“MindLeaps helped me to realize that I am the only person who possesses the key to my bright future. I just have to keep working hard.” (Eric NDUWAYEZU)
I want to tell you one of the few truths I believe. During all of the years I have worked at MindLeaps, I have realized that dance is a powerful tool that creates personal change.
When street kids dance, they become connected to their bodies and their souls. Each of their movements is executed with such an expression of happiness and joy on their faces. They don’t pay attention to anyone.
In the beginning, when MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum targeting cognitive skills development for street children, I was the most skeptical person in the dance studio. Dance was important in my life, but I didn’t know how it would help street children. When we first started working with the kids in the studio, they fought all the time and did not pay attention to what the dance instructor was saying. After a couple of months, they were really focused and able to memorize many sequences of dance. The way they changed was impressive.
Eric, a current student at MindLeaps, is a prime example of a street kid who has been changed by dance. With a big smile, Eric told me: “MindLeaps helped me to realize that I am the only person who possesses the key to my bright future. I just have to keep working hard.”
Eric added that, when he first came to the MindLeaps Center in July 2014, he had in mind that he would simply manipulate the ‘foreigners’ into giving him money to go to school. He faked his level of participation in each class, always trying to manipulate MindLeaps staff to give him money to buy a cigarette. Slowly, Eric realized that attending the MindLeaps programs meant that he had to work hard – that is the only way he would have a chance to move forward.
Eric is now the top kid in the MindLeaps’ program. He speaks English very well and he wants to become a professional contemporary dancer. The truth is dance transformed him. Being at MindLeaps helped Eric to change, and Eric is now seeing the role that dance played in his development.
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps Rwanda. He is a former contemporary dancer and assists with the program in Guinea as well.