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May 7, 2019

Following Their Dreams in Rwanda

Giirls who face poverty and unstable home lives often have no alternative but to frequently miss school or drop out entirely and try to survive, with little hope for the future. As part of the MindLeaps program, these girls become involved not only in dance classes, but also receive academic support, daily meals and get on a path to school sponsorship. With the support of MindLeaps, they are able to get back on track with their education and start to dream of a future that’s possible to achieve.

Madina, Emeline, Diane, Confiance, and Ange are all MindLeaps girls who are now thriving and have their eyes set on goals for future careers.

Before MindLeaps, 12-year-old Madina had a very hard time day to day. Her father had left for the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was very young. Madina lives at home with her mother and four siblings, and her mother often didn’t have enough money for food because she spent it all on school fees. Now, with MindLeaps’ school sponsorship, her mother doesn’t need to prioritize school over food and Madina is eating well, with a lot more energy for her studies. Madina really loves learning new things, and hopes to use this hunger for knowledge to become a nurse one day. Her favorite part of the MindLeaps program is Academic Acceleration, especially English classes.

10-year-old Emeline lives with both parents and four siblings at home, but is one of just two siblings currently in school. Before MindLeaps, she would typically eat just one meal a day and her parents had a hard time paying her school fees from their work selling food and working in construction. Now, with MindLeaps, Emeline can get a second good meal every day and go to school without worrying about fees. She loves the MindLeaps program, and especially likes learning science and math in school. Her dream is to become a pilot.

12-yr-old Diane is an only child living alone with her mother since her father left the family. Her mother sells vegetables. Before joining MindLeaps, Diane was often lonely because she didn’t have a network of peers to socialize with. Now, she has a lot of friends at MindLeaps and a place to go after school. She loves being in dance class with her friends. Because her mother doesn’t earn much, Diane is happy that MindLeaps is sponsoring her school fees. She struggles at times with math and English in school, but appreciates the extra academic support she gets at MindLeaps. She hopes to become a nurse when she grows up.

Before 11-year-old Confiance joined MindLeaps, her family was having a hard time. They couldn’t afford rent, school fees, school materials, or enough food. Now, MindLeaps is able to sponsor Confiance’s school fees and provide her with a good meal every day, thereby alleviating some of the family’s difficulties. Confiance’s father died in 2016 while working in the military, leaving his wife alone to support Confiance and her two brothers by working as a street vendor. Confiance has a lot of responsibilities at home, which can be exhausting, but she says she always finds the MindLeaps dance classes energizing. She wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a soldier serving her country.

10-year-old Ange said she often went to bed on an empty stomach. Now, as part of the MindLeaps program, she gets a good meal every day and her school fees and materials are sponsored. The MindLeaps Family Strengthening Program, which works with parents of MindLeaps students, has also helped her mother find a job washing clothes in the community. This support has relieved financial pressure on the family, and Ange can now concentrate on her studies. She hopes to be a science teacher one day.

Your contributions are making continuing schooling possible for these girls and so many more like them. Education is the key to their future success, the foundation upon which their dreams can be built and realized.

May 3, 2019

A Safe Space

MindLeaps class at Oruchinga Refugee Settlement
MindLeaps class at Oruchinga Refugee Settlement

The MindLeaps program in Kampala continues to grow in partnership with local organizations Save Street Children Uganda, M-Lisada and Communaute Evangelique El-Shaddai. We are currently working with 100 urban refugee children and Ugandan youth weekly through our dance program.

In 2019, MindLeaps also launched its first program in a refugee camp in Uganda. We are working in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement, where we will serve 450 children from February to November. Our team will be based there for nine months to collect data on the impact of the program and train a group of 20 youth leaders from the camp to maintain the program in 2020.

In fact, MindLeaps has developed a model centered on the training and support of local youth to carry the program forward, providing employment opportunities for refugees and local Ugandans. The training of local youth as dance teachers is a key feature of MindLeaps’ involvement in the communities it serves.

Daglous is one of the local youth now working as a MindLeaps trainer in Uganda. You sense his strong motivation and commitment when he talks about his role as a teacher. “I have nothing to give the kids – I don’t have money, but what I have to give them is dance. I give them dance so they can improve their talents, improve their future and be good people. I don’t want to see them suffering, I don’t want to see them doing bad things.”

It is very clear how much the classes mean to the students. Fred says the dance program helped him build fitness. “I can do so much that I couldn’t do before. And I’ve made new friends.” Akena, too, says that he has made many friends at MindLeaps. “You learn to share, to do what you’re supposed to do, what you feel – not follow people who push you the wrong way.” Jovine talks about the joy of dance. “I used to dream of becoming a ballet dancer, but I didn’t expect it to happen. MindLeaps has made my dream come true and I am happy to be a part of it.”

As MindLeaps Uganda Country Director Martha Bua Peace puts it, “MindLeaps is a safe space where children can explore their options without judgement, learn and imagine a happier future.” With your support, MindLeaps continues to provide a safe, supportive environment, away from the violence and chaos these children have known, where they can express themselves, develop and grow.

MindLeaps Dance Trainer Daglous
MindLeaps Dance Trainer Daglous


Apr 22, 2019

Strengthening Families and Communities

The work of MindLeaps Rwanda extends beyond the children enrolled in its dance classes and education programs, reaching out to their families as well. An important part of MindLeaps’ holistic approach is the Family Strengthening Program, which currently includes 100 parents as active members of five self-help groups. Through these self-help groups, parents are gaining a sense of community, are able to secure small loans to start businesses or meet basic needs, and have the opportunity to discuss issues and challenges they face. Together, the groups are also creating a security net for their families by contributing weekly to a joint social fund to support their peers who may need help to meet unforeseen emergencies.

The success of the program is best expressed by the parents themselves. As one mother, Safia, explains, “In the parents’ program, I’ve gained a new family. Apart from paying rent on time, what I’m most proud of is that by taking out small loans to expand my fruit selling business, I was able to send one of my kids who had dropped out of school back to the same school where MindLeaps is sponsoring my daughter. Before that, I couldn’t afford the school fees. Parents really need this program.”

Another mother, Claudine, had been selling avocados on the street, but couldn’t afford to rent space at the market. Through her self-help group, she was able to get a series of small loans to grow her business. She has added sweet potatoes, now sells at the market and wholesales as well. “My business has grown and I can pay back all loans on time, while still making a profit to support my family.” The group has been meaningful to Claudine in other ways as well. “I’ve learned a lot – from how to take better care of my children, to better nutrition habits for my own health. I’m part of a community that saves money together, and provides a sense of security that protects each family from falling on hard times. It really helps to have a place to share my struggles, both financial and otherwise.”

In the words of another parent, Aisha, “Being part of the parents’ program has not only given me confidence, but also allowed me to borrow money without guilt, and discuss my financial worries without embarrassment or shame. With the group savings program, I could get a small loan to start my own business, which has really helped improve my family’s financial situation. As I learn, I also share my knowledge and skills with my friends. As a way of giving back to my community, I’ve encouraged my friends to start savings groups, and I now have over 20 parents who are actively participating in the groups.”

The children who come to MindLeaps are not seen in isolation, but as part of a larger community. With your support, MindLeaps is working through its Family Strengthening Program to promote the well-being of families and the communities where these children live.

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