ANDREA SIMPSON-FOWLER - Whitehorse, YK
On the surface, Andrea runs a dance school. Look a little closer and you will see her real passion: helping Northern youth, especially girls, “express themselves and learn to be leaders.”
"When I was young, I knew I wasn’t a very good Brownie, and I knew I wasn’t a very good Girl Scout! But I was good at dance. Knowing that gave me confidence to get through the dark times", Andrea remembers.
Andrea has toured small Yukon communities offering empowerment camps for girls. Her camps combine education about key issues - sexual health and drug and alcohol abuse prevention – with hip hop dance and choreography classes. She also led a camp in Nunavut, invited by a community group she met through the Girls Action Network.
Back home at Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks, Andrea sees every class as an opportunity to mentor and support girls. “When I am teaching dance, I always have an ear tuned. Even if it’s a ballet class, if someone needs to talk about an issue, they can. If a girl has questions, I just answer them frankly.”
Many of the girls have found support to face harsh realities. Andrea, who also has youth counselor training, hears about the violence, the confusion about sex and relationships, the racism and the challenges with self-esteem and poverty. “From me just listening to the girls, the dance studio has become a safe haven for youth.”
Recently with funds from Girls Action, Andrea opened a drop-in that gives girls the equipment and space to make videos, podcasts and music tracks. “On a Saturday night, it’s not uncommon to see 15 dancers, spending time together creating stuff and not out partying. That’s a big deal.”
"Sometimes I can feel really isolated, but when I have contact with Girls Action, I get inspired again. Every time, I come away with fundraising ideas, and tons of resources, and inspiration to do another project!"