The present international orientation of MindLeaps is the organization’s second iteration. The company, originally named RDDC: Rebecca Davis Dance Company, was created in 2005 with a focus on developing original, full-length contemporary
ballets based on celebrated literary works, significant historical events and modern social issues. With its home base in Philadelphia from 2005-2010, RDDC premiered a total of six ballets with its troupe of professional dancers: Antigone
(2006), Helen Keller
(2008), Greed: The Tale of Enron (2009)
(2009), and Braving the New World
(2010). At the same time, RDDC ran a pre-professional training program for 12 to 18 year olds that
utilized a combination of ballet, jazz and modern classes to develop diversified young dancers.
After creating the 2008 production entitled DARFUR, Rebecca Davis began traveling to post-genocide countries to examine the effects of ethnic
conflict and the steps towards reconciliation. During her travels, she recognized that street children had a deep love of dance. Returning to RDDC in Philadelphia, she decided to begin projects abroad that would give street children a safe haven through
dance classes. As Rebecca’s knowledge and experience grew in the field of international development, she realized that RDDC could be positioned to help children in post-conflict areas if the dance lessons were combined with an educational model to
develop street children’s basic learning skills.
In 2010, the RDDC Board of Directors decided to re-orient the company to focus solely on developing these programs abroad. The headquarters was moved to New York City in 2013, and the company
underwent an official name change and re-positioning, unveiling the name “MindLeaps” in 2014. Hear Rebecca speak about her personal professional transition in her TedX Talk
Today MindLeaps operates permanent centers in Rwanda
, and Uganda
which also serve as hubs for expansion of the model through partnerships
with other organizations in East and West Africa and the Balkans.
How did this come about?
The evolution of the MindLeaps model is the result of step by step research and
development in the field, collaborating on projects beginning in 2009 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Guinea. These earlier stages of endeavor allowed MindLeaps to test, refine and perfect its methodology – to build a model that worked. After this
proof of concept, the organization was ready to establish its own first permanent center in 2014. This incubator phase involved social workers, psychologists, educators and dancers to lay a solid foundation for the model at work today in the permanent
centers and partnership programs.
MindLeaps began work in Rwanda in 2010 under its former name, RDDC, and between 2011-13 partnered with FidesCo Rwanda (now Centre Cyprien et Daphrose Rugamba – CECYDAR) to administer a dance and IT program for street children
in Kigali. In 2014, MindLeaps registered as an international NGO in Rwanda and expanded to operate its own permanent year-round facility in Nyamirambo, Kigali. To date, the center has served over 1,500 out-of-school and vulnerable in-school youth.
In Guinea, MindLeaps and Association Benka-Fissa launched a partnership in 2011 to
create dance and language/literacy training in Kindia. The program provided a safe learning environment for boys and girls ages 10 to 19 who faced poverty, lack of access to education, and unstable family lives. In 2016, MindLeaps partnered with local
NGO Guinea Edugrade
to offer a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) summer camp program for vulnerable youth. In 2017, MindLeaps went on to open its own center in the capital city of Conakry, providing a permanent safe space to continue its full dance and education programs year round. In 2021 MindLeaps purchased land for a new center in Guinea, which will be completed in 2022.
In 2017, in Kampala, MindLeaps partnered with HIAS
an international NGO facilitating the resettlement of refugees around the world, to work with urban refugee children. MindLeaps partnered with local Ugandan organizations to embed the dance methodology in existing services to help at-risk youth. These organizations now include Save Street Children Uganda, M-LISADA, Agape World Mission, and Agape World Ministries. In 2021, MindLeaps opened its first center in Uganda, located in Kampala. In addition, MindLeaps serves children in Oruchinga and Rwamwanja Refugee Settlements in Uganda.
MindLeaps partnered with SOS Pairs Educateurs in Nouakchott in 2017 to run its first program in Mauritania. In 2019, an expanded program was funded by Together Women Rise (togetherwomenrise.org), a non-profit giving circle dedicated to empowering women and girls living in extreme poverty. In 2021, the Mauritania program received support from the US Embassy to launch programs to reduce poverty and promote inclusion through the advancement of girls, women, and collaborative activities among ethnic groups.
With COVID-19 suspending classes for thousands of MindLeaps students, MindLeaps created the Virtual Academy to help them continue their education. The Virtual Academy teaches concepts such as entrepreneurship, communication, project management and budgeting, child development, and inclusion. Through the Virtual Academy, MindLeaps taught basic skills to give students a competitive edge as well as kept connections with students to ensure they did not relapse in such a difficult time.
In its next level of expansion, MindLeaps received seed funding to launch a USA program in 2022.