The Dream Catchers Academy has been spotlighted by The Facebook Creators campaign as the Academy has leveraged the power of social media to inspire great change in the community, getting the attention of top international celebrities along the way with their dance steps.
Founded in 2014 by Seyi Oluyole, the Academy got its first big break in 2018 when a video of the kids dancing to DJ Spinall and Wizkid’s hit song, “Nowo” was posted on social media. Although Seyi didn’t really like the video, she went on to post it on Instagram, and gradually, the video began to go viral. Popular blogs, influencers, and other dance channels on social media raved about the performance. Before long, the post had been shared by popular music sensation, Rihanna, models Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam. P. Diddy and Beyoncé are other celebrities who showcased the dancing troupe’s videos on their Instagram pages. The Dream Catchers Academy page went from 4000 followers to over 60,000 followers on Instagram very quickly.
In the months after the viral video, the kids performed in a local TEDx conference and at an event to celebrate Children’s Day organised by the Lagos state government.
Seyi Oluyole had started Dream Catchers Academy as an organization that helps get children off the streets and into school through the power of dance, drama, and visual arts. She conceived the idea when she was only 15 years old. At this time, her father had lost his job and the family had moved into a slum in Ebute-Metta, Lagos, after being homeless for almost two years. Dance was Seyi’s succour in those times and she had a burning desire to help other children like her.
For Seyi, the goal was simple: get the kids off the street, give them an education and keep them engaged with dance. Without any funding, and with just her salary, she was able to kick start the Academy; she also started posting videos of the kids dancing on Instagram.
Today, the academy still produces short videos which either feature them dancing, singing or miming to various songs. A scroll down their Instagram page portrays the kids smiling and happily dancing to tunes from a variety of African and international artists. It’s almost hard to believe the story of these kids. Yet, they have been dubbed ‘The Happy Kids’ because of how much charm, joy and positivity they radiate when they dance and sing.
As noble as this initiative is, the academy has only two sources of income – the money made from their performances, either while dancing or singing; and the money donated from well-meaning individuals. To sustain this project can thus be hard. Hence, they get funding using social media platforms; in Seyi’s words, “we get funds mostly through crowdfunding, and it’s the reason why we’re extremely grateful to our Instagram and Facebook family. Whenever we are trying to raise school fees, we always put out a post and say with $3 you can feed a child for a day, and with $20 you can educate a child. Last year when we got a quit notice and had like six months left, it was through Instagram that we came out and asked people to help us.”
According to UNICEF, about 10.5 million children, aged 5 to 14 years old are not in school, and only 61 percent of children aged 6 to 11 regularly attend primary school in Nigeria. Furthermore, nearly half of all children aged 5 to 14 – about 21 million – in Nigeria are involved in child labour, and the number is highest among the youngest children.
It is common to find children whose parents can’t afford Primary education out on the streets, stay at home or seek ways to make money on the street. This makes the vision of the Dream Catchers Academy aimed at seeing orphaned and indigent girls taken off the streets of Lagos and given a chance at a better life through free boarding education and training in creative and performing arts one that is highly inspiring.
Seyi hopes to expand the dream even further and is currently building a school that is able to have at least 100 more girls enrolled with access to provide shelter, food, clean water, clothing, education and healthcare for the kids. With over 4,000 followers on Facebook and over 264,000 followers on Instagram, the group relies mostly on the attention they are able to garner from social media to receive donations.
The story of the Dream Catchers Academy is an epitome of the power that social media wields in telling stories and changing lives. As more and more people get connected to the internet and find their way into the ever-engaging world of social media, the opportunities that creatives have to tell their stories will continue to increase.
The Facebook Creators Campaign also features Kaffy, Taaooma, Claudia Lumor, Enoch Boateng, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Funke Adepoju, and Dancegod Lloyd. However, these are just a small fraction of the numerous creatively gifted individuals in the West African region. It is expected that there will be an increase in content creators who use Facebook and its family of apps to tell their stories.