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
Jul 11, 2019

An Anchor

The children joining the MindLeaps program in Conakry have faced constant challenges and instability in their lives – often with no secure housing, no educational opportunities, and unpredictable living conditions.

MindLeaps becomes an important anchor for them – a point of attachment, engagement and support, giving them hope and aspirations for a better future. They find a welcoming, safe space, where the MindLeaps program puts them on a path to achieve their goals through the development of cognitive skills and the opportunity for formal education. Two MindLeaps students, sisters Kadiatou, 15, and Aminata, 13, are currently facing a situation threatening their home, but in spite of their difficulties, continue to come regularly to classes at the center. They’ve said “We would be more afraid of losing the opportunities offered by MindLeaps than losing our home.” MindLeaps gives them something they can count on.

The young people at MindLeaps in Guinea are individuals, each with their own story.

10-year-old Alhassane had never attended school before coming to MindLeaps. In the mornings he would do chores at home and then go to the market to find his mom, to see if she had money for his breakfast. The rest of the day he spent aimlessly wandering the streets. After joining MindLeaps, he has been able to learn dance and study English. At MindLeaps, Alhassane says he has found a place where he can learn. Otherwise, he says “I would be hanging around in the street, maybe trying to find a lady in the neighborhood to help me learn the alphabet.”

Young Laye had also never attended school. Every day he got up and first fetched water for his family, then went off into the streets looking for people who would pay him something to get water for them. With the support of MindLeaps, Laye no longer spends his days in the streets. He has learned his numbers and the alphabet, and is now able to write.

Pierre is 8 years old and his family could never afford the fees to send him to school. He fetched water in the morning and if he had nothing to eat at home, he went from neighbor to neighbor looking for food. MindLeaps has opened up a new world to him. Now Pierre can come to a place where education is free and he is able to get at least one meal a day. The support MindLeaps provides is making it possible for him to learn and grow.

MindLeaps is a comfortable space, offering social support as well. Ousmane is a young boy who had never attended school and would spend his days outside, playing idly or sitting by his mom as she tried to sell small items on the street. At MindLeaps, he learned to dance and most important, gained self- confidence. He has made friends and says that without MindLeaps, he would most likely be isolated, just keeping to himself.

Your generosity is helping MindLeaps give these children a sense of belonging and purpose. They are developing cognitive and social skills that will open the door to a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

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