I will not call them street girls. For some people, the word “street girls” means “prostitute”. They don’t look like prostitutes and using that word might be offensive. I don’t know them yet. I don’t know where they come from. This is just what MindLeaps needs to discover in the next few days before they officially enter our program.
I will not call them “street children” either. They are all over 16 years old. They look very clean. They sleep in “a home”. They smile. They enjoy playing and learning. They are just vulnerable girls who need support to achieve their dreams.
In the first two days, MindLeaps arranged home visits to every girl who was on the list of vulnerable girls suggested by the local government authorities to MindLeaps. Kellen, our social worker, and Evelyne, one of our dance and English teachers, went to visit the places where the girls live. Coming back from their visits, Evelyne and Kellen were crying. When I asked what happened, both Kellen and Evelyne told me that no one can believe that the same good looking girls are living in very critical situations. Evelyne and Kellen shared with the team the pictures they took during these home visits, and then the whole team became speechless.
The third day, a team composed of Evelyne, Kellen and two volunteers, Hannah and Nicole, started writing the profiles for the new group. This was a very challenging time. Kids shared with the team their stories and their background. Some team members started to cry when they heard testimonies of the girls. Some are HIV positive, eat once a day and have completely lost hope in life.
After these interviews, it was confirmed that all 30 girls will be integrated into MindLeaps’ program. MindLeaps will be rehabilitating them this year, working on their cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and will send them to different vocational training schools next year.
Like our boys, these girls love to dance, and they are eager to learn.
Let’s call them “MindLeaps students”.
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps Rwanda.