• Laetitia Butler
  • Atlanta International School, senior
Laetitia Butler

Last summer, Laetitia Butler spent two weeks in a refugee camp in western Uganda. She taught in a primary school and worked two hours a day with a group of teenagers.

Laetitia, who speaks English, French and German, traveled to Africa with a nonprofit international group called Theatre Versus Oppression. She served as a facilitator of theater workshops.

Theatre Versus Oppression uses theatrical techniques to explore issues and promote change. In the refugee camp, the group used techniques such as role-playing to explore issues facing Ugandan students. They also discussed what it means to be a teenager in Uganda.

At the end of the session, the students put on a performance for their community to present their feelings.

“I learned a lot from them,” Laetitia said. “I realized that we didn’t go there to teach them anything. We went to learn.”

The lack of education that the teens receive was the main focus of the project. Laetitia learned that this is the key to success in Uganda. Teens there feel it is very important to receive an education, even if many know it is unlikely they will.

The reasons they aren’t able to get an education vary. Some families need the kids to work during school hours, and others simply cannot afford to send their kids to school. Laetitia also learned that some parents do not want their kids to have the education that they themselves did not receive.

“Here, you always hear kids complaining about going to school,” Laetitia said. “There, they were practically fighting just to (attend).”

Laetitia has also learned the power of theater in other ways. Before she departed for Africa, she was selected to be a part of a three-week project at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Twenty students worked with writer Pearl Cleage to learn how to dissect a familiar text. With the writer, the kids discussed the Declaration of Independence.

On the first day of the project, professional actors came in to read the Declaration aloud, which helped the students to get a better understanding of the text before studying it.

The students then met every day to debate issues that are presented in the Declaration. At the end of the three weeks, Pearl took the students’ writing and created a play.

“It was so inspiring to hear the Declaration read out loud,” Laetitia said. “It sounded so passionate, and I could tell that these people really wanted to have their voices heard.”

Laetitia also has been a part of a poetry group at the Alliance Theatre. The group meets every Sunday to create writings, play theater games, and discuss poetry, in order to better their theater skills.

Laetitia is also very involved with the theatre program at school.

“Laetitia is a great leader of my program,” says theater teacher Rob Warren. “She is a caring human being who is dedicated to her studies, outgoing, and loves to help others. She is a great leader in my program, and she knows that she will greatly be missed.”

What’s Next:

Laetitia would like to travel for a year after high school, but is planning on going into a program in which students spend their first two years at a school in France, and then finish at Columbia University.