by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
I grew up doing school and community theater, so I feel right at home when I walk into a youth group drama workshop in Dominica. What may look like 20 youth milling about and playing games is actually a cluster of specific activities designed to encourage eye contact, expressive touch, intentional body movements and voice projection, cadence and enunciation. All of these skills are aimed at building not only self-expression but also self-esteem.
The youth divide into three skit groups, each with a given theme: domestic abuse, teen pregnancy and drug abuse. The youth are deciding the detailed roles, the props and the message for this workshop. However, these themes result from months of ChildFund’s work with Dominica’s communities, helping children and youth identify the root causes of poverty within their families and localities. These serious themes emerged as ever-present concerns in children’s lives.
Now I’ve participated in and seen hundreds of skits throughout my life, but the one on domestic violence stops me in my tracks, gives me shivers down my arms and makes me uncomfortable enough that I want to look away. Here’s the plot:
A girl is talking on her phone flirting with a boy. Her boyfriend comes in, catches her giggling and accuses her of cheating. She cowers in the corner of the room trying to hide, but he slaps her with such force that she crashes to the floor. He takes off his shoe and beats her over and over. The skit continues with each family retaliating and escalating the fight. Eventually, someone dies. Everyone comes together at the community funeral and cannot believe that a domestic spat escalated to such violence. The message from Dominican youth is clear: don’t let someone die before you break the cycle of violence.
The honesty and frankness with which the youth interpret this drama make it clear that they’ve witnessed similar real-life scenes play out in their community time and again, perhaps even in their own families. The skit was so raw and true that I still get shivers thinking about it. It was fiction, yet so clearly based on their childhood realities.
Dominica’s youth will be presenting similar skits in the coming week at a street theater event to raise community awareness about these important issues. This ChildFund-guided youth group, specifically its drama program, is giving youth the opportunity, resources, organization, space and time to join their voices and make an impact in their community. ChildFund hopes to replicate the success of this group across the island in the coming year.