"When I first came to MindLeaps, I didn't know how to turn on a computer. Now I can write emails and soon I'll learn to tweet! I believe in myself. I think one day I could set up my own IT institution." - Prince, a street child in Rwanda. At the MindLeaps Center for Street Youth, children, who have never touched a computer, become digitally literate - giving them tangible skills and a chance to earn a living in Rwanda's developing tech community.
There are no official statistics on the number of street children in Rwanda, but estimates run as high as several thousand. Children are forced onto the streets because of poverty, domestic abuse, or parental rejection. The child's mental state switches to one of survival where he thinks solely about finding food and a place to sleep. The ideas of education or self-betterment disappear. The children are illiterate, have no vocational skills, and suffer from a deep sense of worthlessness.
Street youth in Rwanda have next to no opportunities to gain employable skills. MindLeaps changes this by teaching them IT after they have succeeded in dance classes that reform their behavior and improve their discipline. The IT classes give them an opportunity to learn in a more formal setting, preparing them to eventually attend a boarding or vocational training school. In addition, the skills are highly valued in the Rwandan economy - a country focused on development through technology.
MindLeaps is teaching IT to street children in Rwanda with the end goal of helping them exit street life by becoming individually empowered and self-sufficient. As they are stretched mentally and gain self-confidence from mastering computer skills, they are prepared to either go to boarding/vocational training school or enter the workforce. Students who have been through the MindLeaps program no longer beg on the streets, but rather become integrated and supportive members of their community.