Street Dreams gets youth moving in Australia

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Dance and mentoring initiative provides positive community networks, promotes health and well-being

The Salvos Youth Foundation, which leads the Australia Eastern Territory’s strategic response to at-risk youth, has funded the Street Dreams program for three years in an innovative approach to using hip-hop dance to address issues affecting at-risk young people. The foundation partners with Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD), a charity that exists to change and inspire young lives through music, dance and mentoring.

“Street Dreams is an inspiring partnership between The Salvation Army and MMAD to engage with the local community in the creative arts space,” said Jason Poutawa, Salvos Youth Foundation coordinator. “Street Dreams establishes a safe and healthy environment for young people’s dance ability, emotional intelligence and leadership potential to develop and thrive, affecting multiple aspect of their lives.”

The program, which launched in February 2012, is open to anyone in the community ages 8-18. Skilled and motivated dance instructors teach weekly sessions with a motivational focus from self-esteem to violence issues.

“This provides a relevant generational connection point for young people and their families to also access multiple programs of what The Salvation Army can offer and facilitate locally, and intervene where help is needed the most,” Poutawa said.

MMAD provides the professional dance instructors at Street Dreams and The Salvation Army hosts the classes at the local corps and centers. In addition, The Salvation Army also offers mentors to counsel Street Dreams participants.

“Our vision is that everyone has someone who believes in their great potential. If you look at anyone who’s done anything, they’ve always had someone to believe in them,” said Dominic Brook, MMAD chief executive officer.

“Street Dreams has a different theme each term. Aside from dancing, the young people watch a motivational video about the theme followed by discussion. At the end of class they finish with MMAD Props, where each participant will encourage another person in the group,” Brook said.

“At Street Dreams, they never get put down,” he said. “In a circle they have to yell out something that they like about the other person. They just build each other up.”

The program has impacted approximately 50,000 children and their parent groups across 15 locations along the eastern coast of Australia.

Street Dreams also provides the opportunity to connect young people and families with a range of holistic support services through local Salvation Army corps and centers. Major Deon Oliver, Stafford corps officer, said Street Dreams is a critical program for his center.

“It brings young people and the rest of their families through our doors, bringing life to this place as well as a greater sense of community,” he said. “Street Dreams provides non-threatening entryways for those who are unfamiliar with The Salvation Army. [They can] share anything at all here.”

From the Australia Eastern Territory

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