Lives lost from the outbreak of Ebola in 2014-16. (CDC, 2016)
Of girls are married by the age of 18, and 21% by the age of 15. (UNICEF, 2017)
Of primary school age (7-14) children are out of school and 49% of youth ages 15-24 have no formal education. (EPDC, 2014)
Life for many children in post-Ebola Guinea continues to be extremely difficult. In Conakry, the youth who come to the MindLeaps program have no access to basic needs: education, food, or hygiene services. They are susceptible to abuse, trafficking and hunger, while dealing with severe health risks on a daily basis. Post-Ebola, the number of out-of-school children increased from 381,963 in 2014 to 425,413 in 2016. This was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the several long-term effects on school-age children, reports have shown that globally as many as 24 million additional children will permanently drop out of school due to the break in education from COVID-19 (UNICEF, 2020), adding to the 258 million currently out of school.
The MindLeaps Center in Conakry
MindLeaps began working in Guinea in 2011 through partnerships with other organizations, and in 2017 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. The center welcomed 44 children who had previously lived on the streets or had escaped prostitution. As of 2020, MindLeaps now serves over 200 children in Guinea.
The MindLeaps Center’s ten-member Guinean staff employs the same three-phase approach successfully established in Rwanda. Children come to the center to attend a “fun dance class” but are actually participating in a carefully structured kinesthetic-based curriculum targeting critical learning skills that prepare them for entry into school or vocational training. The program develops the ability to concentrate, memorize and use language, while also developing teamwork, discipline, grit, creativity, and self-esteem.
The dance classes are accompanied by English language classes, meal provisions, and a health and sanitation program. Those children who have adapted to this more structured learning environment and have developed across key cognitive skill areas, are sponsored to attend school or vocational training programs.
Train the Trainer
Every November, MindLeaps conducts an intensive Train the Trainer program in Guinea. The purpose is to bring in dance teachers from across Guinea and other African countries, so they can learn and disseminate the curriculum and grading system (Tracker) to a broad range of communities with vulnerable children. In this way, after training and empowering African trainers, MindLeaps can help more and more at-risk children through this sustainable, expanding program.
English language lessons in comprehension, reading, and writing are provided to all students for two hours per class, three classes per week. The classes are provided every week for the entire duration that students are enrolled at MindLeaps.
Sexual and Reproductive Health Workshops
In 2020, MindLeaps launched Sexual and Reproductive health workshops for the girls and female adolescents at the center. The courses are taught by two of the female staff members at MindLeaps Guinea.
School Sponsorship Program
The program provides support to MindLeaps youth for both academic education and vocational training. Sponsorship covers school fees, uniforms, supplies, essential meal support and health insurance. In 2021, 152 children in Guinea are being sponsored in school. To learn more about the program and become a sponsor, go to https://mindleapssponsorships.weebly.com/
Health and Nutrition
UNWG & the Local Chapter of Leo Club Dame de Loura of the Lions Club International
In 2018, support from the United Nations Women’s Guild of Vienna (UNWG) was given to MindLeaps for the expansion of the Guinean facility to include other components essential to the safety and advancement of children’s lives. By adding access to water tanks, a solar water heater and a proper cooking stove, MindLeaps now provides clean water, healthy nutritional meal supplements and sanitation kits to the children. The children are able to shower and learn basic sanitation practices. They wash their clothes at the center since their living conditions lack access to water and soap. They have clean water to drink. In addition to UNWG, the local chapter of Leo Club Dame de Loura of the Lions Club International of Guinea has provided each child with a personal sanitation kit containing a t-shirt, towel, shoes, toothbrush, jogging pants, water bottle, nail clippers, shower gel and sanitary pads for the girls.