"Before I started dancing, I was always thinking about the problems and stress I face on the streets. It was hard for me to think about my future. Dance has helped me to focus in a way that I was never able to before." -Eric, a street child. MindLeaps uses dance to help street children build essential cognitive and behavioral skills. By improving their mental capacity in an engaging kinesthetic learning environment, these youth can move onto the next step of our program: formal education.
There are no official statistics on the number of street children in Rwanda, but estimates run as high as several thousand. Children are forced onto the streets because of poverty, domestic abuse, or parental rejection. The child's mental state switches to one of survival where he thinks solely about finding food and a place to sleep. The ideas of education or self-betterment disappear. The children are illiterate, have no vocational skills, and suffer from a deep sense of worthlessness.
Most street children in Rwanda have had very little formal education. They struggle with focusing in a traditional classroom. We have found that dance increases our students' capacity to learn by building their cognitive skills, increasing their self-confidence, and shaping their behavioral transformation. This moves them from aggression and survival, to optimism and discipline. Once they succeed in dance classes, they begin academic and vocational training - tickets to exit street life forever.
"Before coming to MindLeaps, I had many problems and was using a lot of drugs. Dance is the only thing that has worked for me." - Olivier, a street child. At MindLeaps, dance is about transforming the perceptions and behaviors of street children - helping them re-integrate into society. Instead of begging on the streets, MindLeaps students become active members of society who participate in formal education, enter the employment sector, and are ultimately socially accepted in their communities.