Street dance with Rwanda’s street children

Two young smiling Rwandan boys

Former street children at Les Enfants de Dieu

We have set up Catalyst Rwanda to organise sustainable programmes of arts activities for vulnerable young people in Rwanda, including street children and orphans of the genocide and AIDS, and to organise artistic development programmes with emerging Rwandan artists.

In our first project, we will run hip hop dance workshops with 128 former street children who live at Les Enfants de Dieu centre in Kigali, Rwanda, and masterclasses for young professional and aspiring breakdancers in partnership with Ishyo Arts Centre.

Les Enfants de Dieu is a non-profit organisation established to help street children in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Although the organisation is secular, the founders included the word “God” (Dieu) to symbolise the protective and compassionate qualities of all spiritual movements. Its mission is to transform the lives of street children; alleviating their hardships and providing them with the opportunities to mature into valued people.

Smiling Rwanda boys (aged around 6-13 years)

Former street children at Les Enfants de Dieu

Les Enfants de Dieu runs a residential care centre for about 130 boys between the ages of four and 18 in Ndera, a suburb of Kigali. If children are willing to leave the streets, the centre first provides them with food, shelter and basic health care. Secondly, they begin a rehabilitation process that focuses on mind, body and spirit. The children have access to health care, education, sport, vocational training, and counselling. The goal is to reintegrate each child into society. Les Enfants de Dieu is child-centred, meaning that a lot of responsibility is given to the children to manage the project. The children organise elections each year to nominate leaders among themselves. They elect seven ministers to deal with various aspects of life at the centre, including administration, education, health, sport and culture.

Why Hip Hop?

The children who live at Les Enfants have had tough lives, suffering neglect and abuse. A number have AIDS. But they are a remarkable group of boys – intelligent, resourceful and resilient (a necessity for surviving on the streets). They love to dance and express themselves physically.

The boys’ greatest wish is to learn Hip Hop dancing. They love the music and dance when they get a chance. They want the opportunity to learn to dance from professional hip hop dancers.

Catalyst Rwanda will take pioneers of UK Hip Hop to work with the boys, and to develop the technique and teaching skills of local dance artists who are already ‘breaking’. In partnership with Ishyo Arts Centre, we will work with these young dancers to develop their skills, and to start creating links between them and Les Enfants. Our idea is that, as the project develops, Rwandan hip hop artists will continue to work with the young people at Les Enfants de Dieu.

Starting small, this is a project that Catalyst Rwanda, Les Enfants de Dieu and the Ishyo Arts Centre want to grow and develop, with professional artists from the UK coming in each year to inject new learning and skills development.

Leading UK exponent of hip hop dance, Pervez, will run our first series of workshops and masterclasses. Pervez has 30 years of experience as a B Boy. Starting to break in 1982, he was one of the London pioneers when Hip Hop first hit the UK. A member of Live 2 Break crew, Pervez is globally respected as a dancer and teacher.

The project stays true to the spirit of Hip Hop, a vibrant and now global culture, which originated among the African-American youth in the Bronx during the late 1970s. Hip hop is a culture based on the exchange of energy, on skill, on having fun and expressing your individual personality through your dance, words, music, or artwork, and on sharing your skills with others.

Please help us to make this project happen! You can donate securely using the donate button in the side bar. We’ll keep you informed as the project develops and as the long-term programme evolves. You can make a great difference and inject some fun and inspiration into the lives of more than 100 incredibly deserving children. Thanks so much!

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About Nicola Triscott

Nicola Triscott is a cultural producer & writer. She is the founder and Director of The Arts Catalyst, and co-founder and project director of Catalyst Rwanda. Nicola writes and lectures internationally on the interrelationships between art, science, technology and society.
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