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Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance

by MindLeaps
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Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance
Leap Ahead: Empowering Street Youth Through Dance

Meet Pacifique, assistant dance instructor at the MindLeaps center in Kigali, Rwanda. He is known to his friends as Passy, and to see his buoyant energy as he moves, is to instantly understand his deep love of dance. Watching Passy, you can feel the transformative power of art and education. But what is his personal story?

In 2015, Passy was spending his days roaming the streets, looking for odd jobs, having dropped out of primary school two years before. He was aimless, living day to day. He had heard about MindLeaps from some kids on the street and was curious enough to join the program. At first, he found it difficult. The dance classes required a lot of energy and focus – something not easy for him. A big change came when he saw dancers performing at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival. The festival takes place every July and marks the anniversary of the end of the 1994 Genocide, celebrating healing, peace and community. Watching the dancers, he was struck by the power of dance to tell stories. He began to see dance as a creative process, and began to enjoy the energy and commitment it took.

Life on the street had been about competition for survival – not about cooperation and collaboration. One of the first things Passy learned at MindLeaps was how to work together with others. When he started dancing, he didn’t enjoy choreographing in groups and stubbornly stuck to his own ideas. Over time, however, he began to recognize how valuable the input of others was when creating together. He became better able to share ideas, collaborate and respect the people around him. His reward was a deep sense of belonging and community.

Passy fell in love with dance and realized his goal was to become a dance teacher himself. He knew he needed to continue his education to achieve his dream, and at MindLeaps he had developed the confidence, determination and perseverance to return to school. He entered Primary 6 and is now preparing for the government exam that marks the end of primary school. Though still training in dance for several hours a day, he attends school and tutoring sessions to ensure his success.

Passy’s ambition is to become a certified MindLeaps trainer. He wants to give other kids the opportunity to learn from the MindLeaps program like he did, to mentor them and encourage them to believe in their own ability to mold a better life for themselves.

The future has opened up for Passy, as he now works toward his goal of becoming a trainer, and dances with the MindLeaps Performance Group. He has had the chance to grow through working with trainers from all over Africa and meeting dancers with different backgrounds and talents. As Passy performed with MindLeaps’ international trainers at this year’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival, there was no doubt about his passion for communicating through dance, and how this passion has changed his life.

The impact of the MindLeaps program on children’s lives continues to attract the involvement of professionals in the dance world. In August of this year, Hope Easterbrook, a hip hop dancer from the Broadway cast of Hamilton, visited the MindLeaps center in Kigali and led hip hop classes. The classes were exciting for all, and as Hope summed it up, “These kids can move, let me tell you. I’m thrilled to be here!”

Passy
Passy
Passy (in the black tshirt)during teacher training
Passy (in the black tshirt)during teacher training
International Artists Fund Dancer Hope Easterbrook
International Artists Fund Dancer Hope Easterbrook
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Misty Copeland visits MindLeaps Student Divine
Misty Copeland visits MindLeaps Student Divine

American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Misty Copeland returned to visit MindLeaps Rwanda last month. She saw the growth of the program, met Ally after he had been in boarding school for three years (supported by the Misty Copeland Scholarship), and worked with the international trainers leading MindLeaps programs in different African countries. In addition, Misty visited the home of MindLeaps' student Divine. She met her mother and younger brother and discussed Divine’s growth since starting the MindLeaps program.

Learn more from Misty’s vlog here:

Day 1:
https://youtu.be/vIqu-XndxZw

Day 2:

https://youtu.be/3H8o_yVAlL8

Day 3:

https://youtu.be/XJnDB7Go_5o

Day 4:

https://youtu.be/B_iB7FmLQrs

Day 5:

https://youtu.be/BMvSDHXgx6g

As mentioned in the previous report, over the summer, ten MindLeaps dance trainers from five African countries convened in Kigali, Rwanda.  Together, they learned the MindLeaps curricula and pedagogy over the course of three months. They had intense practice days in the dance studio as well as choreography rehearsals. In July, they performed at the international Ubmuntu Arts Festival.

Four of these trainers are students themselves at MindLeaps Rwanda: Sifa, Gisele, Passy and Abouba. We are so proud of them; they have come from extremely challenging backgrounds, attended the MindLeaps program as students, and are now equipped to become MindLeaps trainers.

Maybe in 2025 Divine will join their ranks!

International Trainers
International Trainers
MindLeaps student turned trainer, Abouba
MindLeaps student turned trainer, Abouba
Misty with her sponsored student, Ally
Misty with her sponsored student, Ally
Visiting with Divine's family
Visiting with Divine's family
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Thank you Level8!
Thank you Level8!

At The Jim Bell Centre in Nyamirambo, Kigali, educational programs are continuing for the 90-110 MindLeaps students that come daily.  These children take dance and IT classes, follow an academic acceleration program, participate in health workshops and eat daily meals. We are very grateful to Level8 for their recent donation making it possible for us to continue and expand our services to these youth. Level8’s contribution is going towards three programs: family strengthening, health and sanitiation, and the new entrepreneurship training.

In January 2018, a new program was launched at MindLeaps Rwanda that addresses the needs of the caretakers (usually single mothers or grandmothers) and siblings of MindLeaps’ beneficiaries. The caretakers have enrolled in Self-Help Groups, which meet at our Centre every Sunday and receive training in basic business skills. Each group has now identified a small income generating project, and Level8 is funding six grants to the groups so they can implement their projects. In addition, Level8’s donation will go towards sanitation kits for each new student in the MindLeaps program, as well as vocational toolkits so that our students who have graduated from Vocational Training School are ready to launch their careers.

On Monday, June 11, MindLeaps is launching a program entitled International Exchange and Empowerment of Youth. This is a three-month intensive program that brings together ten youth representing five different African nationalities to train as MindLeaps instructors in Kigali.  These youth were selected for this unique opportunity based on their demonstrated talent, maturity, commitment and dedication to teaching other vulnerable children. They will study, train and live together in an immersive cultural experience mixing different nationalities, languages, religions, and talents. Over the 90 day period, these youth will become equipped to bring the MindLeaps program to their own communities upon return to their countries.

International Trainers from Uganda
International Trainers from Uganda
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Performance from students at MindLeaps Rwanda
Performance from students at MindLeaps Rwanda

With the new year comes the graduation of our 2017 class and a new class of students at MindLeaps Rwanda.

2017 Graduates

Students at MindLeaps Rwanda in 2017 received 12 months of MindLeaps' programming and grew in their cognitive development for school-readiness. These students have completed the program and are now ready to reintegrate into school. Starting in January 2018, we have enrolled 18 of these students in primary school, 45 in secondary school, and 21 students in vocational training schools. We look forward to watching their progress and will keep you posted on their academic achievements throughout 2018. In addition, nine of our former students have graduated from vocational training school in 2017 and are now ready to launch their careers in their chosen professions.

End of Year Performances

To showcase what they have learned in dance and choreography, MindLeaps organizes performance opportunities for our students for end-of-year performances. In the last few months, they have performed at Les Enfants de Dieu, Heaven Restaurant, and most recently White Dove Girls School. The latter event included speeches from several of our students to an audience of representatives from local NGOs and diplomats including the US Ambassador to Rwanda. You can see a video of one of the performances here: https://vimeo.com/259006839

2018 Class

In February, MindLeaps welcomed 75 new students to join our program. These students range in ages from 9 to 17. MindLeaps Rwanda has also partnered with the Rwandan government to help increase school performance and reduce school drop-out rates among at-risk in-school youth.  The new class includes several in-school youth in addition to vulnerable out-of-school youth whom MindLeaps has been serving since 2011. As always, the Center will provide its holistic program to these youth: dance classes three days per week, academic acceleration and IT courses, daily meals, a health and sanitation program, and counseling sessions from a social worker.  MindLeaps will also be piloting a newly-designed Sexual and Reproductive Health Curriculum.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Curriculum

Working with public health educators, MindLeaps is addressing challenges that our students face through a new youth-centered, culturally-sensitive curriculum to provide education on sexual and reproductive health. The creators of the curriculum have done significant research on existing sexual and reproductive health curricula in the region and worked to be in line with Rwandan Ministry of Health priorities. The curriculum will run from May through December 2018, and on March 26, parents/guardians of the kids will meet with MindLeaps staff to promote cooperation and collaboration on the topics to be discussed throughout the year.

Welcome Class of 2018!
Welcome Class of 2018!
New curriculum to be piloted in 2018
New curriculum to be piloted in 2018
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MindLeaps Students
MindLeaps Students

As another year comes to a close in Rwanda, MindLeaps reflects on the full cycle of our students’ progress:

Current MindLeaps Students
Our class of new girls who joined in 2017 have completed MindLeaps' full program and are ready to move on to school in January 2018. We are now finding sponsors to support them at the school that is right for their age and education level.  Some will go to primary school, others to secondary school and still others will enroll in vocational training.  The girls are looking forward to returning to school and pursuing their career goals, like Joyeuse who wants to become a doctor, and Francine who dreams of becoming a secondary school teacher. You can read biographies of our students who are ready for the next phase of their lives here: http://mindleapssponsorships.weebly.com.  

On November 4, several of our students performed at Heaven Restaurant.  This gave them the opportunity to collaborate and showcase their progress. The performance was staged by American dancers Chase Johnsey and Carlos Renedo of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Graduated MindLeaps Students
For our students who completed MindLeaps program in 2016 or earlier, their schooling continues. They recently completed their Term 3 exams and will be moving to the next grade level.  Most of the students improved in GPAs over the course of the year and several scored in the 90% range and higher. You can see an example of the report of one of our top students, Ally, below. Several of our students are away at boarding school, and now that the academic year in Rwanda has finished, we are happy to see them visiting our Center again. Our alumni always know that they can come back to MindLeaps during school breaks to catch up on their dance classes and have a meal.

Future MindLeaps Students
In January 2018, MindLeaps Rwanda will welcome a new class of vulnerable youth. As always, they will begin with our dance curriculum that targets seven cognitive and social-emotional learning skills, followed by academic acceleration courses and IT training. In 2018, we will also be piloting an expanded sexual and reproductive health curriculum to help our adolescent age girls and boys. We look forward to sharing with you news of our new class of students in our next report.

From MindLeaps students and staff in Rwanda, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and new year.

Future doctor, Joyeuse
Future doctor, Joyeuse
Ally's Term 3 Report Card
Ally's Term 3 Report Card
Performance at Heaven Restaurant
Performance at Heaven Restaurant
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Organization Information

MindLeaps

Location: New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MindLeaps
Project Leader:
Rebecca Davis
Astoria, New York United States
$28,095 raised of $50,000 goal
 
401 donations
$21,905 to go
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