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Ghanaian choreographer looks after street children

Jay, 28, is passionate about preserving traditional African dance – and about watching out for the street kids in the impoverished city of Accra. She and her husband Nii, a drummer, have founded a dancing troupe whose purpose is not only to spread West African dance theater but also to improve local children’s lives.

In James Town, a poor neighborhood of Accra, children are likely to wander around all day among garbage and open sewage and have little chance to go to school, since their families cannot afford to send them and to buy them what they need. Through their artistic performances abroad and their music and dance workshops in Accra, Jay and Nii were able to raise enough money to give 50 kids a safe place on the seaside where they can play and study without leaving their neighborhood and their families.

The center was opened in 2007 and, since then, they have built a shed for outdoor activities, a dormitory for kids who can stay with them during the academic year and a classroom. Within their means, they provide them with school uniforms, school supplies and books. Jay recently became a mother herself, and her baby girl is the 51st child she cares for.

Listen to the report by Gaia Manco:

Ghanaian choreographer looks after street children

Jay from JayNii in Ghana

Jay looks after 50 street children - plus her own child

Streetwise children during their free time after school

Streetwise children during their free time after school


Jay's husband Nii is religious and practical: "We don't pray God and wait: we pray, and we move."

In this picture, reporter Gaia Manco is filming with with her little helpers, some of the kids that live at the shelter. Among them is Steven, an 8-year-old boy that came toward her and my husband when they were walking on the beach of James Town. Despite being a beautiful spot in the oldest area of Accra, the beach is currently degraded – and used as a public toilet and a dump. Steven said with pride, “Come and see where I live.” Jay said she was so proud that a boy who could barely speak when they met him was able to politely address strangers in English. While all the rest of the kids fought to be in front of the camera, Steven stayed behind Gaia. He wants to become a director one day.

Gaia Manco in Ghana

The colorful shelter and the James Town lighthouse

The colorful shelter and the James Town lighthouse

Read more about Jay and Nii’s foundation here.


Tuesday 19.06.2012 | 13:00