Marieke De Lange had a vision of empowering underprivileged children by helping them to stage performances. She wanted their dramatizations to bring to life some of the hardships they face because of poverty. And so in 2007 she founded the Ubuntu Theatre Organization. The word Ubuntu means ‘I am because you are’. This organization operates from Amsterdam, where Marieke lives.
When she was in her last year of studies, Marieke started asking herself where she would apply the skills she had learned. She couldn’t picture herself teaching high school drama classes nor directing plays with amateur actors. And so she allowed her deep fascination for Africa to feed her ideas. She could not fathom how small children could roam the streets without food to eat or a safe place to sleep. Then she realized that she wanted to give those forgotten children a voice and convince them that they are special and deserving of a better life. Her main purpose is to help them to regain their self-worth.
For Marieke what makes these children special is the fact that the future does not exist for them, so it’s easy for them to focus on the moment instead of becoming preoccupied with what comes next.
In this film she travels to Ghana with her fiancé to participate in Ubuntu’s 12th performance, with the collaboration of a local NGO called Catholic Action for Street Children. CAS runs a shelter that provides support for children living on the streets of Accra. Up to 50 children go to CAS every day. According to the founder, a Dutch missionary who first arrived in Accra in 1971, their census reveals that there were 61,500 children in the area at the end of 2009.
Limited resources mean that only 20 actors can be selected to perform, and so after the brief training, only a few will be chosen from among all those who showed up.
Marieke takes the time to get to know each chosen participant. She asks them about their experience living on the streets and their dreams for the future.
The program creates awareness regarding the realities of children who live in the streets. Some of them end up living in those conditions from as young as six. And as they present their dramatization, Marieke looks on with pride at the miracle she’s experiencing right before her eyes.