Our Philosophy

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“If you want to live the fullness of life then you must love God and your neighbor. In other words, love God and “Zanmi Beni.” You like how I took a noun and made it a verb? Here is a question we should ask ourselves each night before we go to bed: Did I Zanmi Beni today?”

– Fr. Jorge Presmanes | OP

“At dusk the kids of Zanmi Beni gather together outside the library and some of the bigger boys lug two huge speakers into the courtyard. Once everyone is assembled, the speakers jump to life and the ground rumbles with jubilant West African Highlife songs, the setting sunlight tinting us with its rosy glow. As the pizzicato guitar riffs echo across the compound, the able-bodied kids start to jump and dance; the others sway in their wheelchairs, bathed in the ecstatic music, free from their hospital memories. A group of four teenage girls breaks from the rest of the dancers and we form a semi-circle around them, clapping as they leap through their intricate steps, hands folded behind their heads, hips gyrating with the jubilant music, their long hair swaying through the rosy sky. As we all lose ourselves in the dance, two older boys, Esmane and Stanley, jump onto the dance floor. They dance and dance in an exaggerated imitation of the girls’ choreographed dance, their hands behind their heads, their hips gyrating, their long arms stretched forward, their chests puffing out, seized with joy. The lampooned girls fall upon each other, clutching their sides, howling with laughter. The music flows on. The able, the disabled, the lost, those who have lost, all dance together into the night.”

– Jonathan Milner