Sophia: Unleashing potential through a boundless love of dance

Sophia’s story demonstrates how she shared her love of ballet across cultural and geographic boundaries to increase access to the arts.
Sophia US AYC Panel 2019

In an “Everyone a Changemaker” world, passions easily translate into solutions. Sophia’s story demonstrates how she shared her love of ballet across cultural and geographic boundaries to increase and equalize access to the arts in an underprivileged community abroad.

At age 13, Sophia Andrews came across the photo and story of Esther, an orphan at the Happy Life Children’s home in Nairobi, Kenya. Sophia was inspired by Esther’s story and began dedicating the babysitting money she earned towards supporting Esther.

The next year, Sophia had the opportunity to visit Esther and the other children at the Happy Life Children’s Home through her youth group. While Sophia, a lifelong ballet dancer, enjoyed tasks such as changing diapers, cooking dinner, and playing with the kids she was disappointed to find that few children she met in Nairobi had the resources to study dance, despite that they clearly loved music, singing, and dancing. She believed strongly in the benefits dance offers, both in and outside the studio, and so Sophia ventured out to teach a class on dance.

Sophia prepared for her next trip to Kenya where she would spend two weeks teaching her first ballet dance classes in May of 2017. She returned to Kenya in December of 2017 to teach more ballet classes for two weeks during her school break. After her classes received an overwhelmingly positive response, Sophia became determined to permanently bring dance to underprivileged children in Nairobi.

Now 16, Sophia is the founder of Ngoma Kenya, which currently funds dance classes for children of Children at Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi. The organization’s goal is to equalize access to the arts, and thus, equalize young people's ability to reach their full potential through self and cultural expression.

Sophia, along with an in-country team comprised of musicians and choreographers, is working towards building a multi-functional performing arts center where students can practice their art, receive meals, obtain social and academic support, and relax.

She eagerly looks forward to raising a new generation of dancers native to Kenya who will be able to teach themselves, incorporating local culture into the practice. To raise money for the performing arts center and generate public awareness, Sophia aspires to bring a group of Kenyan youth to tour in the United States.

Sophia believes firmly in the power of the arts and the power of young people to make a change. “It doesn't matter how old or young you are,” she says,  “it's about helping others and getting involved.”

She poses an important question for every young person to think about, "What are you passionate about? How can you utilize that passion to become a changemaker to help others?"

Caroline DelAngelo and Lucy Eills contributed to this story.

Starting a Changemaker Movement?

Download the Storytelling Guide for Young Changemakers

Learn more about Ashoka Young Changemakers