Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance

by MindLeaps
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Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance
Empower Refugee Youth Through Dance

While changes and challenges continue from the Covid-19 pandemic, MindLeaps is working ever harder to provide stability and support for our students.

At MindLeaps’ Jim Bell Centre (JBC) in Kigali, 100 students attend regular dance and tutoring sessions in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and geography. The Jim Bell Centre also hosts the Family Strengthening Program, which consists of over 100 MindLeaps students’ parents, 98.8% of which are female. Since the majority of parents have at most a primary-level of education, MindLeaps offers business entrepreneurship training to help the parents start and manage their own small businesses. 29 of the parents have now received funds from MindLeaps to launch or expand their businesses.

MindLeaps also operates in six refugee camps in Rwanda in partnership with UNHCR. Throughout the past year, MindLeaps staff have been conducting regular home visits to the children in our programs across the six camps, which helps the students to stay safe, happy, and encouraged. In Kiziba specifically, MindLeaps has been working to make bricks to build homes for refugee families. During one of the home visits, the MindLeaps staff found that one of our students’ homes had collapsed due to torrential rain and so they worked to relocate the family to new housing.

Additionally, MindLeaps is proud to sponsor 172 students in Rwanda in formal education. They are sponsored in a variety of primary, secondary, and vocational training schools, which are daytime or boarding schools depending on the students’ needs. To check on these students, MindLeaps staff conduct home visits, phone meetings, and school visits to see how the children are performing. Our tutoring program provided for sponsored students has been running successfully. We currently have 6 primary groups and 3 senior groups plus English classes for secondary students. The tutoring program has proven effective, as 100% of students with high attendance at our tutoring lessons also have high marks in school.

School visit to sponsored students @ G.S Akumunigo
School visit to sponsored students @ G.S Akumunigo
A business in the Family Strengthening Program
A business in the Family Strengthening Program
Socially Distancing during the Tutoring Program
Socially Distancing during the Tutoring Program
The Jim Bell Centre - MindLeaps Rwanda
The Jim Bell Centre - MindLeaps Rwanda
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On November 23rd, for the first time in nine months, MindLeaps Rwanda's Jim Bell Centre in Kigali welcomed students back for in-person activities including dance, academic tutoring sessions, IT classes, and meals. Dance classes resumed in smaller and socially distant formats. The children were thrilled to come back to the center for these activities and to reconnect in-person with their friends.

Also in November, formal schooling resumed in Rwanda. MindLeaps was sponsoring 172 students in Rwanda to attend school, when in March all the schools shutdown due to the pandemic. Of the several long-term effects on school-age children, reports have shown that as many as 24 million additional children will permanently drop out of school due to the break in education from COVID-19 (UNICEF, 2020), adding to the 258 million currently out of school. When schools reopened last month in Rwanda, MindLeaps students' back-to-school rate was 100%. All 172 of MindLeaps sponsored students resumed their studies at various primary and secondary schools.

MindLeaps Virtual Academy is continuing to teach our trainers and older students in seven different subject areas. The participants recently completed a course on Inclusion. The Inclusion curriculum covers multiple topics including Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, steps in building inclusive communities, and how the arts can help to practice inclusion. This in-depth training follows MindLeaps' launch of an adapted dance curriculum in the Rwanda refugee camps in 2019, further enabling MindLeaps dance trainers to teach children of different abilities in the classroom and dance studio.

In 2021, the fluctuation in COVID-19 cases may cause multiple changes in what activities are open or shutdown. Despite these changes and challenges, MindLeaps will use its Virtual Academy to reach youth in refugees camps and in extreme poverty, furthering its mission of providing educational paths to the world’s most vulnerable children.

Using the new handwashing station on reopening day
Using the new handwashing station on reopening day
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During the pandemic, MindLeaps' mission to create educational paths for vulnerable youth remains unchanged. MindLeaps has launched a Virtual Academy to continue the education and skill development of our trainers and students during this time. To accommodate low bandwidth locations, minimal electricity and poor living conditions, the classes are delivered through WhatsApp classes and by low-resolution videos on smartphones. Through this format, the Academy enables international experts to deliver culturally modified curricula in five core subjects: Business Entrepreneurship, Project Management & Budgeting, Child Development, Communications, and Inclusion.

As of this summer, trainers from all eight of our programs in Rwanda (Kigali, Masoro, and in six refugee camps) are studying in MindLeaps Virtual Academy, as well as 40 kids at our permanent center.

In August, MindLeaps Rwanda began the module on Child Development taught by creative arts therapist and researcher Dr. Janelle Junkin. The course covered the different stages of child development, studied trauma and its impacts, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy interventions. The participants completed the course by presenting their own project to help children in their community. This course was particularly relevant to our trainers from the refugee camps. As teachers to refugee children in their camps, every child they work with has experienced trauma. And as refugees themselves, the understanding of trauma has helped generate self-awareness needed to work constructively with others. One of the trainers, Joseph, from Gihembe Refugee Camp said “There are times that a child acts out, and being patient is difficult and we overreact to the child. But now, we are aware of our thoughts and emotions that lead to our reactions and are able to be better teachers.” And Ninette from Mahama Refugee Camp said “I now know how a child develops in different stages and how I can help a child who has experienced trauma. Now, I have the confidence that I can help my community and my students.”  

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The Jim Bell Centre at MindLeaps Rwanda has served as a haven for the most vulnerable youth in Kigali for the last six years. Providing dance classes, academic and IT courses, daily meals and more, kids found a safe and engaging environment where they could dance and learn. Due to COVID-19, mandatory shutdowns have closed the Center, and our kids can no longer come for the programs or for the daily meals they relied on. Our obligation to provide for the vulnerable children in our care is more pressing than ever.

To provide emergency relief to our kids and their families, MindLeaps is now distributing food and sanitation packages, which reach over 425 children through the MindLeaps Centers in Guinea and Rwanda. MindLeaps is also providing emergency support for an additional 600 children in Uganda. With special government permission, and above and beyond their usual duties, our staff purchases food and sanitation supplies in bulk, repackages them into family-sized portions, and delivers them directly to affected families’ homes. When visiting the families, in addition to distributing supplies, our staff discuss best practices in sanitation and staying healthy, practices that will be essential for turning the tide of new infections and keeping our students and their families well. MindLeaps is helping deliver these life-saving meals and supplies to 240 families throughout Rwanda.

Usually a dance studio, classroom, and office, right now the Jim Bell Centre is the staging ground for our staff to collect and distribute these needed supplies (photo below). When it is time, we look forward to welcoming our students back to the Center so they can find their safe haven once again.

At the Center, preparing for a distribution
At the Center, preparing for a distribution
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Students Performing
Students Performing

The Jim Bell Center in Nyamirambo, Kigali was bursting with excitement as MindLeaps' students and staff gathered to celebrate the end of the Rwandan school year and the end of 2019. MindLeaps' junior trainers (high school students) along with staff were responsible for the day's successful events.

The main highlight of the day was, of course, dance performances by MindLeaps' students. The six current student groups: J, K, L, M, O, and P spent seven weeks creating, rehearsing, and preparing dances that were performed for MindLeaps' staff, parents, and fellow students. The pieces ranged in style from ballet and contemporary to hip-hop and afrobeat.

Another highlight of the day included a poem written and performed by former MindLeaps students, Ally and Jean de Dieu, entitled "Street Kid Rise Up." The poem, written in mixed language, English - Kinyarwanda, spoke about the ways in which a street kid's life can shift in a positive direction if their "hands are firmly held upward and given opportunity." Ally recently finished Primary School Level 6 and will be starting Secondary School in the new year. Congratulations Ally!

Also at the event, Rwandan staff members Salama Numukobwa (Community Facilitator), Eugene Dushime (International Coordinator), and Roger Ikuzwe (Program Manager) spoke congratulating the students and teachers on a successful year. They acknowledged the amazing effort involved to make the day's programs so successful and encouraged students to continue improving the self-esteem and teamwork skills they have been developing this year. Ikuzwe continued, crediting the 2019 success of MindLeaps Rwanda to the kids', parents', and staff's, "dedication, inspiration, and professionalism in addressing the social challenge of at-risk youth."

Thank you for your generous support of these vulnerable children in 2019. You have given them the chance to develop life skills that can ultimately lead to new opportunities and an improved life.

Program Manager, Roger, Dancing with Teen Students
Program Manager, Roger, Dancing with Teen Students
Students Performing
Students Performing
Ally Presenting Poem "Street Kid Rise Up"
Ally Presenting Poem "Street Kid Rise Up"
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Organization Information

MindLeaps

Location: New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MindLeaps
Project Leader:
Rebecca Davis
New York, New York United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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