Yes Man! – teaser for a new film of Catalyst Rwanda’s hip hop project

Enjoy this clip of the short film, “Yes, Man!” by Bret Syfert – launching online on Friday 30 March – which documents the tale of legendary London breaker Pervez who travels to Rwanda to share hope, life and hip hop culture at a centre for former street children.

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A Reblog from Kate’s blog!

Boys who are the future men of a country

Last month I was part of a really special project. Nicola (founder & Director of Arts Catalyst), Pervez (Live 2 Break Crew), Bret (7$ Crew) and I travelled to Rwanda on a project we set up to work with a group of street children.The roots of the project, Catalyst Rwanda are pretty unique. 19 years ago Nicola was travelling thorugh Africa and became friends with Rafiki Callixe. The lost touch in the aftermath of the genocide and only got back in touch last year when he tracked her down on facebook. Rafiki now runs Les Enfants De Dieu, an incredible centre for street kids, boys either orphaned by the genocide, the AIDs epidemic or they are run aways.Nicola and I started planning this project in January 2011 … a mere 10 months later thanks to the Ellie Maxwell Bursary (Clore Leadership Programme) and generous donations through friends, families and strangers on We Did This, we made it to Rwanda.

The trip was incredible, a totally unique and humbling experience. I think what struck me most is the joy that simple things can bring. Dancing together, sharing food together, laughing, playing football. We worked with the boys most days, and when it was a day off we ended up there anyway and played football for hours in a field full of the boys, a heard of cows and some goats.

The boys were a joy. Aged 6-20 years they have lived and experienced things that most grown adults in other parts of the world cannot imagine. Some times you would see one of the boys, so far away, lost in some trauma. It was heart breaking to see and not be able to reach them. But then something would happen to pull them back, a smile would burst on their faces and things would move on.

We taught outside on a basket ball pitch – a massive rectangle of concrete in the middle of a lush green field. 126 children learning breaking at once. It was intense but really good fun. We had an interpreter so Pervez could really get into the philosphy and technique of the dance. We all learnt a few words … I do remember ‘Omva’ … LISTEN hahahaha.

The boys look out for each other. A really community in that centre. Rafiki has a great system. The Ministers (based on the Rwandan government structure) are aged about 14 or 15 and are voted in for a year. So there is a minister for Education, one for Health and so on. These boys run the centre, making all decisions on expenditure and what donations are spent on. Rafiki said jokingly that they could sack him! What I saw was a system that is educating future leaders. This is the ultimate leadership programme. These children are not like those in the UK or most countries to be honest. They really are street wise, having survived when many did not, they are so savvy, a few minutes in their company and they have you down … your character, values, your intentions. They are learning, in simple terms they are getting a good education that they can take right through to University level or get a trade. In more complex terms they are learning self belief, team spirit, how to look after and care for themselves and those around them, long term strategic planning, how to have fun and enjoy themselves and so much more.

I called this article boys who are the future men, they will become men early due to what they have lived through. But due to the love, care and opportunities that Rafiki and his team provide for them these boys will become wise, independent, self assured men. A Rwandan man we spoke to one day said that you can build a peaceful future from a space of peace. It really felt like Rwanda has started to find its peace and I am sure that these boys, soon to be men, will be future fathers, leaders and shapers of this country. I feel honored to have met them.

Photos by Kate, Bret and Elena

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Les Enfants de Dieu Christmas Wishlist …!

Boxers, briefs, sports gear, games …

Please give Xmas presents to the boys of the wonderful Les Enfants de Dieu, a centre for street boys in Rwanda, by purchasing one of the following items.

Amazon wish list 

All purchases will be shipped to Vermont where they will be packed in suitcases and brought to Rwanda by volunteers/visitors to the centre. Thank you!!!


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“As the drum beats, so the dance goes …”

The new expanded Live 2 Break crew!

Such a beautiful post by Claire Morrow, a volunteer teacher at Les Enfants de Dieu, about our hip hop project with the centre, that I’ve pasted the whole text below (or you can read it on Claire’s blog):

“Happiness. Joy. Hope.  Those are the words I would use to sum up the last 10 days at Les Enfants de Dieu.

If there is one thing my boys love more than anything else in the world it is to dance.  Sun up to sun down they will dance.  As soon as they get the chance the boom box is rocking and they are grouped together in synchronized routines.  Many an afternoon, I have spent twirling in circles, shuffling from side to side, and getting down with the boys in our dining room as the music cracked in and out on the sketchy stereo.  So much joy has come to the center through dance, a language and an understanding that needs no words.

So of course if they had one wish it would be to have real dance teachers, not just the pirated music videos they watch to perfect their skills.  Thank god for Catalyst Rwanda and the Live 2 Break Crew who came and spent the last ten days teaching the boys to pop, lock and drop it.

As I watched the boys transform into break dancers this last week I felt so happy.   Their smiles never faded and their eyes lit up every time Pervez (the break master) tied his bandanna on and showed them a new move.  Each time Kate or Bret (the rest of the crew) slowed down to help a boy until he got it, I saw that glint of pride radiate from his soul.  This week the boys saw that they mattered.  The Live 2 Break crew had come all the way from London just for them because they are just as important as any other child.  They will never forget those ten days, they will treasure them forever– just as I will cherish the moments I got to sit and watch them smile as they spun in circles and hopped back in forth.

There are not enough thank yous in the world but it’s all I have; so thank you Pervez, Kate, Bret and Nicola for making my boys know how special they really are!”

Claire & Elaine invent "pairs breaking"

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Street dance for street kids: Phase 2

The team’s visit to Kigali has given the former street children at Les Enfants de Dieu the basic breaking moves and resources – music and films – to enable them to continue to develop their skills.

We now need to raise more funds, firstly to enable regular training sessions for the boys until our return, and secondly to enable the team to return in 2012.

Until we go back, the boys will work with the more experienced Rwandan breakers, whom Pervez trained at Ishyo Arts Centre. Funds will cover the experienced dancers’ travel to the centre each fortnight to work with all the boys, and for a group of the more skilled boys to travel to Ishyo Arts Centre for more intensive training. There will be incentives for the boys to continue to improve their breaking in the form of a monthly breaking competition at the centre, judged by the boys themselves.

The centre itself is also struggling to find enough funds to continue its truly amazing work rehabilitating and reintegrating these young people in 2012.

Please help us and the centre by donating using the donate button in the side bar.

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A trip to Kimiranko market with Pervez and Bret

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So, yesterday we had a big jam session and hip hop party. All the boys of Les Enfants de Dieu and the dancers we have worked with at Ishyo came together at Les Enfants to break. Then we had a display of traditional Rwandan dance and drumming by the Les Enfants traditional group. And then the party continued with breaking until dark …

Today we said goodbye to the boys. It was very sad for all of us, Catalyst Rwanda team and boys. We have really bonded with these amazing children and young people. Lots of hugs and photos. But as Rafiki (the project manager at Les Enfants) says: it’s ok to say goodbye, because one goodbye means another hello. And we will return.

Once again, THANK YOU to everyone who helped us to achieve this dream.

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