Caribbean dance in Maine will aid Haiti


Haitian children already learning their ABCS can now learn to weld, saw and sew at a school in northern Haiti, thanks in large part to the hundreds of Seacoast residents who have donated money, time and tools to a school in northern Haiti.

More than 300 children at the Eben Ezer School are also getting an education because each year people from Maine and New Hampshire throw a party to beat the band. The annual Caribbean Nights Dance Party, featuring some of the best Latin music around, raises funds to pay teachers for six months of the school year.

The 6th annual Caribbean Nights Dance party on Saturday, April 11 at the VFW in Portsmouth will feature the music of Combo Sabroso, a Boston band that plays a lively blend of Salsa, Reggae and Afro-Cuban. And Latin dance instructor Piotrek will be back to open the dance party with 30 minutes of Latin dance lessons for those interested.

The dance party this year will celebrate the work of Seacoast residents who over many months helped fill and ship a container with tons of bikes, a pickup truck, a generator, large tools and nine solar panels bound for Milot, Haiti.

“Getting a container to northern Haiti is no easy task, but so many Seacoast businesses and residents stepped in to make a huge difference for hundreds of children in Haiti,” said Agnes Charlesworth, a member of the board of Life and Hope, the non-profit that runs the school. “This year’s dance – five years after the Haiti earthquake – celebrates that ability for us to all make a difference.”

For $20, attendees will receive a buffet of Mexican food, Indian treats, flatbread pizza and chowder, all donated by local restaurants. The benefit starts at 7:30 pm with a slide show on the progress over the last year at the Eben Ezer School. Dancing will begin 8:15.

When the dance was first held in 2010, the Eben Ezer Sochool had fewer than 100 students. This fall it began the school year with 340 children. Dozens of families in the Seacoast and beyond have signed up to sponsor students at the school, and through the dance provide the operating funds that allow the school to continue.

The 40-foot container in Eliot was packed with nine solar panels, a 40-kw generator, several industrial carpentry tools and materials for a water tank, all paid for by grants from the South Berwick-Eliot, York and Dover Rotary clubs.

“Rotary International and local Rotary clubs do so much to help international causes,” said Deb DeColfmacker, president of the South Berwick Eliot Rotary, “but what makes this project stand out is the degree to which our local community also got involved.”

DeColfmacker, who donated a stove and a much needed dolly to the school, was among the dozens who turned out during weekends this summer to help pack and fill the container as it sat in the Eliot Commons parking lot.

Life and Hope, the non-profit that runs the school, eventually hopes to build a guesthouse on the property as a way to provide employment, train students and ultimately help the school have an income and sustain itself.

Combo Sabroso was formed in 1998 when keyboard player Matt Jenson, then living in Portsmouth, assembled the best Latino musicians he could find in Boston. The band’s main influences are the ensembles of Latin piano icon Eddie Palmieri and the grand percussionist, Tito Puente. The band’s repertoire runs from Cha Cha to Danzon, from Bolero to Salsa, from Latin jazz to Plena and Reggae!

The lineup for this year’s event includes David Rivera from San Juan Puerto Rico, on drum set and vocals, Yaure Muniz from Havana, Cuba, and member of the Afro Cuban Allstars on trumpet; Winston Maccow from the island of Saint Marten bass and vocals; Manolo Mairena, from Costa Rica on percussion and vocals, local star Matt Langley from Eliot, Maine on tenor sax and on keyboards and vocals, band leader Matt Jenson, who teaches a class on Bob Marley at Berklee School of Music.

The Eben Ezer School was started by Lucia Anglade, a Haitian American woman living in Long Island. It is operated by the non-profit Life and Hope Haiti. More than six dozen families and individuals, most of them in southern Maine and New Hampshire, sponsor children in Milot in the name of the school. These donations of $220 a year keep the school operating.

Tickets are being sold at Black Bean in Rollinsford, RiverRun Books and Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth, Nature’s Way in South Berwick, and Lil’s Cafe and Fair Tide in Kittery. Tickets also can be purchased by sending checks for $20 made out to Life and Hope Haiti to 12 High Pasture Road, Kittery Point, ME 03905. More information is available from or by calling 207-430-3354 [Call: 207-430-3354] .

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