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11/25/2015 07:04 pm ET

Misty Copeland Is Helping To Bring Dance Lessons To Rwandan Kids

The dancer just returned from Kigali, Rwanda, where shared her love of dance with children in the city.

Ballerina Misty Copeland has made a name for herself breaking barriers for black dancers in the United States, and she's taking her passion abroad to do the same in Rwanda.

This month, Copeland teamed up with MindLeaps, a nonprofit organization that brings dance instruction, vocational training and academics to the children of developing countries. Copeland traveled to Rwanda to launch the MindLeaps Girls Program and documented her journey via YouTube and Instagram.

@mistyonpointe and Ali visiting the school where Ali will go. #mindleaps #mistycopeland #dance #education #Rwanda

A photo posted by Misty Copeland (@mistyonpointe) on

Copeland looked back on her experience with the Rwandan children in a HuffPost Live conversation on Monday.

"There's really no way to really understand the state that a lot of children are in and living on the street -- literally not having homes, illiterate, dying. I feel like unless you're there, you don't really see the severity of it," she said.

MindLeaps founder Rebecca Davis described the thinking behind her innovative organization and why she connected with the kids through dance.

"In order to work with street kids, we had to find something that the kids love to do," Davis said. "Street kids are fighting every day to survive, and the only thing that these kids really feel attached to is something that they think is fun and something that they think is worth giving up two hours living on the street for. And in this case, that's dance."  

The organization brings children ages 9 to 18, many of whom are descendants of genocide survivors, from their makeshift homes "under sewers" and "under the overhangs of buildings" into the classroom to learn both dance technique and traditional academics. Davis explained that the effects of Rwanda's 1994 genocide still reverberate through the country today, which is why the work of MindLeaps is so crucial.

"The problem in Rwanda is we're 21 years after a genocide and it's just a crippling situation where people who survived that atrocity now have to support their own children," Davis said. "But this is a country that's still recovering, a country that's still building, a country that's still creating jobs, a country [in which] everyone's education was interrupted. So it's not really fair to ask those parents to provide for children when they didn't even complete their own self-development."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Misty Copeland here

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