Kigali Street Kids – a new film by Bret Syfert

Catalyst Rwanda’s journey to Rwanda with breakers Pervez and Bret Syfert to teach hip hop dance to the former street children at Les Enfants de Dieu centre for street children in Kigali, Rwanda, has touched and changed several lives.

Since that trip in 2011, Bret Syfert and his wife Dorota returned to Les Enfants de Dieu as volunteers for five months in 2012. Their moving blog is here

Bret has released his latest film; Kigali Street Kids, a collaboration with former street child Willy Mutabazi and with photography by Paul Eggleston Brown.

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Les Enfants de Dieu needs a new volunteer English teacher

The wonderful Les Enfants de Dieu (EDD) centre for street children in Kigali Rwanda is looking for volunteers. Please read, consider, pass on to like minded people.

EDD is looking for a new volunteer English teacher from March 2013! Please see the detailed role description below and feel free to re-post, email to friends and share!

English Teacher at Les Enfants de Dieu from March 2013 (or soon after).

Les Enfants de Dieu is a centre for boys, who formerly lived on the streets, based in Kigali, Rwanda. The centre has an on-site school for students in the grades of Primary 1 and Primary 2. There are two qualified teachers on the payroll who teach to the National Rwandan Education Curriculum standards in the subjects of maths, science, Kinyarwanda, social studies, and English. The boys in grades Primary 3 through Primary 6 attend a local government school and their school fees are paid by the centre.

The role of a volunteer English teacher would be to teach English in Primary 1 and Primary 2 – each class has ten 40-minute lessons of English each week.

Furthermore, it is the teacher´s responsibility to help the boys who attend the local Primary school (grades Primary 3 – Primary 6) improve their English skills through supplementary English classes outside the standard curriculum.

The length of the volunteer position is a minimum of three months with the option of an extension. Children are organised in classes based on English ability rather than age. The number of classes and work hours are reasonably flexible and can be rearranged based on the volunteer’s preference.

The centre has a library which contains well over 4000 books as well as a wide range of games (outdoor games, board games, jigsaw puzzles etc.), art supplies and newspapers. It is the volunteer´s responsibility to manage the library and to open it for the boys to read, draw and play games.

Responsibilities and duties are as follows:
· Teach English Monday-Friday (approx. 8 am -4 pm) in Primary 1 and Primary 2
· Open and manage the library
· Offer supplementary English classes for Primary 3 – Primary 6
· Create an original curriculum and lesson plans
· Recognise gaps in the standard English curriculum and work towards addressing them
· Work with teachers to supplement the national curriculum
· Work with teachers to develop new teaching strategies, ideas, and skills
· Work with students on homework assigned from school
· Interact and speak English with the boys outside of the classroom

· TEFL qualification is required
· Experience in a classroom setting or teaching role
· Experience of working with students learning English as a second language
· Experience in the field of social work or a related profession

The centre offers lunch and basic accommodation free of charge for the volunteer: a bedroom, a small sitting room and a bathroom with a Western toilet, bathtub and a wash basin.
The room is located on the premises of the centre, therefore it can get loud at times as there will be children singing, playing or talking close to the room.
If desired the centre can also assist in finding private accommodation nearby but the volunteer must cover the cost.

Questions and requests for more information should be directed to the project manager, Rafiki Callixte:

If you would like to apply, please submit a letter detailing why you want to work for our organisation and what skills you will bring to the project, to the above email address. If you are interested in our project, please consider applying! We would love to have you here!

Thank you for spreading the word!

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Broadcast live to the world

by Kate Scanlan

Ding dong ding dong, ding dong ding dong … the sound of the alarm at 06:00 on Sunday morning. We were so tired it was painful. Still, up we got and out the door.

Rafiki, Willy and Didier were invited to do a live radio interview on the BBC World Service’s Sunday morning Weekend Show. I was so proud of them they did really well. We were in a full on Radio Studio with wall to wall plasmas and a production team behind a wall of glass. I was impressed. This is the NEW BBC building in London and it is a bit wow!

It was quite nerve racking and exciting at the same time waiting to go into the studio. We all had official passes and we sat in the office listening to presenters and researchers discussing breaking world news.

Then it was over as quickly as it had begun. The presenters asked them what had been the highlight.

For Rafiki it was the welcome that Mamma Kate (my mum Margaret) gave them on arrival. The first time he had been in Europe he was in a hotel and felt lost, no one talked to him, no one smiled at a stranger in the street. He thought, ‘what is this place’. But this time in a family home he saw another side of Europe, the welcoming and embracing community. This really is a lesson to us all; when rushing to work, take the time to smile at the person next to you. You should never underestimate what this might mean.

For Willy it was eating the baguette on the street! Hahaha this is great, Willy loved the fact that in London you are free to express yourself, wear what you want, be who you want and, yes, eat on the street. This freedom was very appealing to him.

For Didier it was the boat trip and playing with my niece Scarlett. The boat and being on the water excited him so much he was jumping for joy. Scarlett just loved him and laughed at him, followed him around and together they played with building blocks, a Bob the Builder toy phone and her little instruments.

Of all the things we did on their trip these were the most memorable. Another message in here. It is not about money and flashy trips, but simple pleasures and time spent with friends that lasts forever.

To listen to the full interview use this link; the bit about Les Enfants de Dieu is about 40minutes in (approx!). The only vital thing missing from this is where on earth is the film being screened and how can you see it? Well the screening date has now passed but thankfully in the digital age you can watch Yes, Man! by Bret Syfert online and share it with your friends.

Yes, Man! from Bret Syfert on Vimeo.

The floor outside New Broadcasting House is special. The names of the countries in the world the BBC is based and the sites of great conflict are etched into the paving stones. It took us time but we found what we were looking for.

Rwanda. A country to be proud of. A country rebuilding itself and its people from the ground up.

We headed home and my friend Lucy came over with her little boy Dylan who is 2. I’ve known Lucy since I was 2 and our mums are still the best of friends.

Then Willy, Didier and I headed out to Brick Lane. I was thinking of places in London that are free experiences, places to soak up culture, to see ordinary people enjoying their city. Brick Lane came up top of the list for Sunday afternoon!

We got 99p flakes (that are seriously costing more than 99p these days!). The ice-cream man asked us if we were here for the Olympics so we told them why the boys were in London. We had a really nice chat with him and went on our way.

Didier decided he wanted to buy a mask … until he saw his reflection and I think it scared him hahahaha

We tried and bought some sunnies.

Saw great graffiti

We love sugar ….. but we didn’t buy!

He really wanted to buy a ukelele

We ate more food on the street

Chilling London style

Then we jumped on the tube and went to meet Pervez and Ikem at Trocadero

Fred and Billy did a Realness Jam at Trocadero; a free jam for dancers. We went down and had a look. Was fun

Then we played on the arcade games

The bucking bronco was the funniest!

Terrible photos but it was so funny I had to include them.

We had dinner at the Turkish spot which was delicious, Didier ate two plates of rice – ‘I love rice’.

Willy went to Madam JoJo’s for the Sunday dancers’ night. I took a sleepy Didier home (piggy back style) and waited up for Willy. Willy had an amazing night, he met a dancer who told him to dance everywhere … he did not stop dancing in the street for the rest of the trip! Then he came back to Brixton with Billy on the bus (first trip on a London bus) and got on the 250 on his own back to Thornton Heath. I was waiting at the bus stop for a very excited young man who had an amazing night out! At 02:45 in the morning it was more than time for bed.

Great day though!

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Saturday it’s Saturday-ea-eaeaea!

by Kate Scanlan

Love Saturdays. Always do. Saturday’s mean one thing … breaking. This Saturday however we mixed it up a bit and Willy, Didier, Scarlett (my 1 year-old niece) and I headed down to Norbury to one of my childhood parks, the Squirrel Park. It’s not actually called that but it has a lot of squirrels … get it? Willy found his dream car on route (however he added to the list of cars he wants each day!).

We met Shiv at the park, a good friend of Faraz (he and his family set up Les Enfants de Dieu).

Willy gave me a heart attack in the first five minutes when he scaled a tree that must be 60ft. He shouted down at one point, ‘Kate did you get this high?’. Made me laugh, I don’t think I probably got more than 5ft off the ground on that tree as a kid, Willy scaled to the summit!

I was slightly worried about how he would get down, shouldn’t have been though. At 9ft he casually back flipped off!

Didier jumped up next and got about as much height as me … he was happy though. Scarlett just laughed in her buggy; great Saturday entertainment.

Shiv bought his bike; didn’t actually get a good picture of Willy as he was just a blur whizzing around. Didier and Scarlett, the cute little mates, played again.

Scarlett fell in love with the boys, and they with her. This is her trying to keep up with them speeding on bike and scooter… wait for meeeee!

The sun was out, Scarlett asleep, so on the way home we popped into Thornton Heath rec. We went on the gym and hit the playground.

Ninja style!

It’s more fun with two!

Was the most fun I’ve had on a Saturday morning in ages. Our park is great, there were so many people in there playing sport or chilling or playing in the playground. Different languages, different cultures, different ages. That’s one of the things I like most about London. The boys fitted right in flipping between English and Kinyarwanda.

We passed through the Southbank Centre to pick up Rafiki and then we all headed to the YMCA for Pervez breaking class. Willy spotted a trampoline set up at the Y. It was for a group class, but the instructor Ben was cool and let the boys have a go.

Willy was so excited, they don’t have trampolines like this in Rwanda so he had only seen it on TV. It’s funny Willy said a few times that he didn’t know things were real because they had only seen them on TV and wondered if they were fake … or special effects. Like Breaking. Then Pervez had shown him a head spin and he knew it was real. Well. Trampolines are real too; real fun and really quite difficult to master!

Breaking was great fun. Willy and Didier were great. After we weighed ourselves (why not?) and headed out for fish and chips. Yummmm. I was amazed at how much Didier managed to eat – adult portion and some – and Willy and Rafiki’s plates looked like they licked them clean!

Final spot for the day was tea and cake at the Shisha terrace. Sitting outside in the balmy evening air drinking tea and relaxing when the dancing started.

Didier couldn’t help himself and joined in …

Fantastic day with friends and lots of laughter. If you know the song, sing along … ‘Saturday, Saturday, Saturday its a Saturday-ea-eaeaea!

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Boats and balloons


by Kate Scanlan

Friday was a great day of friends, old and new, and another London adventure.

Essentials …. binoculars, scooter and smiles

We headed to the meet at the spot (our photo bench at Southbank Centre) and met up with Nicola, Faraz and his friend Shiv and Ian (who volunteered and the centre and knows the guys well). First stop was lunch in Giraffe, everyone was enjoying the amazing array of food choices. They plan to work there way through as much as possible whilst they are here. Didier got a hellium balloon … caused great delight until it was no longer required … and even then provided delight (more about that later)

This afternoon was all about Didier (more about Willy’s night out later). So, first stop was all about C’s.  Carousel and candy floss.

Candy floss is great when you are small, something quite magical and bonkers about fluffy sugar on a stick. It got gobbled up quickly. Yum! Covered in sugar Didier and Willy jumped on the carousel, we’d seen it the night before when we were running wild on the Southbank with Didier on the scooter … he didn’t stop talking about it. As you can see it was a massive success

We saw some quite random entertainers on our walk down towards the London Eye. Willy actually battled a guy who was popping. Willy smoked him. Defeat wasn’t taken well. Willy got cheers and on we walked, only for Willy to catch the eye of a lady …

Jokes. Didier got collared by two silvery folks

After this we weren’t taking our chances and we ran towards the London Eye and the dock. We got a good deal with our Oyster cards (discounted tickets on the boat!) and we climbed onboard the boys first boat trip.

Didier had tired of his balloon, rather than burst it we let it free and waved goodbye.

The boat was amazing, such a good way to experience the city. I’d forgotten how much I love being on a boat, ploughing through the water, wind on your face. Was a lot of fun.

Even the clouds looked beautiful on this grey and rainy day

This picture does not do justice to the sheer delight that Didier had on this boat trip. I have a short film of him jumping and jumping (when I took this photo). I’m not so on the ball with video so bear with me and in the next week I will learn how and post a very sweet video of this little boys enjoyment of being on the river.

Back on dry land we discovered another photo of the boys at Les Enfants de Dieu and its huge! No one could believe quite how large this was so we sent in the very tall Willy to give us some sense of scale

Thank you Southbank. For these children in Rwanda living on the streets they are largely ignored by society. They are considered a lower cast than dogs on the street and daily have the sole aim of survival. To see photographs of their friends magnified on London’s Southbank and enjoyed by Londoners is another source of confirmation that they are worth it, they do have a contribution and their are loved.

The postscript of this day is Willy’s adventure with Faraz and Shiv. We planned for Willy to write this himself in preparation for starting his own blog. But … we were having so much fun exploring the city every day we would say, we will do this tomorrow and tomorrow never came. So, for Willy here are the high lights of his night with Faraz and Shiv in London.

From the day he arrived Willy was fascinated with the number of people in London who eat on the street. In Rwanda there is no culture of eating on the street. It does not happen. On our way to Southbank on Thursday morning we saw a really smart business man, full suit, brief case, standing under a bridge stuffing his face with a baguette. That was it. Willy had to try it. He kept saying, ‘I want to see how people look at me, they will think I am crazy’. Crazy or not the baguette was good and he followed it with a crepe and then an ice-cream. Willy is making a film of his time in London so you will see it in full glory on screen soon!

Then he met Michael Jackson …. well …..

And toped it all off with an insane fairground ride that is almost the height of Southbank Centre – again footage coming soon from Willy

Willy took his first tube and came home full of the delights of all he had witnessed and experienced. He is soaking up every experience he is having in London. The notebook I gave him when he arrived is fast filling up with his thoughts.

It was a great day and two young people went to bed with their heads full of ideas and new things learnt.


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It was a long big fun day

Kate Scanlan’s report on our big day at Southbank:

Day 2 was the day we due to take over Southbank’s Purcell Room, and boy did we. I’m actually a day late in posting this because ….It was a long day. With a lot of experiences that were quite over whelming for Didier. London is a non-stop city with a lot of people. I think that Day 2 was probably the day the shock of flying, riding in lifts and on trains hit. But, the little man did good and by the end of the day was on top form. For Willy Day 1 was about major new things (flying, lifts) but Day 2 was about people. He met so many people who were nice (including Nicola’s daughter Alex who spent the day and evening with us) and wanted to talk to him about his ideas, his film, his experiences in London and he danced with a lot of ladies! For Rafiki it has been an interesting day, he Faraz and Nicola spent time having meetings with foundations and charities that could support the future of Les Enfants de Dieu itself. With out continued and increased funding the centre will really struggle.

It was a big day

It was the first day we started to explore London. It was a big day because it was the day they were to see Pervez again for the first time since November. It was a big day because they were going to meet Billy Biznizz. It was a big day because ex-volunteer Ian Ellwood came to see us at our event. It was a big day because we shared Bret Syfert’s film Yes, Man!, talked to an audience about our lives and about hip hop and about the future and THEN held a big dance party with our audience. It was a big day because we were having so much fun we lost track of time and got home at 1.30am!

It was a fun day

Overall it was a very fun day and really fun is what brings light into darkness, brings people together, brings communities together, creates friendships and creates possibilities. There is a bit of a joke amongst my friends that Scandalous loves to party. Well yes I do, but for all those reasons I just listed.  A good party with good people brings only goodness.

For now I’m going to let the photos do the talking ….

We kept this bench/crate a secret because we wanted this … to see beautiful reactions to seeing massive photos of the boys at Les Enfants de Dieu.

Look, that is me!

wow! Didier wants to know, ‘how did Kevin get here?’

wait till I tell the guys they are here in London!

We met Wendy Martin who welcomed us to the Southbank.  Wendy is key to this all happening in London. Following a chat on a bus between her and I, she called me the next day to tell me about the Africa Utopia project and said lets do it! Wendy, her team, Nicola and I did just that. Big up Wendy!

We met Artistic Director Jude Kelly in her office. It was really nice to look out at London without all the chaotic sound for a bit. We saw the river Thames and decided we must take a boat trip.

We chilled

We met Pervez again (yeahhhhhhh, this was so exciting) and we met Billy Biznizz (also too exciting for words)

In the midst of doing Africa Channel interviews for Sky (Nicola, Rafiki and Willy) we started the event itself. It went well. Willy and Didier were very articulate and the audience totally loved the film, Yes, Man! by the fantastic Bret Downroc Syfert. It was amazing to see it on the big screen

Jude Kelly was really positive about the project, about Willy and Didier and the leadership that they are already displaying and the role they are playing in their communities. She said we can learn much from them … agreed! She also said (and I jumped on this one) that she thought we should come back next year with more boys from the centre and develop the relationship. I said, thanks for that Jude, we accept!

then it was time to party

This photo deserves a bit more information. The travel bursary that Nicola and I were awarded to go on the first project to Rwanda last year was in memory of a wonderful person called Ellie Maxwell who founded a company, Firefly International whose mission is to create and sustain multi-ethnic youth projects in Bosnia and beyond. This is Pervez meeting Ellie’s mother Vivienne for the first time.

Friends and family came

(this is my mum and sister)

This is Ikem, one of Pervez’s students

Willy set up shop with my cousin Julie. They were selling beautiful handcrafted baskets, plates and jewelry made by a collective of Rwandan women. Willy’s mother, who has HIV, is partially crippled due to her illness. None the less she heads up the group of about 30 women, they meet each week to spend time together and create. The work is Bret and Dorota went to visit them recently and their blog post says it all. Read it here.

It is really beautiful and Willy did a fantastic job. Many people also gave donations to him for the womens’ group. I know that Willy’s mum will be so proud of him for helping; as he is proud of her.

Didier ended the night having a lot of fun

It was a long, big, fun day but it was amazing. DJ Didier ended the night with some scratching and we went home tired, happy and went to bed.

A big thank you to Bret Syfert for creating such an incredible film in the first place, and to Eric Biondo (Beyondo) for the original and flavorsome tracks, to Southbank Centre for having us, to our friends and families for supporting us, to Faraz and his family for creating such a centre in the first place, to Rafiki for his passion and enthusiasm for the boys and their future, and of course the most important people in the mix all of the former street boys living at Les Enfants de Dieu and back in their communities who asked for and made this project what it is. You are beautiful and amazing boys and it is a pleasure and a privilege to know you all.

Please follow our Catalyst Rwanda blog, Bret and Dorota’s blog, find us all on facebook and go and visit the Les Enfants de Dieu website. The centre needs your help so get in touch if you want to donate.

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A wonderful night!

Pervez and Willy Mutabazi lead the hip hop dance party!

What a wonderful evening yesterday at the Southbank Centre for Africa Utopia! We presented Bret Syfert’s film Yes, Man! and then Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank, chaired a panel discussion with Rafiki Callixte (project manager, Les Enfants de Dieu), former street children and dancers Willy Mutabazi (aged 19) and Didier (10), Faraz Ramji (founder of Les Enfants) and Kate Scanlan  (one of Catalyst Rwanda’s founders and project directors).

The project seemed to go down wonderfully with a warm, responsive audience. Willy and Rafiki were both particularly articulate about the role and value of hip hop within Les Enfants de Dieu‘s child-centered approach to rehabilitation and reintegration. Willy is a remarkable young man, a former street child (four years on the street), he is now – after four years at the centre – reunited and living with his mother, looking after her as she is ill, as well as being a high school student, DJ and hip hop dancer. He is a passionate advocate for street children’s rights and is making his first film, with Bret Syfert, about the harsh reality of the Rwandan street child’s life. Rafiki, a genocide survivor who now devotes his life to working with vulnerable young people in Rwanda, discussed how he implemented a radically innovative system of governance at Les Enfants that puts the young people themselves (through a number of ‘ministers’ who are the boys themselves elected by the other boys) in charge the finances and how the centre is managed, and explained how this restores the boys’ self-respect as well as teaching them responsibility, decision-making and how to follow through on decisions.

After the panel, we had a fantastic hip hop dance party in the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer, loads of people dancing led by Bboy Pervez and the athletic Willy Mutabazi, with DJ Billy Biznizz on the decks!! The right way to finish the evening – a practical demonstration of how hip hop brings people together and brings out their smiles.

If you want to donate to the continuation of the hip hop and arts work at Les Enfants de Dieu, or donate to the centre directly, you can do so using the Paypal button below. If you’d like your money to go direct to the centre, please drop us an email to and we’ll make sure your money goes straight to the boys (who decide themselves how it is spent – whether on education, food, shoes or other things). Thanks! Nicola xxx

Help our projects happen!

Willy and Didier check out the Catalyst Rwanda “crate” outside the Southbank Centre

Les Enfants de Dieu and Catalyst Rwanda onstage at the Purcell Room

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