On the streets of Port-au-Prince, one of the most heart-wrenching city sights is the “lost boys” – Haiti’s forgotten and spurned street-children.
Generally male, dressed in grimy, tattered and oversized clothes, they beg from the “blanc” (whites), clean cars with rags, and often get into trouble, toiling through each day in search of money for food and clean water.
Viewed as dangerous and filthy by many of their own culture, the “lost boys” are treated like stray dogs, often beaten or jailed by authorities.
Haiti is a land of children, the country’s average age is 15, and the January 2010 earthquake sent even more of them out into the streets alone.
While some end up in orphanages, (often underfunded and sometimes corrupt) many never reach adulthood or ever have an opportunity to attain their full potential.
But one organization, with a unique Asheville connection, is dancing to the beat of a different drum.
The Haiti Resurrection Dance Theater, sponsored by Hearts with Haiti, will perform Friday evening at the Diane Wortham Theatre and Saturday afternoon at the Orange Peel in downtown Asheville.
Comprised of former street-children, the dancers are in town fundraising for two of their three homes for boys, which were destroyed in the Jan. 12 quake.
Both the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys and Hearts with Wings (for handicapped children) were destroyed in the disaster — though miraculously no children were injured.
Only the Trinity House in Jacmel was left standing, and it now is home to many of the group’s other children, who live in tents on the soccer field.
Offering more than just food, education and shelter, the group’s schools offer dance and drumming classes to the orphans. With disciplined practice, the boys become the Haiti Resurrection Dance Theater, touring the world and representing their culture.
Haitian director Bill Nathan came to the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys when he was a child, a former restevek, or child servant/slave.
“When I used to live with that family, I loved drumming. But the only time I had for myself was when I’d go get the water for them,” Nathan said. “By coming to St. Joseph’s, they put me into drumming and singing and everything, and since, it has become my home. That’s where I grew up, and now I work at St. Joseph’s — we are giving back.”
With raging drum beats, colorful cultural costumes, theatrical choreography and leaping gymnastic feats, this weekend’s performances are sure to leave you energized, hopeful and even inspired, no matter what your connection with Haiti.
The undoubted star of the show, 10-year-old Didi, came to the Trinity school in Jacmel when he was just 4 years old. Born for the stage, watching him dance is literally nourishment-for-the soul – his very essence a clear depiction of the possibilities for a new dawn in Haiti.
Sponsored by the YMI Cultural Center and the Asheville Youth Mission, the boys are staying with the Jubilee! community, whose own members have been hosted at St. Joseph’s in Haiti while doing service-and-learning trips, long before the January quake.
Jubilee! offered a sampling of their performance at Sunday’s services, with an hour-long sneak-peak routine that afternoon.