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Stories from the House of Talents: The Siblings

We have been working consistently with four siblings ­who have shown great enthusiasm and aptitude for acrobatics. Their story illustrates the motivation behind our mission.

In the early morning, the three boys, Juma, Fadhili, and Abdully, and their sister, Swahumu, will sometimes join Astrid and Godlisten for a jog to warm up before training. They have been coming to the House of Talents almost daily.

The two eldest siblings, Juma and Fadhili, have a talent for juggling and tower building, and love doing handstands and back-flips. Abdully, the third, is a contortionist: his body is amazingly flexible, allowing him to wrap himself around others as they try out new formations. Swahumu, the only girl in the family, is very good at roller-balancing and seems to have even more strength than her older brother, Abdully. She has been practicing to perform a handstand on the top of the tower her brothers have learned to build.

What Poverty Means for Children in Chanika

The siblings are part of a poor family living here in Chanika. Juma and Fadhili had to drop out of school due to their family's circumstances; they support their parents and sibling by doing odd jobs. Abdully and Swahumu never went to school for the same reasons. The fifth and youngest sibling (who is too young to train with us, but whom they sometimes bring along anyways) will likely face the same situation.

None of them can read or write their own names. This family of seven lives in one room that includes the kitchen, together with their ducks and chickens. They have no electricity or water. As they own no mattresses, they are used to sleeping on the floor. They also own very few clothes.

Their economic hardship is compounded by the fact that both parents struggle with alcoholism and cannot provide adequate care for their children. The children often eat only once a day or not at all.

It is extremely difficult for children to break out of the cycle of poverty into which they were born when they can't complete a basic education. And there aren't any adequate social institutions that can provide support.

What the House of Talents Can Offer

What has become very clear is that the House of Talents provides them with care and attention that can't be provided to them elsewhere: they receive attention and encouragement while being in space in which they can discover their talents, feel valued, and also play and have fun with other children.

We can see that this makes a difference in their lives and that it allows them to envision a new path. The siblings have been extremely dedicated to their training and have honed their skills very quickly. When our guest, Phillis, recently asked one of the boys what future he sees for himself, he said that, one day, he also wants to build an acrobatics center. One of the girls who trains with us said that she didn't used to have friends until she came to the House of Talents and started training and playing with other girls.

We've built something meaningful here in Chanika, and even though this is only the beginning, we are very happy to see the dedication and joy the children bring to the House of Talents, and know that the rewards of our efforts are immeasurable. Knowing that we are making a difference in their lives, we have to make sure the House of Talents is sustained and continues to grow so the children and their talents can truly blossom.


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