"Before I started dancing, I was always thinking about the problems and stress I face. 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, MindLeaps student. MindLeaps uses dance to help at-risk youth and refugee children build essential cognitive and behavioral skills. Through participation at MindLeaps, these youth show an increase in responsible and healthy life choices, greater school success, and community integration.
MindLeaps helps the most vulnerable children in the world - children in extreme poverty and refugee youth. The trauma they have endured has left them feeling that there is no hope or reason to survive. Their mental state is consumed with survival instincts, thinking predominantly about securing food and a place to sleep. The ideas of education or self-betterment disappear. Many children are illiterate and suffer from a deep sense of worthlessness.
MindLeaps runs programs in Kigali and in six refugee camps in Rwanda. MindLeaps' staff teach and measure changes in seven cognitive and behavioral skills. While the youth come for a "fun dance class," they are actually engaging in a scientifically studied activity comprised of movement patterns to develop critical learning skills. They move from aggression and survival, to optimism and discipline. They then apply these skills to succeed in school, enter the workplace, and leap forward in life.
"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, MindLeaps student. In the long-term, MindLeaps alumni succeed in school and careers, and become integrated, positive, and contributing members of their communities. In addition, MindLeaps has developed a model centered on the training and support of local youth to carry the program forward, providing employment opportunities for local youth and refugees.