(by Kate Scanlan)
Imagine a time when to get on an airplane and fly to another country felt unbelievable, to ride in a lift (aka elevator) or to catch a train. All those things and more happened today to Willy Mutabuzi and Didier Harerimana.
In March this year I started talking in earnest to Wendy Martin and her team at London’s Southbank Centre. They were really excited about the work we did last year when Nicola Triscott and I set up Catalyst Rwanda and journeyed with Pervez (Live 2 Break crew) and Bret Downroc Syfert (Seven$ crew) to Kigali, Rwanda to spend time with and teaching B Boying to the boys at Les Enfants de Dieu. We cooked up a plan to bring Rafiki (Centre Manager) and two of the boys to London to do an event as part of Southbank Centre’s Africa Utopia Festival.Since we first set out to take Pervez to Rwanda it has touched many peoples hearts and imaginations. Firstly, it inspired Bret to decide to make the trip with us and make a film – not just any film, Yes, Man! is actually like watching back a dream it captures the beauty and fun of our time with the children. It inspired Bret’s friend Beyondo (Eric Biondo), a musician and composer in New York to create original music for the film (you can download it here). It captured the hearts of the dance team at Southbank Centre and they committed to support us in bringing a small group from the centre to London. I must also add that since April Bret and his wife Dorota have been living in Kigali, volunteering at the Centre doing quite inspirational things. If you haven’t already you must read their blog, it will make you think differently about the world.
It is beyond what Nicola and I ever imagined happening in such a short space of time. This time last year we were working out how we could raise £5,000 to make the first trip happen.
From the point of confirming with the Southbank Centre it has not stopped. I have been on this everyday. It has been complex …. how do you get a passport for a child with no birth certificate …. how to you get a young man out of school during exam period … how do you take a child out of the country that is not your own …. how do you get visas together in a very short space of time. One of the beautiful things about Rwandans is that there is possibility and a lot of hope. Even in the darkest visa hours Rafiki was signing off emails with much hope!
I wish I had been there for the moment Willy and Didier found out they were coming to London. Their responses were so perfect. Bret and Dorota reported that Willy slapped Bret’s hand so hard it hurt and then sat with his head in his hands whilst his mother danced. Didier on the other hand was puzzled, he asked Rafiki, ‘are you sure I will enter and fly in a big airplane? Why not go with another group of boys’ then he was silent for a long time. It is humbling to be reminded that what we take for granted is a privilege and not a given for all people on this earth.
The visas were granted on Monday of this week and many friends helped us to this point (so thank you all in Africa – Bret, Dorota, Rafiki, Faraz, Sheida – and in London Wendy, Linzi, Beth, David. Flights were confirmed and bags packed.
Now you know some of the journey that brought us to this point. You will know that for these boys and for Rafiki also it is a massive opportunity to come to London and to speak on behalf of Rwandan street children, to dance and connect with friends made in Africa and to make new ones and to explore a world with technology that makes you jump (sensations in the lift, the first time a train moves, a loud speaker announcement) and to have fun.
Here’s some of our first moments in London
Nicola, Didier, Rafiki, Willy, me (kate)
From this point on we had to improvise as our pre-paid taxi crashed (no-one hurt) so they got the full on London transport experience (bar the tube) on day one!
Mind the gap!
Trains coming in fast
Looking at the tracks
So much to look at and listen too. Public service announcements make you JUMP!
First sight of London, lots of factories and warehouses
Quick trip in a London taxi en-route home to the Scanlan house
Then the tiredness hit and sleep came … followed by a chicken stew, lots of talking and exploring (Didier!) and then bed.
To be honest I don’t know why I’m not in bed as I am so tired but I wanted to start as I plan to go on and make a daily blog post. Tomorrow (today now!) there will be some film and I hope that Willy and Didier will be taking over!
Good night, god bless and hope to see you all at our event at Southbank Centre tomorrow as part of Africa Utopia. We will be in conversation with Jude Kelly, screening Bret’s film Yes, Man! and having a little celebration … DJ Billy Biznizz on the decks and all of us on the floor.
Come and dance with us.