Sherrie Silver remembers when her 4-year-old self was “just a girl playing in the village with my friends, no father, and not much hope, just dreams, and God,” she said from the stage at the inaugural TIME100 Africa Gala, where she received a Time100 Impact Award on Friday (Nov. 18) in Kigali, Rwanda.

But Silver has come a long way since then. Today, she is a renowned Rwandan philanthropist and dancer who has devoted her life to bringing African Dance to the global stage. She began her journey with captivating YouTube dance videos that caught the eye of American performer Donald Glover. A collaboration with Glover on the video for “This is America” (released under his pseudonym Childish Gambino) propelled Silver into the spotlight as a highly sought-after choreographer.

As she came to the stage with the young Rwandan performers who dazzled the audience with a spellbinding opening performance choreographed by Silver, she dedicated her award to “all the little African girls that have dared to dream, many of them sitting in this room today.”

Silver has committed herself to making a positive impact in the lives of young people as an ambassador for Malaria No More, a nonprofit working to eradicate the disease, and as the founder of the Sherrie Silver Foundation, which aims to support and encourage youth in Rwanda through the arts. “My life is an example of what can be achieved when a young Rwandan girl is given an opportunity to express herself and chase her passions,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of arts, calling dance a ‘’powerful tool’’ for the children in her foundation. She presented twins who lost their mother the day they were born but because of art, they are dancing at the Time100 Impact Africa Gala.

Uultimately, “we want African youths not to have to feel that they need to leave their countries to find greener pastures elsewhere to make their artistic and entrepreneurial dreams come true,’ Silver said.

The TIME100 Impact Awards Africa are sponsored by Visit Rwanda, Kigali International Financial Centre, and RwandAir

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Astha Rajvanshi at