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.