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Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea

by MindLeaps
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea
Help 250 Youth Recover From Ebola in Guinea

The children joining the MindLeaps program in Conakry have faced constant challenges and instability in their lives – often with no secure housing, no educational opportunities, and unpredictable living conditions.

MindLeaps becomes an important anchor for them – a point of attachment, engagement and support, giving them hope and aspirations for a better future. They find a welcoming, safe space, where the MindLeaps program puts them on a path to achieve their goals through the development of cognitive skills and the opportunity for formal education. Two MindLeaps students, sisters Kadiatou, 15, and Aminata, 13, are currently facing a situation threatening their home, but in spite of their difficulties, continue to come regularly to classes at the center. They’ve said “We would be more afraid of losing the opportunities offered by MindLeaps than losing our home.” MindLeaps gives them something they can count on.

The young people at MindLeaps in Guinea are individuals, each with their own story.

10-year-old Alhassane had never attended school before coming to MindLeaps. In the mornings he would do chores at home and then go to the market to find his mom, to see if she had money for his breakfast. The rest of the day he spent aimlessly wandering the streets. After joining MindLeaps, he has been able to learn dance and study English. At MindLeaps, Alhassane says he has found a place where he can learn. Otherwise, he says “I would be hanging around in the street, maybe trying to find a lady in the neighborhood to help me learn the alphabet.”

Young Laye had also never attended school. Every day he got up and first fetched water for his family, then went off into the streets looking for people who would pay him something to get water for them. With the support of MindLeaps, Laye no longer spends his days in the streets. He has learned his numbers and the alphabet, and is now able to write.

Pierre is 8 years old and his family could never afford the fees to send him to school. He fetched water in the morning and if he had nothing to eat at home, he went from neighbor to neighbor looking for food. MindLeaps has opened up a new world to him. Now Pierre can come to a place where education is free and he is able to get at least one meal a day. The support MindLeaps provides is making it possible for him to learn and grow.

MindLeaps is a comfortable space, offering social support as well. Ousmane is a young boy who had never attended school and would spend his days outside, playing idly or sitting by his mom as she tried to sell small items on the street. At MindLeaps, he learned to dance and most important, gained self- confidence. He has made friends and says that without MindLeaps, he would most likely be isolated, just keeping to himself.

Your generosity is helping MindLeaps give these children a sense of belonging and purpose. They are developing cognitive and social skills that will open the door to a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

The MindLeaps Center in Conakry receives over 60 children a day who come to participate in dance classes. Early in the year, we increased the hours of dance instruction to meet increasing demand as word of the program spreads in the community.

Our teachers are at the heart of our activity and they continue to motivate and inspire students. For example, instructor Ibrahima Camara teaches the younger children, 7-9 years old, which can be a difficult age group. But Ibrahima has a knack for working with these younger kids and they have shown amazing progress under his guidance. They have even begun to choreograph their own dance moves, which is a thrill to watch!

MindLeaps has recently set up a volunteer program in cooperation with the American International School of Conakry. In February, twelve student volunteers from the American International School began participating in weekend activities at the MindLeaps center. The volunteers take part in 45 minutes of dance class along with MindLeaps students, followed by leading group activities, such as reading and interactive games. MindLeaps kids are becoming more self-confident as they realize they can meet and connect with other children, sharing these moments together.

Also in February, Amara Condé paid a visit to the center. Amara was one of the first children to participate in the early MindLeaps program in partnership with Association Benka-Fissa in Kindia, Guinea, in 2011. Today Amara lives in the United States. At the MindLeaps center, he led a weekend hip hop class and spent time talking with the children about his experiences. The kids loved the class and he was a great role model for them.

In addition to dance and English classes, it is important for the children at MindLeaps to develop a sense of responsibility, so older students are asked to help out at the center. They watch over the younger kids during breaks, help with serving meals, maintaining the yard and general housekeeping. This regular commitment helps them understand that MindLeaps is like a family, where everyone has a role to play in making the family function well.

With your support, the children at MindLeaps are making strides toward breaking the poverty cycle in the aftermath of Ebola, and are moving ahead to a better future.

Your support is helping to make this an exciting period of growth for MindLeaps in Guinea. At the beginning of the New Year 2019, over 75 children were enrolled at our center in Conakry, well surpassing our projected goal of 50 students. As word spreads throughout the community, more and more children are attracted to the dance classes in our safe, welcoming space.

Our 2019 action plan has been launched to expand the dance program to six days a week to accommodate the increased number of students. The hours of English instruction at the center have been augmented as well. Additionally, the MindLeaps meal program continues to be an important support for children’s health. Free nutritious meals including porridge, spaghetti, and rice dishes are served daily to all the youth participating in classes at the center. For many, this can be the main meal of their day.

In December, the Conakry center hosted a visit from members of the MindLeaps international team, including Eugene Dushime, International Coordinator from Rwanda, and Rebecca Davis, Founder and Executive Director. Among planning and budget sessions, the international team and Conakry staff made time to visit the various public schools where thirteen students – MindLeaps’ first group in Guinea to be sponsored for school – have been studying since October 2018. They also visited the vocational training center where four girls are enrolled in the dressmaking program. The team observed classes at each school and met with students. It was rewarding to see how well these young people had adapted to the academic environment and how they were thriving.

As always, professional development of MindLeaps’ teaching staff is an ongoing priority. While at the Conakry center, the international team worked with dance instructors to help them hone their skills in the use of Tracker, MindLeaps’ software system designed to gather data from children’s dance moves and chart changes in cognitive skills and social-emotional learning.

The end of the year also saw the departure of Anna Defent, visiting international MindLeaps trainer who had spent November and December at the center in Conakry instructing local trainers in the MindLeaps contemporary curriculum. Anna is a graduate of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, currently living in London and working as a professional contemporary dancer. She studied the MindLeaps methodology in New York City and was asked to join the team in Guinea as a guest trainer. Anna describes her experience as “an absolute honor – to teach the children, and see their smiles and their progress each day. Guinea is such an inspiring country, full of dance, rhythm and heart. My time with MindLeaps has reminded me how important dance is and why I have chosen it as my career.”

At MindLeaps we are committed to the importance of dance, and have seen how it can, and will continue to, open up the future for vulnerable youth in Guinea.

It’s a dream come true for the kids who joined the MindLeaps program last year. After a year of preparation at the MindLeaps Center, 18 students are back on a path to what they want most – the education and training that can assure their futures. The activities at the Center – dance, English and French literacy courses – had built their confidence and skills, and given them hope for change in their lives.

In October, that change was made real when eleven students entered primary school, one entered secondary school, five began vocational training in dressmaking, and one was given a work opportunity to earn for herself. 

Through your generosity and support, MindLeaps was able to make their dream a reality by paying all their school tuition and providing the supplies needed to get off to a good start. Each child was equipped with a school bag, pens, notebooks, a pencil case, notebook covers, a pencil sharpener and a ruler. As the girls prepare for school, you can see the eagerness in their smiles! 

Success in school also depends on a solid foundation and continuing support, so MindLeaps takes a holistic approach in working with the children and their families. Before the beginning of the term in October, MindLeaps organized sessions with the children and their parents to better prepare them for this new chapter in their lives. MindLeaps discussed with the parents the important role they play in ensuring their children's success.  Parents were counseled about the importance of taking care of their children’s hygiene and health, and making sure that they attend school every day. 

In preparation for the re-entry of these students into formal schooling, MindLeaps staff also met with school supervisors at l’Ecole Emauss, where several of the children would be taking up their studies. School administrators were sensitized to the ongoing vulnerability and needs of these children, and made aware of the particular situation of each child, to better ensure their success in the school environment.

MindLeaps continues to expand its own capacity to serve the young people who come to the Center. To better carry out our work, we have found a new, larger facility, which after renovation, can serve both to house our youth programs and as a venue to run our Train the Trainer program, instructing new teachers in our methodology. The new facility is located in Matam, the most densely populated of the five districts making up the city of Conakry. MindLeaps is in the process of negotiating details for securing the space to take advantage of this opportunity.

Excited to return to school!
Excited to return to school!
Thank you to Foundation We Help for your donation!
Thank you to Foundation We Help for your donation!

Classes are continuing at the MindLeaps Center in Conakry despite periods of unrest and political turmoil in the city. MindLeaps Guinea continues to provide a safe space for our students to learn dance and English, eat meals, and get to play together in a safe environment.

Oftentimes, the meals served at our Center are the only meals that our students eat during the day. During our initial intake interviews, some of our students reported that before coming to MindLeaps a "meal" they would eat might consist of just one piece of candy. As part of our Meal Program, MindLeaps students in Conakry receive a nutritious meal every day they come to our Center. In July, we were fortunate to receive a donation from a new partner to add to the variety and nutrition of the Meal Program. 

Foundation We Help is a humanitarian organization that supports the most needy with the goal of reducing social inequalities. Last month, Foundation We Help donated a variety of food items - including rice, filtered water, spaghetti, and butter - towards MindLeaps' meal program, as well as some children's clothing. The donation and distribution was recently covered in local press. The article is available online here: http://224infos.org/publireportage/7030/humanitaire-la-fondation-we-help-fait-un-don-au-centre-de-reinsertion-de-nongo.html

Later this month, MindLeaps Guinea teachers Salifou and Morlaye will be completing their training in Kigali, Rwanda. When they return in late August, they will be bringing back with them three months of training in MindLeaps' curricula, contemporary and hip-hop dance technique, as well as recommended pedagogical methods, so that they can better serve our youth in Conakry.

Thank you as always for your support in helping bring education, food, and joy into these kids' lives.

Morlaye and Salifou training in Rwanda
Morlaye and Salifou training in Rwanda

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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

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