In November 2009, Rebecca and I had the pleasure to teach more than 100 vulnerable children in Rugerero, a small village on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. It was a very big experience because we were teaching dance and raising awareness about water conservation and sanitation issues through movement and dialogue. It rained everyday, but the kids came everyday!
It was encouraging and very touching to see kids running fast to hug us with such gigantic smiles and joy on their faces. Kids were eager to learn new dance moves. We spent two weeks with those amazing kids, and then we came back to Kigali. Arriving in Kigali, I was wondering if next year (then 2010) those kids would still remember our names. I was also wondering what the local community thought about our work. I didn’t have a chance to ask questions of the participating kids, but a year later, I had my answer because, in 2010, we served even more kids!
The experience in Rugerero (November 2009 and November 2010) and the compassion for vulnerable children, helped Rebecca and me implement a new dance and IT program back in Kigali in 2011. We formed a partnership between MindLeaps and local NGO FidesCo. In 2014, MindLeaps opened its own center in Kigali to serve more street children and vulnerable youth.
Fast forward to November 2016. I had a chance to meet with some parents of the kids we work with at MindLeaps – both in Rugerero and in Kigali. Parents in Rugerero are grateful that their kids are spending time during their school breaks learning useful skills in their lives instead of hanging around with the danger of ending up in drugs. Local government authorities said, “It is a great opportunity that we don’t take for granted. We are happy to have a program like MindLeaps that takes care of kids.” Parents in Kigali promised to do their best to play their part and keep kids from drifting into street life. Some recognized that family conflicts and carelessness were the major causes of kids ending up on the street.
More than 250 children and youth were served this year (2016) by MindLeaps Rwanda. MindLeaps is now looking to partner with different centers and schools in 2017 to keep implementing its mission to use dance as a tool to facilitate the transition of vulnerable children and youth from the street to school.
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps.