She was abandoned as a baby. Years later, her story inspired a performance

Judite Vold was adopted by a Canadian family after being abused during her early childhood in an orphanage in her birth country of Haiti. Her story is being shared as a performance told through music, dance and poetry.

'It's a story that I hope will bring people together, and I hope will show them that, there's love'

A girl in a mint green sweater sits cross-legged on a stage, looking toward the lights as the cast rehearses. Other cast members sit behind her with backs turned to the camera, while the woman portraying Vold's birth mother looks on with a concerned expression.
Judite Vold's story of trauma and hope has inspired the performance Say Hello, Wave Goodbye at the Rosebud School of the Arts. Vold says she and her classmates each pitched an idea, and has found the rest of the cast supportive as she navigates the story of her abuse, and finding happiness. (Jo Horwood/CBC News)

WARNING: This article contains details of abuse.

Judite Vold fought back her bubbling emotions as she recalled the story of her childhood.

Born in Haiti, she was put in an orphanage at just one year old. 

"I was abused physically, sexually and mentally," she said. "Until the age of eight."

Seven years later, a family from rural Alberta adopted her and brought her home to Canada, where the rest of her story began.

"When I was adopted, it was a good home where it was full of loving family members," Vold said. "It turned into a good story, even though it didn't start as that."

She's 23 now and has been removed from the orphanage for 15 years. But the memories, she says, still trigger her to this day.

"It's sometimes hard to, in the middle of the day, stop everything I'm doing to have a giant meltdown," she said.

Often, Vold says, she'll mask the emotions left by that trauma. These days, she's fighting through them instead.

Her story of struggle and hope inspired a performance told through music, poetry, and dance at the Rosebud School of the Arts in southern Alberta. 

The cast sit on the edge of the stage. One girl has her arms wrapped around Vold, as Vold smiles widely toward the camera. Many of the cast are holding white masks, a metaphor used in the play to show how Vold masks her emotions to protect herself and her loved ones.
The cast gathers for a photo. Judite Vold says her classmates have been supportive as she navigates emotions both happy and sad. (Jo Horwood/CBC News)

Vold acts out her own early life in Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, with her friends and classmates alongside her.

Most of the cast perform from behind a mask, a metaphor used to show how Vold sometimes bottles up her emotions to protect herself and her loved ones from the reality she faced. 

"Seeing the beauty in it was really exciting," Vold said, highlighting the original choreography her castmates contributed to the show. 

"Having them support me in that instance and sharing themselves through my story, even though it is my story that we're sharing." 

Life on stage

Sharing the stage with Vold has been a touching experience for Shelly-Ann Morgan.

"Imagine holding your child and then having to let it go, that is a very wrenching thing," she said.  "And also the shock and the anger and the pain of watching some of the things that Judite had experienced."

Morgan plays Vold's birth mother during the performance, but their connection goes beyond the stage. Her and Vold were roommates when now-alumna Morgan was also studying at the school.

"We are finding ways to tell that story and thinking about how difficult it must be for this person to be telling that story," Morgan said.

"So [I'm] definitely doing my level best to support that person on that journey."

Morgan stands strongly with arms held out, making herself appear big in front of the perceived threat she looks at out of the frame. Behind her, Vold sits on the ground with arms around her legs in a self-soothing manner.
Shelly-Ann Morgan who plays Vold's birth mother in the performance, takes a protective stance. Morgan, 47, says she sometimes feels maternal instincts to protect Vold in the real world as well, knowing what she's been through. (Jo Horwood/CBC News)

Throughout the creation of the show, Morgan says it's been easy to tell that this experience is difficult for Vold, who narrated her own journey through poetry. 

During the performance, an emotional dance depicts Vold fighting the abuse she's faced and endured.

But the show ends with her being at peace with herself, and much happier. 

A message of hope and understanding

In addition to the story itself, there's importance in the production's timing. 

Morgan says there's significant value in telling this story during Black History Month.

For her, telling the same stories repetitively each February can be a disservice to its purpose. 

"With Black History Month, we look back on the same stories over and over — it is the history of slavery in America most prevalently," Morgan said.

"But finding opportunities to tell stories like this, you know, a person of two cultures and their experience, I think is very important," Morgan said.

Vold knows that her story might not be easy for people to watch. 

But eventually, she found her own happy ending, and hopes the audience understands her message of hope crafted into the performance's storyline. 

"It's a story that I hope will bring people together, and I hope will show them that, there's love."

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911. 

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Jo Horwood is a CBC News video journalist based in Calgary. She spent her internship at CBC News Network in Toronto and previously worked at CityNews Calgary while wrapping up her broadcast media studies degree at Mount Royal University. If you want to shine a light on a story you think is important, contact her at