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Aug 19, 2019

MindLeaps Guinea Students and Teachers Moving Forward

This past month, MindLeaps Executive Director Rebecca Davis visited MindLeaps Guinea, where MindLeaps has been present since 2011. In 2017, MindLeaps opened its own center in the capital city of Conakry, using its tailored, codified dance program to attract children who had previously lived on the streets or had escaped prostitution. This is crucial considering that 46% of Guinean primary school age children are out of school, and 49% of youth ages 15-24 have no formal education. Additionally, 51% of girls are married by the age of 18, and 21% by the age of 15. 

Rebecca Davis visited MindLeaps Center in Nongo, Conakry as well as the homes of several MindLeaps students. For many Guinean students in the program, MindLeaps provides much needed stability and security. Indeed, about half of MindLeaps families live in abandoned buildings and are frequently forced to move when the building becomes legally occupied. Many children sleep on the floor with little to no bedding and often, no dinner. 

Three such students, siblings Assiatou, Omar, and Abdallaye, lived in a decaying house near the Conakry MindLeaps center. During the rainy season, the roof leaked, leading to sickness within the family and forcing them to leave. Their only option was to stay with relatives outside of the city, meaning that unfortunately, the children could no longer participate in MindLeaps dance classes.  However, MindLeaps was able to provide school sponsorship for all three of the children, and today they are living in better conditions and will all be heading to school in the fall!

Despite these challenging home situations, the MindLeaps Guinea program is thriving. The children arrive to the center enthusiastic to learn and improve their dancing skills. The US Embassy has recently provided expansions to our English program. Our Guinean trainers are some of the best: Salifou and Faby are both currently abroad for a month working on MindLeaps programs in Kenya and Mauritania respectively. We are excited to see what they achieve beyond Guinea and are happy that they are part of expanding MindLeaps' work across the continent. 

MindLeaps Guinea student's home
MindLeaps Guinea student's home
MindLeaps Guinea Dance Class
MindLeaps Guinea Dance Class
Our Dance Teachers Salifou, Faby, Alya, & Ibrahima
Our Dance Teachers Salifou, Faby, Alya, & Ibrahima
Jul 24, 2019

Leaping into New Careers

In 2014, MindLeaps opened its first permanent center in Kigali, Rwanda. Since then, it has transformed many lives––and hundreds of futures. Indeed, for many of the Rwandan children who have joined MindLeaps, eating everyday was a bigger priority than attending school. Many came from single-parent households that struggle to pay rent, let alone pay school fees. However, the Kigali MindLeaps Center has given such children the opportunity to dream––and, with the support of donors, attain those dreams.

One of MindLeaps’ programs allows sponsored youth to pursue technical and vocational education and training (TVET), which is highly encouraged in Rwanda. 20 MindLeaps students have graduated in fields of their choice: 7 in hairdressing, 7 in culinary arts, and 6 in tailoring. 90% of these students are girls. Additionally, of these graduates, three have secured full time jobs immediately following their internship period. One of the culinary arts students told MindLeaps that, “During my internship at Tam Tam restaurant in Kigali, I used my culinary skills, grit, creativity and teamwork to improve customer satisfaction. After my internship, the restaurant manager immediately gave me a full-time job. I was thrilled at this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing my work.”

On June 27th, MindLeaps held a ceremony to distribute startup toolkits to graduates. Culinary arts graduates received items such as spoons, pans, pots, and graters; hairdressing trainees received hair dryers, uniforms, and hairbrushes; aspiring tailors were given sewing machines, scissors, and thread. Clementine Muteteri, a hairdressing student and Marine Uwamahoro, who studied tailoring, were among those delighted to pick up their tools.

Your contributions make these programs, toolkits, and careers possible. Without your help, MindLeaps would not be able to watch our students thrive and enter the fields of their choice. We can’t wait to help the next class of MindLeaps graduates pursue their dreams and build Rwanda’s future.

Jul 17, 2019

Skill and Dedication at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival

Rehearsals for the Ubumuntu Arts Festival
Rehearsals for the Ubumuntu Arts Festival

This past week was full of excitement and bustle for MindLeaps dance instructors as they concluded rehearsals and performed at the fifth annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheatre on July 12th. For the last five years, the U.S. Embassy in Kigali has supported MindLeaps’ participation in this festival which harnesses the power of art to highlight and embrace all aspects of our shared humanity.

The theme of this year’s arts festival is “When the walls come down – truth,” a striking image that explores the fine boundaries between deception and truth, mask and reality. MindLeaps’ new U.S. Embassy-commissioned dance work, “Bound Alone,” approaches this theme from the lens of a related dichotomy: the collective and the individual. LaMar Baylor, lead choreographer and American Broadway performer, explains his motivations behind the movement: “I wanted to show the strength and vulnerability of men. I wanted to show how we can help one another, but there’s always an underlying, personal struggle that is specific to the individual.”

The choreography, which contemplates how young men can support each other during hardships, fittingly revolves around 13 young male dancers, six of whom are Congolese and Burundian refugee youth who live in Rwanda’s refugee camps. These youth were trained in 2018 to become MindLeaps dance teachers and they currently teach MindLeaps dance classes to develop life skills in vulnerable refugee children who are living in the camps. The rest of the cast is comprised of MindLeaps dance instructors from Rwanda, Uganda and Guinea. Over the intensive one-month rehearsal period, these young dancers have been living together, working together, developing their talents, and learning about the power of dance to advance youth.

Our instructors are so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this culturally impactful festival. Their month of training helped them build confidence, improve their dance skills, and gain teaching experiences that they can’t wait to share with the kids they teach in the refugee camps. Thank you for bringing extraordinary arts and learning experiences to these vulnerable youth in Rwanda.

MindLeaps dancers with choreographer LaMar Baylor
MindLeaps dancers with choreographer LaMar Baylor
 
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