Mayibuye (which is Zulu for ‘bringing back what was lost’) is a youth-led organisation striving to give young people a new and better future through performing arts and dance. Their vision is to create generations of empowered young people who believe that a better world is possible.

Watch our video to hear Kumari’s inspiring story and her advice for following your passion:

To watch a HD version of this video, please click here.

– Transcript –


Hi, my name’s Kumari Middleton and I’m the cofounder of Mayibuye.

What is Mayibuye?

So Mayibuye is a youth­-led organisation which we started in 2009. And Mayibuye is a Zulu word from South Africa which means bringing back what was lost. So we’re about empowering young people to create a new future and a better future for themselves. We use performing arts, mainly dance, combined with life skills workshops and run after school programs, camps, conferences.

We are currently working in 7 countries, and this year we’ve just merged with Cultural Infusion, which is a much larger organisation and we’re really excited that that’s going to allow us to grow and just expand to a number of new countries.

What sparked your idea?

So I used to be a professional dancer. Dance is my thing, it’s everything that I love. I got the opportunity to dance in New York, which was amazing, but unfortunately whilst I was there I
contracted Legionnaires, so I had to come back to Australia and I was really sick for a long time, and realised that, you know, this career of professional dance wasn’t going to be a possibility
anymore. I met a guy called Seepo from South Africa who was like “you know come and teach my community dance” and it sort of sparked this idea of you know ‘can dance make a difference?’. There’s so many young people who don’t have access to creative arts and I know the impact that it had on my life and you know this was a chance to be able to bring that to other people.

How did you make your idea real?

When we started there was four of us, and we were just young people aged 17­-23 and we just had this idea of ‘yeah sure let’s go to South Africa and start this organisation’, which now
looking back probably seems crazy but at the time we were super optimistic and you know why can’t we do this? When we started talking about the idea soooo many people came up to us to say you can’t do it, you’re too young, you don’t have the experience, and that sort of drives me a lot more; when people tell you you can’t do things you know you just have to prove them wrong. One of the good things that came out of those conversations was someone said why don’t you just run a pilot, so just trial the idea and see whether it works. So we ran a tour to South Africa, I took over six dancers, just to test out the idea and see you know could the cultures mix? was dance the right tool to use?. And it just really validated everything for me, yeah it just made me far more passionate and I realised that this is really such an amazing project and this is what I want to be doing.

At the beginning it can feel like a bit of a I guess lonely journey, that you’re like pushing away. We were young, we didn’t have great networks. But soon you sort of sort of realise that there’s a
lot of organisations out there who really want to help young people to create their own projects. Foundation of Young Australians, School of Social Entrepreneurs have all been amazing and have actually given me the skills that I need to keep up with the organisation as it grows.

What has been the most rewarding part?

I never expected the organisation to get as big as it has. It was always just this one little project and it’s just naturally kept growing. Now I’ve created a job for myself, which is like the best job
ever because I just get to dance with young people all round the world. I get to see the smiles, I get to see the difference that it’s making., and whilst I can’t dance professionally anymore this is so much better, being able to bring dance to other people is yeah the highlight of my life.

Advice for people wanting to give back?

So I think sometimes when you look at making a difference in the world or there’s an issue that you’re passionate about, it can seem like too big, that you as one little person can’t really do
anything and it just becomes overwhelming. I like to look at it as a big puzzle and you only have to look after your tiny little puzzle piece, and trust that everybody else is looking after theirs. So that allows you to just break it down and know that even if you’re doing something little and small it’s still making a big difference in the bigger picture. I would also say use what you love ­ what’s your passion. If it’s sport, if it’s art, if it’s science ­use that to make a difference because you know it’s something you’re passionate about and it’s going to drive you a lot further.

Kumari also runs a creative dance studio in Melbourne.
The money raised from dance classes goes to Mayibuye.
Now even more young people can access the benefits of dance.
Which is awesome.

Mayibuye has a range of programs around the world, including here in Australia! To find out more click here.

They are also looking for volunteers to help with their youth outreach programs both in Australia and Cambodia. If you are interested in volunteering click here.

Video credits:

Directed and edited by Ally Oliver-Perham
Thanks to Kumari Middleton for sharing her story.
Intro credits by Room3 Video Production Studio, with thanks to Northcote High School students
Filmed by Breeana Dunbar

This video was made possible through a grant from the US Consulate General Melbourne. 

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