Innovation fair

Two months ago, a mom with a baby boy in her hands knocked on the door to the MindLeaps Center in Kigali, Rwanda. She asked to meet me since I’m the Country Director. I thought that she wanted her son to attend the MindLeaps program, but I was wrong. Her first born is already attending our program. His name is Renee Byiringiro.

Renee Byiringiro is a young man of about 18 years. He is the top student in MindLeaps’ dance program. His relationship with MindLeaps started in March 2014 when we took the first fifteen kids from the streets of Nyamirambo to enroll at our new center. Renee was among other kids who was drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and taking different drugs.

After one year attending our program, Renee was rehabilitated – completely transformed into a responsible young man. He confessed to MindLeaps staff that he was taking drugs just to feel better and to calm his stomach. He was still feeling lost in the middle of nowhere. It took one year and three months for his mom to realize that Renee had changed. That’s why she knocked; she was just coming to say thank you.

Renee (right) beside fellow MindLeaps student Eric (left)

Renee (right) beside fellow MindLeaps student Eric (left)

Unfortunately, one month later, Renee’s mom died from asthma, just one month after she visited the center. Now, Renee has to carry a very heavy responsibility on his shoulders, which is to take care of his five siblings. During the funeral, Renee’s relatives were discussing the future of these six kids. Everyone was refusing to take that responsibility, pretending that these six kids are not related by blood. Suddenly, Renee made a speech and refused to be separated from his half-brothers. He said that he wanted to keep his family united. At whatever cost, he would take care of his siblings.

MindLeaps was afraid that Renee was going to fall back into his old habits, but it seemed that he kept what he had learnt from MindLeaps. Renee is still attending our program regularly.

I was so curious to know what motivates Renee that I engaged in a short conversation with him. His responses were impressive:

Eugene: Renee, how are you doing?

Renee: Biragenda buhoro buhoro (which means approximately: “Life is going slowly, just one step at time.”)

Eugene: How do you feel now?

Renee: Much better. It was hard for me to understand life with my siblings without my mom.

Eugene: Then what is your plan now, after your mom has passed?

Renee: The only thing I have in my mind is to get my siblings to school.

Eugene: How will you get them to school?

Renee: I want be a dance teacher so that I can get a job and pay their school fees. Meanwhile, I will take small jobs and see if I can earn some money to send at least one of them to school.

Renee is highly motivated. He is always on time. He spends some free time explaining to his colleagues the new dance moves. He is convinced that his dream will come true.

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