Dec 29, 2020

Jim Bell Centre Reopens

On November 23rd, for the first time in nine months, MindLeaps Rwanda's Jim Bell Centre in Kigali welcomed students back for in-person activities including dance, academic tutoring sessions, IT classes, and meals. Dance classes resumed in smaller and socially distant formats. The children were thrilled to come back to the center for these activities and to reconnect in-person with their friends.

Also in November, formal schooling resumed in Rwanda. MindLeaps was sponsoring 172 students in Rwanda to attend school, when in March all the schools shutdown due to the pandemic. Of the several long-term effects on school-age children, reports have shown that as many as 24 million additional children will permanently drop out of school due to the break in education from COVID-19 (UNICEF, 2020), adding to the 258 million currently out of school. When schools reopened last month in Rwanda, MindLeaps students' back-to-school rate was 100%. All 172 of MindLeaps sponsored students resumed their studies at various primary and secondary schools.

MindLeaps Virtual Academy is continuing to teach our trainers and older students in seven different subject areas. The participants recently completed a course on Inclusion. The Inclusion curriculum covers multiple topics including Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, steps in building inclusive communities, and how the arts can help to practice inclusion. This in-depth training follows MindLeaps' launch of an adapted dance curriculum in the Rwanda refugee camps in 2019, further enabling MindLeaps dance trainers to teach children of different abilities in the classroom and dance studio.

In 2021, the fluctuation in COVID-19 cases may cause multiple changes in what activities are open or shutdown. Despite these changes and challenges, MindLeaps will use its Virtual Academy to reach youth in refugees camps and in extreme poverty, furthering its mission of providing educational paths to the world’s most vulnerable children.

Using the new handwashing station on reopening day
Using the new handwashing station on reopening day
Dec 28, 2020

Virtual Learning and Connection in Conakry

Students in Project Management & Budgeting Course
Students in Project Management & Budgeting Course

This fall, MindLeaps is running virtual and some in-person activities for youth at our Center in Guinea in accordance with guidelines from the local government. 

In September, MindLeaps launched a new program for refugees in Conakry. The program serves 32 refugees, returnees, and young Guineans over 7 months. The youth are organized into 3 learning groups to study six subjects in MindLeaps Virtual Academy. So far, they have completed courses in Digital Literacy, Business Entrepreneurship and Project Management & Budgeting. Each group studies for 1 hour per day with Project Leader Salifou Camara online in WhatsApp "classrooms" (chat groups). Every Friday, beneficiaries meet on Zoom in their 3 groups for one hour each to review course content with the instructors. MindLeaps provides smart phones and wifi data packs so that the students can participate virtually.  The students have been enthusiastic about learning the course material. In addition, bonds of friendship are being built. They are helping one another and commenting on each other’s work daily.  Since the groups are on WhatsApp, the students are able to reach out to each other at any time to post a question about the course material or something personal and find that they will quickly have a response - and a friend to talk to at any time. 

For women across the world, the pandemic worsened sexual violence, unwanted pregnancies and childhood marriage. At MindLeaps Guinea, we are running a sexual education program for the young women and girls at our center. The young women were taught in a four-week program by Madame Mariama and Madame Jenneh. The course covered contraception and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, health sanitation practices, menstruation, a discussion on appropriate behavior from their peers, and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases  The girls came away from the program with a better overall sense of what resources are available to them and how to care for themselves. This will be an ongoing program for the girls at our center. 

2020 has been a challenging year for all. MindLeaps continued to serve our students with food relief and learning opportunities, furthering our mission and continuing our connection with these wonderful youth.


Oct 2, 2020

MindLeaps Virtual Academy in Nouakchott

Virtual Academy launched this month in Mauritania
Virtual Academy launched this month in Mauritania

During the pandemic, MindLeaps has launched a Virtual Academy to continue the education and skill development of our trainers and students. To accommodate low bandwidth locations, minimal electricity and poor living conditions, the classes are delivered through WhatsApp groups and by low-resolution videos on smartphones. Through this format, the Academy enables international experts to deliver culturally modified curricula in five core subjects: Business Entrepreneurship, Project Management & Budgeting, Child Development, Communications, and Inclusion.

MindLeaps launched the Virtual Academy in Nouakchott in mid-September supported by the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania. The curricula, homework assignments, and video and audio lessons are available to the students in English, French, and Arabic. Twenty youth between the ages of 16 and 25 are part of the initial group – ten are current MindLeaps dance trainers and ten are youth from the community who attend programs at our local partner, SOS Pairs Educateurs.

The Academy began with a one-week course on digital literacy, followed by a five-week course on Business Entrepreneurship. The students take class from 4:30pm-6:30pm, Monday through Friday, followed by homework assignments on their own schedule. For the practical part of the course, students brainstorm business ideas and then pitch their businesses in a five-minute presentation in the final class. As always, MindLeaps leverages the skill of its trainers and staff from across the world in executing its programs. The Teaching Assistant for this course is Yves, one of MindLeaps dance trainers from Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Uganda.

MindLeaps Virtual Academy measures the students' progress through quantitative and qualitative data assessments. On the quantitative side- information is collected on engagement, attendance, and homework completion. Qualitatively, MindLeaps examines the growth of hope, long-term vision, and community building. The impact of the Academy is to equip these 20 youth in Nouakchott with skills they can use to be economically independent, as well as become effective youth leaders in their communities. 

In an exciting milestone, Mauritania’s low infection rates are enabling it to currently reopen its schools. In accordance with governmental guidelines, MindLeaps dance classes can resume next month at our partner SOS Pairs Educateurs.

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