Two Malaysian teenagers are using their passion for dance to highlight the plight of girls around the world.
A GROUP of teen girls in identical purple T-shirts suddenly broke into a choreographed dance to a Justin Bieber song in front of Pavilion KL.
Soon, more people joined the group; boys, girls, young and old were dancing in unison to a cheering crowd. But this was no ordinary flashmob. The dancers were executing moves for a cause – to raise awareness and funds for the Girl Effect Foundation, which helps girls in poor countries around the world.
Behind this fundraising effort were two sisters Aishy,14, and Apshy Vimal, 15.
“That was two years ago. We expected only about 20 to 30 people to join the flash mob, mainly from our dancing class and school,’’ says Apshy, now 17. “But more than 100 people took part in the four flashmobs we organised in different malls in the city. The youngest participant was four and the oldest 80!’’
Even though the flashmobs only lasted minutes, they had a huge impact. The girls managed to raise about RM10,000.
And tonight, the two are hoping to take their efforts to the next level with the Dance Effect Concert 2013, a fund-raiser organised by the girls themselves.
How it all started
In 2011, Aishy came across the Girl Effect Foundation during a geography project on the global distribution of wealth. According to GirlEffect.org, 250 million girls live in poverty and are more likely than boys to be uneducated, to be married at a young age and to be exposed to HIV/AIDS. Yet girls play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty.
“When you improve a girl’s life through education, health, safety and opportunity, these changes have a positive ripple effect. It has been shown that an educated girl will reinvest 90 per cent of her future income in her family compared with 35 per cent for a boy,’’ says the website. “But girls can’t do it alone. They need the world to listen to them and invest in their potential.’’
It was this message that inspired Aishy and her older sister Apshy to try and make a difference in the lives of countless girls all over the world.
“The facts were shocking. I had no idea of the suffering of girls my age in developing countries; girls who were forced to marry in their early teens or were attacked for going to school. We were lucky to be raised by loving parents and living a comfortable life. We decided we had to do something for the Girl Effect Foundation,’’ says Aishy.
The Girl Effect movement, created by Nike Foundation with the No Vo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Coalition for Adolescent Girls, is about getting teenage girls to end poverty for themselves, their families, communities, countries and the world.
“We discussed what we could to do to raise awareness. We wanted to do something enjoyable and fun and, at the same, get everyone together,” says Apshy. “Dancing is in our blood. We thought dancing in public could help attract attention and deliver the message.”
Never enough awareness
Despite being busy with studies and dance classes, they found time to organise events.
“We had the support of our parents, dance teachers and friends. When we first told our parents our idea, they said go for it if it makes you happy. They were very supportive from the beginning,” says Apshy.
They wrote to organisations seeking corporate support and received a lot of media attention.
“There has been some awareness raised but it’s never enough. We need more people to get the word out. Girls everywhere should be given equal opportunities, to live free from violence and lead safe lives.’’
The sisters are not stopping there. This year, they’ve planned something even bigger. With the support of friends and their dance school, they decided to choreograph and put together the Dance Effect Concert 2013, which will be taking place tonight.
And this time, they have support from Friends to Mankind, an international non-profit organisation that works with individuals, corporations and humanitarian organisations to help communities in need.
Headquartered in Canada, the NGO has offices and representatives all over the world. The founder is none other than Dhyan Vimal, the girls’ father, who started Friends to Mankind in 2007.
“Growing up in a privileged environment, we were always taught to think about others and give back to the community,” Aishy points out.
Friends to Mankind believes in evoking personal responsibility and connecting communities through personal projects, explains Bhavani Rajaratnam, one of the organisation’s vice-chairmen.
“We provide support through our resources, expertise, or funds. The siblings, who are also Friends to Mankind youth ambassadors, have inspired many through dance,” she adds.
Aishy and Apshy started dance classes at ages five and six respectively. Today, the girls say they can’t live without dancing.
Aishy prefers ballet, while her older sister likes tap. “Ballet is more flowy, soft and feminine; more in line with Aishy’s character,’’ laughs the bubbly Apshy. “I’m more talkative and prefer tap because it’s fun, fast and flashy.”
Bhavani adds that Hollywood actress/model and Friends To Mankind founding ambassador Serinda Swan, who has acted in movies like Tron: Legacy and Percy Jackson & The Olympians as well as TV series like Supernatural, Smallville and Graceland, will be attending the event tonight to support the sisters.
Last year, Swan visited Malaysia after completing “SE Asia Ride 2012” where she cycled 500km across Cambodia with other Hollywood celebrities to raise more money for the Cambodian Foundation.
“The Dance Effect hopes to raise RM200,000 for the Girl Effect Foundation and five Malaysian charities. She fully supports them (Aishy and Apshy) in helping to educate and protect girls worldwide,” says Bhavani.
> For more information about the Dance Effect Concert 2013 tonight, you can contact Friends To Mankind by calling 03-6157 7749.