All these children can
act on hope
New York Post, December 26, 1990
by Michele Greppi
echoes, rather than imitates, life in the Dec 20 installment of "All My
Children," and three previously homeless children are much richer for it.
Ramo (age 11), Ramesha (9) and Raajaah (4) Sherreif-i are among the children in a scene that finds Natalie (Kate Collins) one-upping Adam (David Canary) in the "War of the Roses" campaign each has been waging on the ABC soap opera to end their marriage but keep the house.
Natalie, knowing that Adam is bringing home important business prospects, is throwing a party for underprivileged - and rambunctious - children.
For the Sherreif-i children, who only last week moved into a Harlem apartment after nine years of homelessness for father Omar and his disabled wife, the only stretch was acting rambunctious.
Actress Ilene Kristen (Norma on ABC's "Loving") first met the Sherreif-i children five years ago when she was working with homeless kids at the Prince George Hotel, a privately owned shelter once dubbed "the deadliest address in the city."
"The kids were the best-behaved at the hotel," says Kristen, whose own apartment is thrown open to homeless kids most Saturdays and who thinks of her well-known activism as tithing. "They have that rare father presence."
Kristen once worked with "AMC's" executive producer Felicia Minei Behr on the late "Ryan's Hope," so it was not a hard sell to work the Sherreif-i children into the scene shot at ABC's spiffy West Side studios recently.
Each of the youngsters earned scale, a whopping for them $126 for the day.
For Omar, who also spent several years in an abandoned building and said his only income has been from "little off-jobs and the New York numbers," the day meant "we're moving up. We can't go nowhere but up. Maybe this could be a door opening for them. It tells you that there's hope."
For him and Kristen, it is, with luck, the turning point in a long struggle for a family that, as he said "didn't fit the system" because neither he nor his wife had drug or alcohol problems.
"They've had it rougher than a lot of people with (substance) problems," said Kristen, who hopes to get the two elder children into an upper West Side school.
Sherreif-i tutored Ramo and Ramesha until they entered public schools just in the last year. He said they're A students.
There was one advantage to Dad's classroom. "I didn't tease Ramo about being homeless. And I didn't tease Ramesha about her clothes."