From street poverty to a European tour – that’s the story of a talented troupe heading our way this weekend, as DAVID WHETSTONE reports
A COLOURFUL show with a reputation for putting smiles on faces is coming to the region this week – for one night only.
It is the result of a lot of hard work and a long road travelled and it will be out to prove to its Newcastle audience that there’s potential in everyone, even those not born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
The show is to be performed by 10 children and young people who were born into poverty and destitution in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.
All were discovered on the streets by a remarkable Swiss woman called Lea Wyler whose compassion led to the foundation of a charity called Rokpa – taken from the Tibetan word for help.
Now the vice president of Rokpa, she is better known to the many people she has helped as Mummy Lea.
The little troupe of talented Rokpa beneficiaries are currently in the UK as part of a European tour and will entertain at St Thomas’ Church, Haymarket, on Saturday June 30.
Tour publicist Linda Sears says the show is “an exciting fusion of visual and musical talent” charting an emotional journey “which begins in despair and travels through hope to fulfillment”.
It is based on the children’s own stories which are brought to life on stage.
“It’s a lovely show, very moving but also full of fun,” says Linda.
Lea Wyler was born into privileged circumstances in Zurich, the second daughter of a lawyer, Veit Wyler, and his wife Katja whose father, the Austrian author Felix Salten, wrote Bambi (published in 1923).
Lea was already on the stage at eight years of age and keen to follow her mother and grandmother by becoming a professional actress. Hollywood was the big dream.
She studied drama in London and entered the profession. But then she had to return home to care for her mother who was terminally ill. When her mother died 18 months later, Lea reached a point of personal crisis.
She went for help to a Tibetan lama called Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who had inspired her once in the past, and joined him on a pilgrimage to India and Nepal.
Seeing the plight of the poor in those countries, her life changed and she became determined to fight against poverty and hunger on behalf of the children. With her father and the lama she founded Rokpa, establishing a home for street children in Nepal, a women’s workshop and a soup kitchen with medical facilities which opens during the winter months.
That was 30 years ago. The charity is now well established but in Switzerland Lea is constantly on the search for sponsors to support her projects.
Today about 55 destitute and abandoned children find shelter, education and a ready-made family in the Rokpa Children’s Home in Kathmandu.
The women’s workshop equips destitute mothers with the skills required to get work, meaning they don’t have to beg on the streets.
Has it all been worthwhile? The smiles on the faces of the little Rokpa singers and dancers should answer that question.
Tickets for the performance on Saturday June 30, at 7pm at the church in Newcastle, are £8 and can be booked by calling Anne Marron on 07855 851882 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org