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My granddaughter, her name is Kiana. She found out about a dance group in the area where we live, Barton. The dance teacher got her to go to Pegasus Theatre, where she got involved with Body Politic. And she’s been going now for about three years. Like twice a week. 

As a developing child, it’s something extra for her to do outside of school. You know, teenagers tend to get involved with other children and go off doing things they shouldn't be. But when kids are involved in such programmes, they keep focused, and out of trouble. It creates other chances for them in life to find things they could do other than just schoolwork. 

Kiana has changed quite a bit. When she joined, I think she joined because her friends were showing interest in dancing, and she thought she wanted to do that as well. Before that, she was a shy girl, she wasn’t outgoing. But through the years, she’s come out, with a lot of self-esteem, very sociable and a lot of self-confidence as well. 

She’s able to mix with children of different ages now. When she goes out to Body Politic, she’s meeting girls of different ages, girls that are older than her. And she’s able to connect with them. She’s also doing some work with the little girls, children very much younger than her. She’s helping to coach them in dancing with her teacher, and getting involved with their dancing routine. And that way she’s connecting with younger children as well. So, she’s come out quite a sociable person, able to connect with any age, whether it's her teachers, girls of her age, or older, or younger. 

It gives her an idea of how to handle things in life. She’s been talking about wanting to work in public service. And for that kind of career, she wants to be able to connect with people out in the community. So, it really has helped her. Even if it wasn’t for her career, even for herself. You know, she will learn a lot. 

Kiana really, really likes dancing, and learning different kinds of dancing. She really enjoys that. And because she likes it, it probably keeps her fit as well! She has joined a football club as well, but I think that was after she joined Body Politic, and was feeling active. So, I think you can see her coming out and being able to go and do things she enjoys. Body Politic has helped her quite a lot. 

She has been doing a performance, or training, with the older girls, once a week. And then she has been helping her coach to coach the younger group. So, she does that once a week in the evening as well. And when they have performances, like on the streets or in different places in the city centre, she’s gone out and done that as well. Which, you know, makes her feel part of the community. 

When she’s out doing performances, she’s meeting groups performing from other communities, and I think she feels involved, you know? Because she’s meeting them and sharing things with them. I’ve seen her before meeting up with members of the community who are doing different kinds of cultural dances, and when she’s met them, she’s got involved with them, talking, and sharing what they’re doing. Before she was in Body Politic, she was not the kind of girl that would go out there and stand in front of people and do a performance. 

I think it’s just meeting with different people, and being able to perform with them, and in the process of that, maturing in herself, and feeling valued. Even the coach giving her a chance to work, or trusting her enough to let her work with younger children, is creating a lot of confidence in her. 

She’s been offered little jobs – waiting jobs at functions, going out to places where there are large groups of people. And she has gone out by herself and done that, without feeling like she needed any encouragement. In such a place, you’d have to have confidence. 

She has also made lots of friends. So it’s opened up her social group. Not just the friends she has in school – Body Politic has given her a different social group. That’s a new way of learning things, you know. You get to learn new things by meeting different people. You develop yourself, and build who you are. Because if she leaves school, she will need other people out there. 

There are people coming from different places. And they’ve all met. I don’t think they would have met if it wasn’t for Body Politic. It just gives them a chance to get to know each other. The teachers, the coaches she’s met, and whoever else is involved, you know, different people to give Kiana different guidance in life. 

The coaches have been very helpful, especially the coach she’s had – has gotten her involved in a lot of activities, whatever she does. She calls Kiana to help, and just to get involved in arranging for other groups. 

She has definitely become more passionate about it. This week, she was offered some activities to do in a different group, but she also had Body Politic’s celebration for the 10 years. And she definitely chose to go to Body Politic. So you can see she is prioritising. This is obviously something that means a lot to her. She finds it rewarding just being there, doing whatever they do there, or being around the people she’s with. The company, and feeling valued. It must be something that’s making her feel happy. 

I have been to the performances that they have organised, and they are good you know? It’s like any other dance group that you’d pay to go and watch. They are good! They have performed a lot out in the community. I’ve watched them in the Westgate in Oxford. And they’ve done more around the city centre outside. And they’ve done some in Pegasus Theatre as well. 

But It’s more than just dance. There’s a sense of feeling valued, of making friends, of meeting new people and being offered different activities. And opening up new opportunities. The older girls she’s met, going into college to do dancing, they’ve shared experiences with her, planning A Levels or joining uni. That is good for any teenager, you know, wondering what to do next with their life. 

Being able to work with young children is a skill on its own. Responsibility as well. That sense of responsibility, keeping time, being a team member, committing to schedules for performances or lessons. It can be challenging for teenagers. Kiana has younger siblings and relatives, and you can see she’s able to manage them in a better way. She acts more responsibly. She takes the lead when you leave her with the others, even without being asked to. 

So even when she comes home, she has shown, you know, to be more responsible, and I’m sure when she goes out to college, or whatever next steps she goes into, she will grow up as a responsible young adult.

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