LEAF International | Haiti
Located in Port-au-Prince | Founded in 2013 | 40 Youth Served ages 15-25
Why Haiti? “Why does LEAF International not work in Haiti”, asked performer Emeline Michel. Years later and many searches for the best partner, acclaimed Haitian musicians of Boukman Eksperyman alongside their dear friends at Prosjekt Haiti connected with LEAF, and this brilliant trio designed LEAF International Haiti. Prosjekt Haiti is an extraordinary NGO that meets the needs of its families and youth in a holistic way, and the addition of Haitian cultural arts was a natural complement.
“Your traditions are very important. It’s like you forget who you are if you don’t know your traditions. We are losing our traditions. They just don’t know their traditions. They like the hip hop – the dress – the talk – they are disconnected from their roots.”Bois Gris
LEAF International, Prosjekt Haiti (a Norwegian non-profit), and Boukman Eksperyans (a Haitian musical group) all partner together to implement and sustain the LEAF International Haiti program. Twice a week, members of Boukman Eksperyans give drum and dance lessons to children in Project Haiti’s Youth Club, free of cost. These youth are extraordinary and dedicated. The long-term vision for the program is that they will eventually serve as music teachers for younger children. The youth perform in the community at least 4 times each year. Scroll to the bottom of the page to learn more about the Vision and Dream for this program.
The benefits of this program extend to the local community, including the drum maker commissioned to provide instruments and the women in the tailor shop Atelier Manman Troll (apart of Prosjekt Haiti), who make costumes for the youth.
Through the project, students gain:
- Classes in drumming- drums are sacred in Haitian culture
- Traditional dance classes
- Reconnecting to local traditions
- The opportunity to perform in the community
- A one-mic recording studio
Meet the Teaching Artists
For over 30 years, Boukman Eksperyans has been a powerful social voice for Haitians, and the musicians that make up the group Boukman Eksperyans have been active change agents in their community for decades. They embody and preserve Haitian traditions with grace and dedication. For years, they have dreamed of starting a cultural program with youth, and with the collaboration of LEAF International and Prosjekt Haiti, that dream is now a reality. The four main members of the Boukman Eksperyans serve as Teaching Artists for our Haiti program, including: Manze’ (Mimerose) Beaubrun, Lolo (Theodore) Beaubrun, Bois Gris “Hans Dominique,” Laura Beaubrun, and her husband Paul, Johanne Dejean. The primary teachers are Johanne Dejean, teaching dance, and Bois Gris, teaching Haitian drumming traditions.
To see Boukman Eksperyans in action, check out their 2013 Carnival Song “Piout Piout”
Meet the Students
There are 40 young people in the program, ages 15-25. The students live nearby and walk to the program. If you met these students, you would never sense the real struggles of their lives. The youth come from poor backgrounds and their parents–many of whom cannot find work–struggle to find food for the families. Despite their circumstances, they are vibrant, talented, self-taught, driven, intelligent, kind, and they have dreams. This program allows these individuals to have an outlet in which to express themselves in an uplifting and constructive manner, and the students’ families are extremely happy about the creation of the program.
When asked what people from outside Haiti should know about the country, student Samual Ambriose said, “Haitians work hard, are talented, and are fun. Even amidst misery they can laugh.”
The Program in Action!
LI Haiti Performs at May LEAF 2014
Long Term Vision
The long-term vision of the LEAF International Haiti program is to not only provide the opportunity for students to become engaged in their local cultural traditions, but to have the opportunity to develop their skills far enough to become cultural professionals. To this end, LEAF International, in collaboration with Prosjekt Haiti, is committed to working with the same group of youth so that they may progress over time. Despite many of the backgrounds from where they come, these students have big dreams for their futures, and the determination to make those dreams come true. By bringing them to perform at LEAF Festival in May of 2014, LEAF International has begun the process of helping these students realize their dreams. By becoming international performers, many of these students are now receiving paid gigs for their performances in traditional Haitian dance and drumming. This coming December, the youth group is putting on their own arts festival, where they will have the opportunity to showcase their wide array of talents–from dance and drumming to photography and theater–to their parents and their community. The next step is organizing their own mini-LEAF Festival that they will put on in Haiti in Spring of 2016. This festival will focus on celebrating Haitian culture and all it has to offer, while giving these young people an opportunity to develop into cultural professionals.
Join us on this incredible journey! Get involved today.
From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.
Learn more about our Partner, Prosjekt Haiti, by watching this video:
4 LEAF International Haiti youth led a residency with partner LEAF International Tanzania | Arusha at Odyssey Community School May 9th – 1th. The group taught drumming and dance with the 35 Asheville youth.
2 LEAF Teaching Artists visit Haiti for a Cultural Exchange trip to engage with LEAF International program partners to cultivate global citizenship and learn and share teaching techniques with one another
4 LEAF International Haiti students participate in the first ever multi-tiered cultural exchange at October LEAF. Students from Guatemala and Haiti came to Asheville to teach a residency with a local school, highlighting and sharing their unique cultural arts traditions, and performing at LEAF Festival.
2 youth group leaders from LEAF International Haiti come to Asheville to intern with LEAF for the months of April & May, learning the ins and outs of festival organization and production. The internship provided a wonderful opportunity for these two young leaders to receive further training in the cultural arts and the cultural sector of the economy, knowledge and experience that they will be able to bring back to Haiti.
LEAF International Haiti comes to May LEAF and shares in meaningful cultural exchange with LEAF Schools & Streets youth, Teaching Artists and our local community.
LEAF International Haiti begins!
Caribbean Traditions at LEAF
Bonga & the Vodou Drums of Haiti
Want to learn more about our program in Haiti? Click the link below to download the 2013 site report with detailed descriptions of the program from the LEAF International team!
In Memory of Sergot Junior Lamour
In remembrance and in honor of one of the LEAF International Haiti students, who left this world early as he was hit by a car on his way to school. Junior, a LEAF International & Project Haiti drummer extraordinaire, exemplified the LEAF mission in the way he lived his life.
“‘My teacher always taught me to put a lot of energy into my music,’ Junior said reflecting on his drumming. ‘You have to put your soul into it. Your heart into it!’”
Junior lived with sweet kindness and a full heart. In May 2014, he captivated us all at LEAF with his beautiful smile and Haitian spirit at LEAF Festival. He will forever be in our hearts, and will continue to inspire the work that LEAF International does.
Haiti is a state in the Caribbean and is situated on the same island as the Dominican Republic, Hispaniola. The Creole word for Haiti is “Ayiti” and means “the country with high mountains”. Haiti was the first free, black republic in the world following a successful slave revolt in 1804, ridding the country of the French colonists. The Capital of Haiti is Port-au-Prince. Both Creole and French are spoken in Haiti. The population is a little less than 10 million, and approximately 2.3 million people live in the capital. 80% of Haitians are Catholic, 16% are Protestant, 3% report as “other,” and half of the population also practices Vodou. According to 2003 data, 80% of the population is below poverty level. Haiti was tragically devasted by a major earthquake in 2010.