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Cate Sayers & Jane Kennedy
01 February 2013
Born between 4.5 years of one another, all the girls in Cate Sayer's home are crazy about dance. They were all attending the local dance school when Cate noticed her second daughter was not flourishing and learning in the way in which she knew she was capable.
Believing all children have a right to the opportunities and experiences that will help them grow and develop to their very best, Cate began looking for an environment in which her daughter would be supported in an appropriate and encouraging way to explore and develop her desire to dance and her creativity.
Nothing existed in the system.
“We still have a long way to go before we can say society authentically accepts and embraces diversity of need and the potential of everyone,” says Cate.
Four years ago, she founded e.motion21, a not-for-profit organisation operating in Victoria.
The organisation delivers a dance and movement program specifically tailored to the needs of people living with Down syndrome. The program runs weekly and has grown from six participants to more than 150, is serviced by 120 dedicated, trained and skilled volunteers, and deals with people from as young as 4 to 35. The knock-on effects for individuals participating – increased self-esteem, self-confidence, participation, achievement and fulfilling potential – have been astonishing. These ‘life-skill’ outcomes form – along with the obvious motivational and health benefits for participants – a strong argument for expanding the program to meet a significant need Australia-wide. By exposing communities to the work of the organisation Cate has also produced the scaffolding upon which society can build its own broader understanding and experience of ability and diversity, acceptance, understanding and genuine inclusion.
She believes encouraging participants and families to challenge themselves and reach out for what they dream pushes boundaries at every level, helps further individual potential, and creates people who are healthily engaged with and functioning on a wider level in society. Something that is undoubtedly beneficial, including economically.
And then there are those who support e.motion21 to do its work: the volunteers, the paid staff, the corporate and philanthropic sponsors and supporters, the organisation’s board and its public ambassadors.
“We have some inspiring support,” says Cate, explaining that one philanthropic partner in particular is not just there financially but has its sleeves rolled up and is part of the volunteer process.
“Leadership can take many forms. There are the visible corporate models as well as those people who are visible through the media; there are those who inspire at a community and family and workplace level. They are all equally important as influencers and for inspiration and in forming our worldview,” says Cate.
Jane Kennedy (pictured below), the Australian actor, producer and comedienne, is e.motion21’s Ambassador and a dedicated supporter of the organisation. We chased her across the globe, pinning her down on her holiday break, and she was delighted to provide her thoughts on e.motion21 and her involvement.
What inspired you to be an ambassador for e.motion21?
When you start up a non-profit organisation and program as Cate Sayers has done, it’s a huge deal. There are all types of barriers to face and plenty of ‘No-s’. I thought it’s nice to get some ‘yes-s’ along the way.
I had friends with children who have Down syndrome and always had enormous love for the kids’ generosity and capacity to love and embrace everyone. I wanted to be part of something as forward thinking as e.motion21, which moves so brilliantly not only to break down barriers as well as to make the kids and teenagers feel so good about themselves.
What do you see your role being and how do you action it?
I try to spread the word in any way I can – from media outlets to potential sponsors to social media. Volunteers are a huge part of e.motion21, especially around the annual concert time. Every year the response has been wonderful. I want as many families who may be facing challenges with their children to know a community such as e.motion21 exists and how wonderful it could be for their child. Cate has worked incredibly hard and the results speak for themselves – from a small dance troupe there are now numerous dance studios all over Melbourne and great interest on a National level... in fact Cate’s hoping for world domination!
How has your involvement with e.motion21 affected and influenced you?
I’ve seen first hand what a life-changing experience the dance classes are, not only for the students but for the parents. I get very emotional watching the faces of the proud mums and dads. In fact, that’s what moves me to tears. That at last their kids fit in to an environment that’s happy and healthy and fun. Many people have done it tough over the years on little to no financial support – e.motion21 brings families from all walks of life together in a really lovely bonding way.