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Goldtooth - A Street Children's Musical

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Organization

Stairway Foundation Inc.

Contact details

Lars C. Jørgensen and Monica Ray Jørgensen
Stairway Foundation Inc.
Brgy. Aninuan, Puerto Galera
Oriental Mindoro, Philippines 5202
Email: stairway@indanet.com

Project partners

Médecins Sans Frontiéres
Paidos
Stairway Denmark
DANIDA
Oak Foundation
Canada Fund
Embassy of Denmark
Embassy of Finland

Location

International

Background

Working with children living or working on the streets over the years we have seen few examples of children themselves giving voice to their situation. World-wide, such children make up a large silent minority without much influence on policies and the socio-economic circumstances affecting their lives. They are generally considered a burden to society and the general public has not given their plight sufficient priority to put pressure on politicians and decision-makers to invest in solutions to this growing problem.

To make the general public and the world-wide media sensitive to the realities of these children, and to demonstrate their potential, we staged and toured with a musical production in which 17 children with past experience of living or woking on the street were able to speak for millions of children around the world.

Aims and objectives

Goldtooth - A Street Children's Musical was a model for actively involving young people in their own development. The aim of Goldtooth was to enable children involved in the project (beggars, scavengers, solvent sniffers, sex workers, juvenile delinquents and those with health problems) to discover and cultivate their unique talents, skills and strengths. It also empowered them to become advocates for their own cause, and challenged them to go back to the streets to help others like themselves. The musical gained international attention and became an international campaign for children's rights.

Participants

Endangered children from the streets of Manila.

Target audience

Children living or working on the streets and the general public.

Wider beneficiaries

The 17 child performers were the immediate or direct beneficiaries. Making people aware of the urgency of the problem will benefit similar children world- wide.

Involvement of children

The child performers also took part in all stages of the production - from making sets and costumes and doing the lighting, to press conferences and the after- programme outreach to other children on the streets and in jail.

Summary of project

The performance of Goldtooth - A Street Children's Musical was the main activity in this campaign for children's rights. The end product was a series of performances in several countries with extensive press coverage.

Funders

The partners listed above provided most of the funding. A large number of organizations and individuals financed the international tour of the campaign.

Cost

The production and the presentations in the Philippines amounted to around US$50.000.

The international tour amounted to around US$200,000. This amount was not raised in cash, since a great deal of the support and contributions were in kind.

Strengths of project

The strength of the campaign was that it made thousands of people aware of the realities of the children's lives. The performance by children with experience of living or working on the streets meant that it was completely authentic. We are particularly proud of the high artistic quality of the production. Many people asked whether the children were really from the streets or whether they were really professional actors. Most of the audience left the theatre with an altered perception of such children in general. Together, we proved that the children have great potential that deserves much more attention and investment.

The children performed before a wide variety of audiences - for children from the streets in Manila; at the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in front of 1,500 bankers, diplomats, ambassadors and ministers from around the world; for the general public and thousands of students in the Philippines, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland; and at the International Conference for Child Welfare in Helsinki, as well as the UN Palais in Geneva in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Challenges

The entire project was a huge challenge. Most remarkable was the difficulty encountered by everyone involved in returning to normal life after the excitement of touring. A great deal of effort went into dealing with this aspect of the project.

Evaluation

The Philippines performances attracted the attention of Professor Belen Calingacion from the University of the Philippines, who followed and documented the last year of the project, including what became of the children involved. We have plenty of evidence that the project had a very strong impact on the audiences attending the performances.

Lessons learned

There is a demand for non-traditional methods of informing and making the general public and students sensitive to the realities of those marginalized in our society. We are currently working on another project with the same objective.

In retrospect, the project should have been more profit-oriented to secure the continuity of the foundation and to finance new projects.

The greatest challenge was to facilitate the 'return to normal life' for everyone involved after the project ended. It is important to make sure that all input and influence from the adults involved is consistent.

Sustainability

Audiences were left with positive perceptions of young people; they could identify with the performers and as a result could relate to experiences that may have been very distant from their own lives.

Anecdote

At the gala performance held at the GSIS theatre in Manila, the director placed the entire cast outside the theatre for an hour before the performance began. The area around the theatre is a hangout for children living on the streets, so the scene that met the arriving audience was not unfamiliar. The kids were in their costumes, which were no different from what they used to wear when they were on the streets, and the reactions they received from the people arriving at the theatre were no different from their life experiences a couple of years earlier. Generally, they were rejected and seen as a threat. One child was almost arrested by the police, but a security guard working at the theatre intervened and the child was released. The audience's radical change of perception, between seeing them in a different role outside the theatre and their final bow during the standing ovation, indicated how much the children and the project had accomplished.

Good ideas

Performance is an effective medium for communication because it not only affects people intellectually but also emotionally. Art can change lives.

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