AU freshman’s nonprofit Ngoma Kenya highlighted on ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’
Ngoma Kenya provides arts education and humanitarian aid
Sophia Andrews, now an American University freshman, was 14 when she created a nonprofit dedicated to expanding dance and art opportunities for children in Kenya after traveling to Nairobi with her youth group. Gaining national recognition for her organization, she recently appeared on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”
In early February, Andrews, a student in the School of International Service with a focus on inequality and development in Africa, appeared on the show to discuss her nonprofit Ngoma Kenya with host and singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson.
“It was definitely one of those life-changing moments,” Andrews said. “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Andrews came up with the idea for the organization in 2016 when she visited Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. Teaching a ballet class while there, she wanted to provide their arts program with more resources. Since then, she has expanded Ngoma Kenya to promote other arts and provide humanitarian aid, such as supplying menstrual products to girls in Kenya and launching a feeding program for Kenyan families in need.
“Originally, the focus was just on ballet and dance and the arts, which will forever be the focus because I am so passionate about that,” Andrews said. “But now we’ve shifted it to ‘What are the needs of the community?’”
During her appearance on the show, Clarkson revealed that Canva, a graphic design company, donated $25,000 to Ngoma Kenya.
Growing up as a ballet dancer and having dance be the inspiration behind her nonprofit, she also received another surprise — ballet dancer Misty Copeland was a guest on the show on the same day. Andrews cited Copeland as her hero.
Andrews said that studying in the SIS has emphasized the importance of centering the needs and voices of those she is working with in Kenya.
“Even though I originated this work, it’s not about me,” Andrews said. “It’s about the people that we work with and making sure that their voices are being heard at every level of the organization.”
Despite her success and recognition at a young age, Andrews said she knows that achieving a formal education will help her future work in Kenya.
“Being a woman in the development field and in the international space, especially being a woman of color, I know that I’m going to need this degree and that it’s something that is going to help with credentials and help with that expertise,” Andrews said.
This past September, Ngoma Kenya started its Youth Advisory Committee, a group of young adults from both Kenya and the United States. Ginger Matchett, who is also a freshman in the SIS, serves as a social media coordinator for the organization. She also grew up involved in the arts, particularly in areas such as theatre, painting and drawing.
“I really wanted to give back and do something where I could give that same experience to kids who were less fortunate than I am,” Matchett said.
Matchett said that she hopes to visit Kenya as soon as it is safe to work directly with the community there.
Andrews hopes that the organization’s next major project, Ngoma Fellows, will launch in 2021 or 2022. This program will provide mentorship opportunities for Kenyan Youth and encourage them to pursue the arts as a career.
When she started her organization, Andrews questioned if she was too young or not qualified enough to do the work she wanted to do. However, she said she is glad she did not let her fears stop her.
“Everyone’s voice is so powerful, and it’s important that we use ours to make a difference in the lives of others,” Andrews said. “Just don’t be afraid to do what you’re passionate about.”