The Mizero Children of Rwanda came to
the Mario Umana Middle School Academy in East Boston on Monday for a
performance and cultural exchange with Boston students. Organizers of
the troupe’s trip wanted the visit to encourage further understanding
between Americans and Africans.
The Mizero troupe
is in the midst of a North America tour to raise money to build a music
and arts academy back in their home of Kigali, Rwanda. The tour started
in Ashville, N.C., in October and will conclude at the United Nations
on Dec. 19.
Many of the troupe’s 25 members, ranging in age from 13 to 18, are
homeless and orphaned, having lost their parents to the Rwandan
genocide of 1994 and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This trip is the first time
that most of them have left their village, let alone their country. The
tour almost didn’t happen because some funding fell through at the last
minute. However, they decided to come anyway, hoping their positive
message of peace would inspire audiences, despite their lack of warm
clothing for the winter weather and adequate transportation to their
different tour destinations.
Award-winning Rwandan singer and songwriter Jean Paul Samputu started
the troupe last year. A genocide survivor himself, Samputu wanted to
use music, drumming and dance to bring not only goodwill to the
orphans, but also life skills that they can use when they grow up.
“I want to avoid further genocide in the future,” he said. “I wanted to
teach them about peace and reconciliation through their performances. I
think that I can bring hope to not just our troupe, but also to the 1
million orphans in Rwanda.”
That mission gives the troupe its name — in the Kinyarwandan language,
Rwanda’s primary tongue, “mizero” means “hope” — and Samputu says his
young charges have succeeded in bringing just that to very receptive
audiences across the continent. During one performance in Canada last
month, actress Mia Farrow was so moved by their performance that she
donated $30,000 on the spot.
That generous donation brings Samputu closer to achieving his goal of
building a university-level conservatory where students will receive
general education, as well as an opportunity to learn about the musical
traditions of East and Central African cultures.
Luca Amara, a seventh-grade math teacher at the Umana Academy, runs the
drumming program at the school, which has a student body consisting
mostly of first-generation American children from Latin American
families. He was contacted by his sister, an events promoter, a couple
of months ago about hosting the troupe at his school, and found it a
“It has been wonderful hosting the Rwandan kids here,” Amara said.
“There is really a cultural exchange happening here.”
Troupe member Olivier Ndayishimiye, 15, said he was very happy to meet and perform with his American counterparts.
“Everyone is happy to see us here,” he said. “At the end of our performances, everyone gets excited.”
While Mizero performed, Umana students were excited by the troupe’s traditional African clothing and native drumming.
“I’m glad they are here,” said Umana seventh-grader German Bustamente,
13. “I learned different drumming beats from them. They’re really
To find out more about the Mizero Children of Rwanda or to make a donation, visit their Web site at www.mizerochildren.org.