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Igniting hearts

dancing his way Into their hearts

dancing his way Into their hearts   | Photo Credit: Photo: R. Ravindran



Shaun Parry uses the arts to improve the self-worth of underprivileged children

Broadway star Shaun Parry idolises Prometheus, a Greek hero who brought ‘fire’ to humans. Through his charity, ‘Promethean Spark’, Parry brings underprivileged children the gift of dance, song and theatre.

“Promethean Spark is an effort to ignite the spark inside little hearts,” says Parry. The charity has helped street children in Peru, juvenile delinquents and slum kids in Kenya, and the children of those with leprosy in India.

Inspired start

It all started in New York City more than three years ago, when Parry met Vania Masias, a prima ballerina from Peru. She spent a small part of her day teaching street kids how to dance, and her social consciousness impressed Parry. Months later, he travelled to Peru to work with street kids. In the first few days, the kids bustled into the studio, were deafeningly noisy, and broke almost every rule of civilised behaviour.

However, as the informal course progressed, they turned more disciplined and, most important, did not want to return to the streets. These children had found three things that Parry’s says would keep them out of harm’s way and contribute to their growth — self-worth, leadership quality and the drive to improve their lot.

Parry is realistic about his programme. He admits that most kids would not end up as stage performers. In fact, that is not his goal at all. The programme is only aimed at teaching children life lessons.

To illustrate the point, Parry performs a dance step. He stands rooted to the ground, his eyes focussed on a spot in front of him and his index finger also pointing to it. With head held straight, he then does a 360-degree swivel and returns to the starting stance — his eyes again resting on the spot and his finger pointing to it. As he repeats this swivelling motion a few times, my eyes are drawn to the spot Parry targets.

“Through this step, I show the rewards of steadfastness. When you are doing the swivel, you can’t be looking here and there. When you look steadily at just one thing, you force others to look at it. Lesson learnt: Anyone who is committed to a cause or a goal can hope to have the support of others.”

At present, Parry teaches a big bunch of kids at Marriott Home, a shelter for children of those with leprosy living in colonies in Uthiramerur, Kancheepuram district. Parry visited the home after a meeting with Becky Douglas, an American who founded Rising Star Outreach.

Following the death of her 14-year-old daughter, Betty discovered that the girl had made contributions from her pocket money to many charities in India. This proved life-changing for Betty. She decided to support those with leprosy in India, as images of them begging at signals had left an indelible imprint on her mind. With the help of Padma Venkatram, someone who spares time for the underprivileged, she began to help them in a systematic manner. After that, things began to fall in place. First came the infrastructure for providing vocational training for those with leprosy, followed by a school for the children. Now, the home for the children of those with leprosy has made the charity more holistic. Impressed with Betty’s work, Parry is keen on starting a soft-skills programme at Marriot Home.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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