Archive for April, 2012

Pacific Scoop, New Zealand, 26 April 2012

April 26th, 2012 | By

Dancing Cambodian street kids share stories with Auckland youth

by Melissa Low

Former Cambodian street children are breakdancing around Auckland this week as they share their life stories with New Zealand’s youth.

Cambodian dance group Tiny Toones is currently touring Auckland high schools with hopes it will inspire students.

Based in Phnom Penh, Tiny Toones is a charity that runs as a youth drop-in centre, offering creative and education programmes to children from the poorest neighbourhoods and slums in Cambodia.

Many of the 11 performers, aged 16 to 24, were forced to drop out of school and work on the streets before they became part of Tiny Toones.

Tiny Toones’ New Zealand tour organiser Lisa Ho says the troop wants to share stories about what life is like in the developing world and how members have been able to move forward.

“These kids have struggled through drug and alcohol addiction, exploitation, neglect, dysfunctional families, gang violence, domestic violence,” she says.

“All those issues we know are relevant to the youth of New Zealand as well.”

She says they want the youth in New Zealand to be inspired by their stories and know that no matter what their background, they have a chance to better their circumstances.

“Even though [the performers] live in a country with no government support, with no welfare support, they still have been able to turn their lives around and make some changes in their lives.”

Tiny Toones’ only female breakdancer, 25-year-old Diamond, says she’s been enjoying Auckland’s “nice but cold” weather, and getting to perform at the different schools.

“All the students at the school say ‘Tiny Toones! Tiny Toones!’ So fun, it’s cool, they like Tiny Toones.”

Diamond was invited by Tiny Toones’ founder KK (his real name Tuy Sobil) to join the group when she became interested in breakdancing after watching one of their performances.

“When I first went to KK, I was shy and scared because I didn’t know how to breakdance.”

Despite first being nervous about dancing with a male-dominated group, Diamond says now the boys are impressed she can breakdance and “pop and lock”.

Tiny Toones will hold a public performance at Auckland Girls Grammar school tomorrow, when dancers will perform a 90-minute show that will take the audience into a journey of Cambodia’s history, culture, and personal life stories through breakdance.

All funds from the show will be given back to the charity which hopes to further develop its education programme and offer more scholarships to their students to fund them into university study.

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Central Leader, April 25 (Auckland, New Zealand)

April 26th, 2012 | By

Tiny beginnings, big dreams by Hannah Spyksma

Fifty dollars – that’s a few hours work for most or if you’re lucky it’s a small part of your daily earnings.

But eight years ago breakdancer Tuy Sobil – better known as KK – couldn’t even land a job that paid him $50 a month.

Life hasn’t been easy for the ex-gangster who was booted back to Cambodia from the West Coast of the United States in 2004.

He’s touring Auckland this week with his dance crew Tiny Toones and reflects on an eventful past.

“You know, you get sent back to a place that you don’t know nothing about and you’re just trying to move on with life after losing your whole family, your kids – it was a struggle,” KK says.

He gave up a life of crime long before the authorities sent him home on a technicality, returning him to the country his family had fled from as refugees of the Khmer Rouge regime.

But KK struggled to find a job when he moved back to Phnom Penh and so volunteering as a youth worker was his best option.

Later that year a group of street children started pestering him about breakdancing and he was hesitant.

He’d given up dancing at the age of 13 when a rebellious lifestyle kicked off in Los Angeles.

The idea of getting back into it brought back memories he would rather forget.

But KK eventually gave in to their persistence which proved a turning point.

Since 2005 he’s helped thousands of Cambodian youth, some who came from worse backgrounds than his own, get a fair shot at life.

What started with nine children learning a few moves in his cramped lounge room has developed into an entrepreneurial adventure.

Through his non-profit organisation Tiny Toones, KK teaches breakdance, hip-hop, English, computing and life skills to youth in Cambodia’s capital.

“I’m trying to show the kids that there’s other ways to be cool rather than being a gang member or pimping girls or selling drugs,” he says.

“You could be you know, more unique by other ways – like a dancing kid, or a DJ or a rapper, man there’s a lot of ways you could be cool.

“You don’t have to fit in because you’re not from a gang and all that.”


Cue Blockhouse Bay resident Lisa Ho. In 2008 the second-generation Cambodian-Kiwi went to visit the country that was also her parents’ home before they moved to New Zealand.

While in Phnom Penh she stumbled across an article about Tiny Toones and decided to investigate.

Her two-week trip turned into a year-long visit where she worked to develop the organisational structure of the group.

Ms Ho has has been fundraising for the past three years to bring 13 members on a New Zealand tour.

This week her hard work paid off with KK and the crew visiting schools around Auckland.

They are ending the week with an all ages hip-hop, breakdance and theatrical concert at Auckland Girls Grammar School on Friday evening.

Miss Ho says the 90-minute performance brings a universal message that young Kiwis can identify with.

“No matter where you’ve come from, no matter how poor you are, what background you have, what mistakes you have made in the past, you still have the ability to make positive choices going forward,” she says.


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