There’s a saying: “Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.”

I have heard some regular students at MindLeaps speak of who they were before, and then change to become proud of the person they are now. I would like to share the story that shocked me the most during the last two years: The Story of Claude.

There was a boy, Claude, and his brother who were abandoned by their mom when they were little boys. While they were both coming from school, the boys realized that their mother was not at home. She moved without telling them where she was going. They told me that they “waited for her for a few days but the landlord didn’t let them keep waiting for their mother to return. The house was re-rented.” This is how Claude and his brother became street children.

Claude was among the first group of fifteen street children that MindLeaps took from the street when it opened its own center back in March 2014. Claude was in a very critical situation: hungry, angry and sleepy because of different drugs he used to take. He was shy, alone in the corner throwing stones at his colleagues and trying to disturb all the classes. He was not regularly coming to MindLeaps during the first four months and his behavior was always changing. However, after eight months, MindLeaps’ team realized that Claude was progressing faster than other kids. He took longer than the other children to transform – but he did.

Unfortunately, he then had an accident. He was electrocuted. It was raining while Claude slept beside the electrical cable. When the rain stopped, he was wet and he wanted to change his clothes, and he touched the cable. Imagine a kid of about 10 years old, alone on the street in the middle of the night after the rain stopped, struggling the whole night to find his last breath and crying for help. At that moment, he said that he thought his life was over.

“I thought I will never eat rice again,” said Jean Claude a few months later with a big smile while trying to make some jokes about what happened that night after his recovery. Then a motorcycle driver arrived early in the morning and realized that Claude was dying. He drove him to the hospital.

Claude at the hospital

Claude at the hospital

MindLeaps covered his medical expenses and after his emergency recovery from the hospital, he didn’t have anywhere to go. So MindLeaps negotiated a place for him at Les Enfats de Dieu, a rehabilitation center that has sleeping spaces for up to six months. There, he could find additional medical support. The psychotherapist told me that he was still traumatised by the accident.

Now Claude is completely recovered, and he is a happy kid. The psychologist who follows him regularly told me that he is now going to school. He is very friendly and is constantly dancing. The psychotherapist also added that Claude explained that dancing makes him feel alive and healthy.

Claude said that he has some dreams and he finally forgave his mom who abandoned him and his brother.


Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps Rwanda.  He is a former contemporary dancer and assists with the program in Guinea as well.