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(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.
In Bret Downroc Syfert’s latest blogpost from Rwanda, he discusses the boys’ emerging recording careers with their new cowshed recording studio, as well as the realities of a street child’s life, and the important issue of volunteers in Rwanda … http://bdandtheboys.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/harsh-realities.html
It’s happening! With the Southbank Centre, Catalyst Rwanda is bringing two of the boys of Les Enfants de Dieu centre for street children – Willy and Didier – as well as the centre’s visionary leader Rafiki Callixte to London.
Les Enfants de Dieu is a remarkable centre in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, that aims to transform the lives of Rwandan street children by giving them a place to live, an education, and hope. There are currently 130 boys aged six to 20 years at the centre and they are passionate about hip-hop. In 2011, Catalyst Rwanda took the world-renowned Bboy Pervez, from Live 2 Break Crew, to work with these remarkable children and young men.
This summer, some of the boys travel to London to take part in Southbank Centre’s Africa Utopia, a month-long festival of music, theatre, film, literature, dance, talks and debates.
The event – taking place in the Purcell Room on the 19th July at 7:45pm – includes a screening of ‘Yes Man!’, Bret Syfert’s inspiring and moving film of the project, and a conversation with Rafiki, Willy and Didier and the team behind the project. Following this, there will be a celebration of Hip Hop and the possibilities it creates with music by DJ Biznizz (Tha En4cers) in the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall.
You can buy your tickets here!
And please consider donating towards our continued work with vulnerable young people in Rwanda by clicking on our donate button. We plan to return to Rwanda in November.
Hope to see you on the Southbank!
Nicola & Kate
Hip hop group Time Boyz is made up of former street children of Kigali, Rwanda. Their song is the story of how a little girl and an older boy survived life on the streets by sticking together like brother and sister. The mission of the Time Boyz is to give hope to other street children and lead by example. The Time Boyz currently live at Les Enfants de Dieu, a center for former street children in Ndera, Kigali.
Film by Bret Downroc Syfert with Willy Mutabazi
12 April is International Day for Street Children. Led by the Consortium for Street Children this is an opportunity for street children and their champions; people like Catalyst Rwanda and centres like Les Enfants de Dieu to speak out. The International Day for Street Children: Louder Together is about giving a louder voice to the millions of street children across the world.
The children at Les Enfants de Dieu are former street children. They chose to leave the street, to have an education and to build a positive future. Without a centre like Les Enfants de Dieu and others like it across the world, street children would not have this option. Rafiki Callixte, Project Manger at the centre, said that our visit made a massive impact on the children. Not only because they learnt to break but on a deeper level our journey across the world was to be with them. As a street child not only are you invisible but your perceived worth in society is non-existent. Rafiki said that the significance of coming to be with the children and to share our days together was priceless.
How do you survive when you are alone, scared and a vulnerable child? Willy, one of the young men we worked with at the centre in Kigali said that he was scared his first night on the street. He met some street children who invited them to their home. Willy thought it would be a house; it a space underneath a bridge. Children on the street come together and help each other to survive. In Rwanda it is estimated that 43% of its population is under 14 years old. Of course not all these children live on the street, but it hints at the power that it could have as a country if its young people have a voice, have an education and the opportunity to build a positive future.
UNICEF was responsible for the earliest definitions and categories of street children. They are children ‘of’ the street who sleep in public spaces without their families; ‘on’ the streets working and returning to their families at night; and ‘street family children’ living with their families on the street. In 1989 UNICEF estimated that there were 100 million children growing up on the streets globally. It’s very hard to know the exact number but even if this is an indication of the number of street children it is a shocking statistic.
I think back to the opportunity that the children at Les Enfants de Dieu have. A warm and safe place to sleep, clothing and shoes, food, an education. The conditions they live in are simple but thanks to the Centre they are consistent. The children can go onto secondary school, to university or learn a trade. They can return to society as men, with a sense of community and a desire to make their country a better place for the future. Together they are stronger, they are finding their voice, they are speaking out for children still on the street.
When we met Willy we were struck by his quiet strength, his articulate plea for understanding street children as any other child; who with love will flourish and grow into a man. Willy says it better than I can. Today I ask you to watch our film Yes Man! made by Bret Downroc Syfert of our first trip to work with the children at Les Enfants de Dieu in November 2011.
Catalyst Rwanda is fundraising to go back to Les Enfants de Dieu in November 2012. There are big plans afoot for this July at Southbank Centre, London. Please support our project and what it represents to these children. Every donation helps.
Bret Syfert, filmmaker and B Boy, was so moved by his experiences in Rwanda with Catalyst Rwanda that he has returned to volunteer at the Centre with his wife Dorota. For more information about Bret, Dorota and their trip read on!
Catalyst Rwanda is asking its friends and supporters to help us on this special day to raise the awareness of our project:
The International Day for Street Children is asking you, asking us to be louder, to help the children without a voice and to provide opportunities for those who have found their voice to be heard. Do something special today. Make a difference for these amazing children and the millions of others just like them. Raise your voice for Street Children.
written by Kate
Last year, 130 former street children, aged from 6 to 20 years, at the pioneering Les Enfants de Dieu centre in Kigali, Rwanda, were granted their dearest wish: to be taught to “break”, the original hip hop dance form. Catalyst Rwanda took the world-renowned Pervez from Live 2 Break crew to share hope, life and hip hop culture with these remarkable young people.
Yes Man! is Bret Syfert’s moving and inspiring film of the project for Catalyst Rwanda. Beyondo wrote and recorded the soundtrack.
The project continues in 2012, when we plan to return to Rwanda with Pervez towards the end of the year. Please help the project to continue! Every small amount helps.
You can donate directly to Catalyst Rwanda here:
Just to highlight that the organisers are volunteers, so all funds raised goes directly to the project. Film-maker Bret Syfert also paid for his own flight to come on the trip. He has been so inspired by his visit that he is going back to Rwanda, with his wife, as volunteers at the centre from April to August 2012, to teach English and continue breaking with the boys. If you would like to help Bret directly with his flight costs, you can donate via his site: hydeslovelies.com.
You can also download the soundtrack by Beyondo: beyondo.bandcamp.com/album/yes-man-soundtrack