1. Djole Dance and Drumming Company
2. Special programs such as plays and Black History Month programs

Job Training
1. Assist youth with completion of job applications and how to find a job
2. Provide a course that teaches basic computer skills

Academic Enrichment
1. After-school homework and tutoring programs at the Community Center
2. "The Great Math Challenge", an ongoing program that provides a small teacher-student ratio program with incentives
3. Reading incentive programs using Accelerated Reader
4. Spelling bees periodically
5. Writing (short-story and poetry) contests across different age and grade levels
6. Annual "Soul Bowl"-a game show with general academic questions across various categories that the children answer in teams.
7. Events that foster an increased knowledge of health information on diseases of which our youth are high risk - diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS.
8. Field trips that leave the neighborhood to give the children the opportunity to learn about other places, other cultures, and issues children and their families face.
9. Scholarship funds for youth who attend college or technical school.
10. Support youth in annual attendance of the Cannon Street YMCA Black College Tour.

Neighborhood and Family Cohesion
1. Special activities geared toward family and community cohesion such as the father-daughter dinner, the mother-son banquet, the sons of Union Heights breakfast, the police versus youth "Beatdown in H-Town" basketball game.

Senior Citizen Activities
1. Weekly crafts and quilting programs in which seniors can gather and socialize, and do hand work.
2. Field trips that get seniors out of their home and give them an opportunity to interact with each other and people outside their neighborhood.

Gethsemani Circle of Friends focuses on youth and families in the Union Heights neighborhood in North Charleston, South Carolina. The Union Heights neighborhood is comprised of roughly 2500 individuals and roughly 99% of residents are African American. People in the neighborhood experience economic disadvantage (mean household income = $13,583) and low educational opportunities/background (75% of residents did not complete high school). In addition, the community has struggled with the problems of crime and drugs.

Children in the neighborhood are at high risk of involvement with drugs and crime because parents are working multiple jobs to put food on the table and the children do not have enough to do and are often unsupervised during after school and weekend times. Also, the children have limited experiences with the outside world (example: when we started Djole Dance Company some of our children had never been to historic downtown Charleston and it is only 5.5 miles away) and little faith in their ability to learn new things and pursue opportunities. Finally, the children face a future of health concerns because the families in our community have high rates of diabetes and hypertension and the risk of HIV/AIDS is high.

Djole Dance Company was formed 6 years ago to get children off the street, encourage them toward a more positive path in life, and improve their health status. Youth rehearse on a weekly basis at the Gethsemani Community Center in the neighborhood and have performed for local, national, and international arts festivals.

The Gethsemani Community Center is owned and operated by the City of North Charleston Parks and Recreation Department. We have partnered with the Recreation Department and run our programs in conjunction with them out of the community center. The Medical University of South Carolina operates a health center in the neighborhood. Our youth and their families can see a physician or nurse practitioner when they have medical needs. The nurses at the health center have provided medical examinations for youth who are starting up strenuous exercise programs. Lowcountry AIDS Services is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons living with HIV Disease, and providing HIV prevention resources and programs for schools, churches, community organizations, and the workplace in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties. They have joined with us to train leaders and youth in facts about AIDS as part of this project. Finally, the Family Services Research Center (FSRC) at the Medical University of South Carolina has been involved with us to set up recreational and educational programs. Dr. Cynthia Cupit Swenson, a psychologist at the FSRC volunteers at the Center on a regular basis and is co-director of Djole Dance Company. The Medical University of South Carolina is a partner in development of this project.

We anticipate that the project will increase knowledge of AIDS for Djole youth, youth in West and South Africa, and adults involved with the project. We expect that the information learned from the project will impact a greater number of people as we share the information publicly, speak about the trip for youth and civic groups, and as children share informally with their friends, family, and schools. We anticipate that the project will increase tolerance among participants for other cultures, ways of life, and ways of doing things. We anticipate that some of the outcomes will be realized in years to come as the impact of this project leads our youth to pursue educational and career paths related to health, diplomacy, international affairs. We anticipate that children who participate will change their view of themselves from children from one neighborhood to citizens of the world. Finally, we anticipate the arts center built in Ghana to be a sustainable method for helping street children, disadvantaged children, and women who are caught up in the sex trade.

This project stands to make a difference in many respects. First, our youth come from a community where risk of HIV/AIDS is high. A great deal of the risk comes from substance abuse. Participation in this project will educate youth and adults on information regarding HIV/AIDS and this stands to make a difference in their own behavior and in their understanding of family and neighbors who have HIV/AIDS. This project stands to help West African and South African street children who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. The street shows may lead to youth seeking medical care or decreasing at risk behavior. Finally, the project stands to place disadvantaged inner city minority youth on a life changing trajectory that could result in them working in health care areas, and in particular AIDS research or clinical or policy work. Already, just planning this project has resulted in increased awareness of our youth about HIV/AIDS and world issues. The project will likely produce interest and knowledge in our youth and others involved regarding how to be a humanitarian. Through this project our children can serve as role models in getting other youth involved in addressing the AIDS pandemic that if left unchecked will greatly impact their generation. The impact of the arts center that we help build will make a difference in the lives of people who are at the greatest risk of contracting AIDS. This part of the project will be our children's long term contribution to reducing AIDS in Africa.