BRATTLEBORO -- Good things happen when you mix love and laughter in equal measures.
On Friday, there will be a family event called Comic Relief ... Disaster Relief" at New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat St., at 6:30 p.m., featuring two performers who will juggle, mime, clown around and perform magic to help support the Foyer Evangelique Orphanage in Haiti.
Haiti is maybe half a hemisphere away, but Friday’s event was born of personal connections -- of the organizers to the performers, of the performers to each other, and, above all, of everyone involved to a little orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where things we take for granted, like food and safe sanitation, are in short supply, but one thing is found in abundance.
"It was filled with love," said event co-organizer Sheila Humphreys, who made her first trip to the Foyer Evangelique Orphanage in April 2102 and was blown away. "I just completely fell in love with the children and have so much respect for the way the orphanage is run. It is absolutely remarkable how well cared-for the children are and how much love there is for the children."
Already involved in helping the orphanage -- she had joined her friend Mariam Diallo in 2010 in raising funds and doing what she could -- Humphreys redoubled her efforts on the board of Help Mariam and Sheila Help Haiti. The short-term goal is to finish raising $6,300 for composting toilets for the orphanage, which currently uses rudimentary latrines. When Hurricane Sandy swamped Haiti, the latrines flooded, and cholera broke out in the orphanage.
To do that, Humphreys drew on two other personal connections -- to performer Chris "Hoopoe" Yerlig and Henry the Juggler. She had been Yerlig’s neighbor and had asked him to perform at the orphanage when she he heard he was making a trip to Haiti anyway. She knew Henry the Juggler (Henry Lappen), because she had been his son’s babysitter.
"Chris and Henry are both extraordinary performers, and they are incredible entertainers for young audiences," she said.
"Both of us do silent comedy. Henry plays with objects and gravity; and myself with mime and magic and illusions," said Yerlig, who has made a commitment to performing for causes around the globe.
With the non-profit groups Project Troubador and Magicians Without Borders, Yerlig has traveled to four continents to perform in schools, hospitals and orphanages and to lead mime workshops for young people. He fell in love with the Foyer Evangelique Orphanage after performing there in 2012, and he is a member of the board of Help Mariam and Sheila Help Haiti.
"I think it’s important for me to feel like what I’m doing is making some kind of a difference. ... It’s very rewarding for me to be part of en effort to help people," said Yerlig, whose performance at the orphanage was a big hit. "Kids are kids anywhere. ... Somebody said to me that what I do, people remember. The kids are still laughing, and they remember. ... There’s something about not feeling forgotten."
Yerlig and Henry the Juggler, last performed together in 2009 on an outreach tour of the Dominican Republic as part of a campaign to build a school for deaf children.
Help Mariam and Sheila Help Haiti’s mission is to secure sponsorship funding for every child, ranging in age from pre-school to teenage, to help pay for their food, education, medical expenses and other basic needs. They also research and promote collaboration with other groups to match the orphanage population’s physical, health, and other needs with available resources.
Tickets are for sale at the door, or at Everyone’s Books on Elliot Street. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children, free for ages 2 and under.