I heard this sentence many times in August from different conversations I had with volunteers and visitors: “In this small space, you are changing lives.” The whole month of August, it kept coming up. Here are a few people who mentioned the same idea in different circumstances:

The first one who said it was Chase Johnsey. Chase, a ballet dancer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, volunteered to train MindLeaps dance teachers in classical ballet.  During his stay in Rwanda, he had more time to interact with kids and visit where they live and sleep at night.

While Chase was taking a five minute break in the middle of dance training class, I joined him at the picnic table, and we had a random conversation about MindLeaps program. Chase said, “I am very impressed by such a small house. I mean that small dance studio is changing the lives of these vulnerable kids.”

The other person was Madame Manzi, the wife of the landlord of the MindLeaps Center.  She lives in Belgium with her husband. During her visit to MindLeaps: The Jim Bell Center, she was very impressed by the fact that every corner of the building is being used in order to improve the lives of vulnerable young people. She said, “It looks like MindLeaps is a big family enjoying a small space.”  She appreciated MindLeaps maintaining the originality of the premises.

The son of Madame Manzi, Eric, was traveling with her and saw things in the same way. Eric said, “I like the look of this harmonized atmosphere composed of kids smiling in a garden of green vegetables, banana trees, and at a picnic table.  The inside is amazing with a bedroom transformed into a classroom, another room serving as a library and the living room transformed into a dance studio.  It is unbelievable how a small space like this can be used to improve more than 100 lives a year.”

There is a saying in a Rwandan proverb: “Aho umwaga utari, uruhu rw’uruwavu rwisasira batanu,” which means, “Where there is no hatred, the hide of a rabbit provides a sleeping mat for five people.” I am using this proverb to highlight that we emphasize on the importance of solidarity (teamwork) at MindLeaps. We are teaching these young people the importance of humanity through being a part of the community in which even “the little is shared.”

If you are in Rwanda or traveling to the country of A Thousand Hills soon, please do not hesitate to pass by our center to say hi to these amazing kids. I hope their big smiles will brighten your day. Come and be a part of this amazing family – just for a while.

Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps Rwanda.